“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Bloomingdale in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Home to Headliners

Worthy Ambition


—LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail —

Home to Headliners Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, November 23, 2017
1. Home to Headliners Marker
Inscription.  Edward Brooke, who represented Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate from 1967 to 1979, was the first African American elected to the Senate in the 20th century. Brooke was born at 1938 Third Street and later lived with his family at 1730 First Street. After graduating from Dunbar High School in 1936, he lived at home on First Street and walked to Howard University, where he received a B.S. in sociology.

The influential psychiatrist Dr. Ernest Y. Williams, a native of the British West Indies, lived and worked at 1747 First Street. The Howard University graduate founded the Medical School's Department of Psychiatry and Neurology in 1940. Years later he recalled attending at 1967 American Psychiatric Association conference where he "saw a total of 63 Negroes ... 48 of whom came from Howard, and all of whom I had had the pleasure of teaching."

One block to your left is 1635 First Street, once home to comedian Jackie "Moms" Mabley, known for her raunchy humor and biting social commentary. Mabley was friends with Odessa Madre of 1719 First Street. Madre, who operated a nightclub off U Street, NW, also ran illegal prostitution and
Home to Headliners Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, November 23, 2017
2. Home to Headliners Marker
gambling operations. "She came and went with her Cadillac and furs," recalled Judge Annice Wagner, who grew up here in the 1940s. Though some neighbors remembered her for her generosity, newspapers called Madre the Al Capone of Washington.

Just ahead is 127 Randolph Place, formerly Howard University Professor James V. Herring's Barnett Aden Gallery. Herring and gallery partner Alonzo Aden supported the careers of local and nationally known artists including Lois Mailou Jones, Elizabeth Catlett, and Charles White.

LeDroit Park and its younger sibling Bloomingdale share a rich history here. Boundary Street (today's Florida Avenue) was the City of Washington's northern border until 1871. Beyond lay farms, a few sprawling country estates, and undeveloped land where suburban communities would rise. Nearby Civil War hospitals and temporary housing for the formerly enslaved brought African Americans to this area in the 1860s. Howard University opened just north of here in 1867. Boundary Street (today's Florida Avenue) was the City of Washington's northern edge until 1871.

Around this time, a Howard University professor and trustee and his brother-in-law, a real estate speculator, began purchasing land from Howard University to create LeDroit Park, a suburban retreat close to streetcar lines and downtown. It took its name from
Home to Headliners Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, November 23, 2017
3. Home to Headliners Marker
the first name of both Barber's son and father-in-law. Bloomingdale was developed shortly thereafter.

For its first two decades, wealthy whites set up housekeeping in LeDroit Park. By 1893, African Americans began moving in. Soon LeDroit Park became the city's premier black neighborhood. Bloomingdale remained a middle- and upper-class white neighborhood until the 1920s, when affluent African Americans began buying houses in the area south of Rhode Island Avenue.

Among the intellectual elites drawn here was poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. The trail's title, Worthy Ambition, comes from his poem, "Emancipation": Toward noble deeds every effort be straining./Worthy ambition is food for the soul!

Although this area declined in the mid-20th century as affluent homeowners sought newer housing elsewhere, revitalization began in the 1970s. The stories you find on Worthy Ambition: LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail reflect the neighborhood's -- and Washington's -- complicated racial history and the aspirations of its citizens.

Worthy Ambition: LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail is an Official Washington, DC Walking Trail. The self-guided, 2.5-mile tour of 16 signs offers about 90 minutes of gentle exercise. For more DC neighborhoods, please visit

Mattie P. and Alfred E. Simons, center, front row, gathered their eight children, spouses, and grandchildren at the family home at 110 S St., NW, in 1952. In 2013 the family marked its 85th year in the house.
Collection of Josephine Nicholson
Erected 2015 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 13.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the LeDroit Park/Bloomingdale Heritage Trail marker series.
Location. 38° 54.798′ N, 77° 0.74′ W. Marker is in Bloomingdale, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of Randolph Place Northwest and 1st Street Northwest, on the left when traveling west on Randolph Place Northwest. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1718 1st Street Northwest, Washington DC 20001, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Barnett Aden Gallery (within shouting distance of this marker); Great Expectations (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Dividing Line (approx. 0.2 miles away); Metropolitan Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Prettiest Place (approx. 0.2 miles away); Anna Julia Hayward Cooper Residence (approx. ¼ mile away); Elks Columbia Lodge No. 85 (approx. ¼ mile away); Fathers and Sons (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bloomingdale.
Also see . . .  Barnett Aden Gallery, African American Heritage Trail. (Submitted on February 17, 2018, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.)
Categories. African AmericansArts, Letters, MusicPoliticsScience & Medicine
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Credits. This page was last revised on March 21, 2019. This page originally submitted on November 23, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 116 times since then and 7 times this year. Last updated on March 8, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on November 23, 2017, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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