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

Blending Old and New

River Farms to Urban Towers


—Southwest Heritage Trail —

Blending Old and New Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, April 10, 2010
1. Blending Old and New Marker
Inscription.  When urban renewal threatened to destroy three of Washington's oldest structures, dating from the late 1700's, history-minded citizens organized to stop the bulldozers. As a result, when architect Chloethiel Woodard Smith designed the mid-20th century Harbour Square, she included Wheat Row, Duncanson-Cranch House, and Edward Simon Lewis House, as you can see to your left.

The elegant 1794-1795 set of four Federal style houses behind you across Fourth Street is Wheat Row, created by James Greenleaf, Washington's first real estate speculator. Greenleaf and his partners hoped to get rich building housing for the new city. Instead Greanleaf went bankrupt, but left behind a few well-made houses. These were named for John Wheat, an early owner who worked as a Senate messenger. Across Fourth to your left at 456 N Street is Lewis House, built in 1817 for a Navy Department clerk. A few houses down at 468-470 is Duncanson-Cranch House, built around 1794.

In 1901 Charles Weller opened Neighborhood House in Lewis House as Washington's first social settlement. There, in keeping with Washington's segregation, he provided education and recreation
Blending Old and New Marker reverse image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, April 10, 2010
2. Blending Old and New Marker reverse
On the lower right is a map of this heritage trail.
for poor white children and adults, including the city's first organized playground. Its first branch library was open to all, however. In 1904 Washington artist and socialite Alice Pike Barney bought Duncanson-Cranch House so that Neighborhood House could move into the larger space. The institution was re-named Barney Neighborhood House. It continued to grow, desegregating in the 1940s and also occupying three of Wheat Row's four houses before relocating to 16th Street, NW in 1960. Weller also helped begin the "Colored Social Center" in 1903 at 118 M Street, forerunner of today's Southwest Community House.

(Upper Right Photo Caption):
The Lewis House, far left, at 456 N Street, was Barney Neighborhood House's first home, until moved to Duncanson-Cranch House at 468-470, left. After urban renewal, both houses became part of Harbour Square along with Wheat Row, 1315-1321 Fourth Street, above.

(Center Right Photo Caption):
Artist Garnet Jex photographed the Duncanson-Cranch House in 1963 as construction was underway for Harbour Square cooperatives.

(Lower Right Photo Captions):
Barney Neighborhood House brochure of 1908, above. Adult classes included vegetable carving, 1942.

(Lower Left Photo Caption):
Beloved World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle, center, once lived in a Lewis House apartment.

Blending Old and New Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, April 10, 2010
3. Blending Old and New Marker
1800 until 1950, Southwest was Washington's largest working-class, waterfront neighborhood. The beginning in 1954, nearly all of Southwest was razed to create an entirely new city in the nation's first experiment in urban renewal. The 17 signs of River Farms to Urban Towers: Southwest Heritage Trail lead you through the Modernist buildings erected in the 1960s while marking the sites and stories - and the few remaining structures - of the neighborhood that was. Follow this trail to discover the area's first colonial settlers and the waves of immigrants drawn to jobs on the waterfront or in nearby federal government offices. Here Chesapeake Bay watermen sold oysters and fish off their boats. The once-gritty streets were childhood homes to singer Marvin Gaye and movie star Al Jolson. Later residents included Senator Hubert H. Humphrey and other legislators.

River Farms to Urban Towers: Southwest Heritage Trail, a booklet capturing the trail's highlights, is available at local businesses along the way. To learn about other DC neighborhoods, visit

(Back Photo Caption):
Neighbors line Forth Street for a May Day celebration mounted by Barney Neighborhood House, around 1940. At left is the Marine Band. At center is the "May Day Procession of Clubs" led by Boy Scouts with the May Day Queen and attendants close behind.
Wheat Row image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, April 10, 2010
4. Wheat Row
2004 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 17.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Southwest Heritage Trail marker series.
Location. 38° 52.487′ N, 77° 1.047′ W. Marker is in Southwest, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of 4th Street Southwest and N Street Southwest, on the right when traveling north on 4th Street Southwest. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20024, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Lewis House (within shouting distance of this marker); Wheat Row (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Barney House (about 400 feet away); Harbour Square (about 400 feet away); Recreation and River Park (about 500 feet away); Linking the "Island" to the City (about 600 feet away); Change on the Waterfront (about 600 feet away); Thomas Law (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Southwest.
Categories. Notable Buildings
Lewis House image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, April 10, 2010
5. Lewis House
More. Search the internet for Blending Old and New.
Credits. This page was last revised on March 18, 2019. This page originally submitted on July 3, 2010, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,036 times since then and 11 times this year. Last updated on March 8, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on July 3, 2010, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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