Deanwood in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
A Whirl on the Ferris Wheel
A Self Reliant People
—Greater Deanwood Heritage Trail —
To your right it is the former Merritt Educational Center which operated from 1943 to 2008. However, if you were standing here in the 1920s or '30s, in its place you would have seen exuberant crowds of fashionably dressed African Americans enjoying Suburban Gardens Amusement Park.
The park was built in 1921 by architectural engineer Howard D. Woodson, writer John H. Paynter, theater magnate Sherman H. Dudley, and other investors of the black-owned Universal Development and Company. It was the first and only amusement park within the District boundaries. Suburban Gardens park provided seven acres of recreational haven for the region's African Americans, who due to racial segregation, were barred from white-owned amusement parks such as Maryland's Glen Echo.
The public flocked to Suburban Gardens by streetcar, commuter train, private automobile, and even on foot. The park was so popular that on one Monday in 1921, jostling crowds waiting to pay the 10-cent admission fee actually knocked down the gate. Park-goers enjoyed the Deep Dipper roller coaster, Ferris wheel, aero swing, swimming pool, games of chance, picnic grounds, and children's playground. The park's large dance pavilion presented both lesser-known musicians and well-known jazz artists such as Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. After entertaining African Americans
The U.S. government built temporary barracks for soldiers here in 1943. Soon after the building served as Emma F. G. Merritt Elementary School, honoring the educator, civic leader and former president of the local NAACP chapter. The current school building went up in 1976.
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 5 of 15.)
Location. 38° 53.978′ N, 76° 55.895′ W. Marker is in Deanwood, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on 49th Street, NE south of Hayes Street, NE, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is one block north of Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue - and about half a mile east of Minnesota Ave, NE, and the Anacostia Freeway (DC Hwy 295). Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20019, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. National Training School for Women and Girls/ Nannie Helen Burroughs (about 800 feet away, measured in a direct line); With These Hands (approx. ¼ mile away); Designed to Compete (approx. half a mile away); Original Federal Boundary Stone NE 9 (approx. half a mile away); “What Magic Has Been Wrought Here” Fort Mahan (approx. 0.8 miles away); In Honor of the Men and Women of Fairmount Heights who Served in World War II (approx. 0.9 miles away in Maryland); Woodlawn Cemetery (approx. one mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Deanwood.
More about this marker. [Photo captions, front side:]
The view from atop the Deep Dipper roller coaster. (Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Public Library.)
This advertisement ran in the black-owned Washington Tribune in 1921. (Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Public Library.)
Two unidentified young women and a baby pose on the catwalk of the Deep Dipper roller coaster. (Collection of Wells Family.)
"Look at the camera, son!" An off-season view of Suburban Gardens Amusement Park, ca. 1925. (Collection of Richard A. Cook.)
Duke Ellington Performed at Suburban Gardens. (Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Public Library.)
More than 40 years after Suburban Gardens closed, Col. John Woodson, U.S. Army, Ret., and son of Howard D. Woodson, drew this map of the amusement park from memory. (Drawing by Col. John Woodson, U.S. Army, Ret.)
Merritt Elementary's first facility, the former Army barracks. (Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Public Library.)
Ready to learn, Merritt School students smile with their teacher, Mildred Greene in 1956. (Collection of Alice Chandler.)
Lifeguard and esteemed Howard University swimming coach Clarence Pendleton, Sr., center, competed at Suburban Gardens. (Collection of Jim Ferguson.)
[Photo caption, reverse side:]
This rare photo was taken just inside the front gate of Suburban Gardens around 1935. The caterpillar ride at left appears on Col. Woodson's map on the opposite side of this sign. (Scurlock Studio Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.)
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. Glen Echo Park remained segregated until 1961, after the arrest of Howard University students staging a merry-go-round sit-in in June 1960 prompted extensive demonstrations by multiracial activists.
Also see . . .
1. Sherman H. Dudley. (Submitted on November 7, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
2. Wikipedia entry for Suburban Gardens. (Submitted on November 8, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
Additional keywords. "The Capital's Playground" black enterprise black swimmers
Categories. • 20th Century • African Americans • Education • Entertainment • Notable Places • Railroads & Streetcars • Sports • War, World II •
Credits. This page was last revised on September 10, 2016. This page originally submitted on November 6, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,824 times since then and 41 times this year. Last updated on November 14, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos: 1. submitted on November 6, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 2, 3, 4. submitted on November 7, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page.