Judiciary Square in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
A Courthouse Reborn
Civil War to Civil Rights
—Downtown Heritage Trail —
The old City Hall/Courthouse endured hard use, was abandoned, and then was transformed. In 2009 it re-opened as the DC Court of Appeals, redesigned by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, which modernized the interior while preserving its historic features. A graceful glass atrium defined the new main entrance, and the limestone walls gleamed. A grand new ceremonial courtroom was constructed beneath the south lawn.
The Court of Appeals now stands among other dignified courthouses. But in 1822, when the mayor and council moved into the new City Hall, their neighbors were the hastily built Washington County poorhouse, the Washington Jail, and eventually the Washington Infirmary, providing medical care to the poor.
The jail was especially bleak, confirming criminals and debtors together with the insane. In addition the cells held fugitives from slavery, enslaved people, and free African Americans who had broken one of the Black Codes that governed their lives until DC emancipation in 1862. For example, African Americans could not be on the street past curfew without a permit. The city required all free African Americans to register and have a white sponsor.
By the 1870s the poorhouse and infirmary were long gone. The reviled Washington Jail was finally razed in 1878 after the new jail was built
The Civil War (1861 - 1865) transformed Washington, DC from a muddy backwater to a center of national power. Ever since, the city has been at the heart of the continuing struggle to realize fully the ideas for which the war was fought. The 25 signs that mark this trail follow the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Clara Barton, Frederick Douglass, and others, famous and humble, who shaped a nation and its capital city while living and working in historic downtown DC.
Civil War to Civil Rights Downtown Heritage Trail is an Official Washington, DC Walking Trail. The self-guided tour consists of three distinct loops: West, Center, and East. Each one-mile loop offers about an hour of gentle exercise.
A free booklet capturing the trail's highlights is available at local businesses and institutions along the way. To download the free Civil War to Civil Rights Audio Tour, and learn about other DC neighborhoods, please visit www.CuturalTourismDC.org.
Erected 2012 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number e.6.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Civil War to Civil Rights marker series.
Location. 38° 53.758′ N, 77° 1.062′ W. Marker is in Judiciary Square, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of E Street NW and 5th Street NW, on the right when traveling east on E Street NW. Touch for map. Located near the E Street entrance. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20001, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Sitting in Judgment (about 300 feet away); Discover DC / Judiciary Square (about 500 feet away); The National Building Museum (about 500 feet away); Building Out the Square (about 500 feet away); Senator Daniel Webster (about 600 feet away); Daniel Webster (about 600 feet away); DC Recorder of Deeds Building/WPA Era Murals (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Judiciary Square.
Also see . . . Judiciary Square, Washington, D.C. (Submitted on August 21, 2012, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
Categories. • African Americans • Government •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on May 20, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 507 times since then and 25 times this year. Last updated on August 21, 2012, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. submitted on May 20, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. 11, 12. submitted on August 14, 2012, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.