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

Community Caretakers

Hub, Home, Heart

 

—Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail —

 
Community Caretakers Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
1. Community Caretakers Marker
Inscription. The elegant Romanesque portion of the Senate Square condominium complex started life in 1874 as the Little Sisters of the Poor House for the Aged. St. Aloysius Church member Ellen Sherman, wife of Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, helped the Sisters secure congressional appropriations to build the facility. The Little Sisters begged for donations on DC streets to support their free care for the elderly, regardless of race or religion.

In 1976 the city built the current overpass carrying H Street above Union Station's tracks. With a dangerous on-ramp just feet from their front door, the Sisters moved their home to the Catholic University neighborhood. In 1979 the Capital Children's Museum took over the old convent, moved the entrance to the rear, and inspired the "Hopscotch Bridge" mosaics on the overpass as designed by area artist Deirdre Saunder. The museum closed in 2004 for redevelopment as condominiums.

Dr. Thom Collins, born in 1905 and raised on the north side of the 300 block of H Street, was the son of a railroad engineer and descendant of Irish laborers recruited to rebuild Washington after the War of 1812. "Doc" Collins opened a medical practice in his home about 1935 and the 1940s charged seven dollars for house calls, recalled his son, broadcaster Pat Collins. He treated everyone, from residents of
Little Sisters' Home image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
2. Little Sisters' Home
Top: Sister Matilda leads residents in an Irish song at the Little Sisters of the Poor home, 1939.

Middle: Carmelo Borghese practices barbering on his father, Pietro, at their H Street barbershop, around 1955. Young Carmelo gave free haircuts to residents of the Little Sisters' home.

Bottom: Sister Marie poses on the new overpass that blocked the convent's front door, 1977.
the Little Sisters' home and Gonzaga High School football players to members of Congress. Archbishop Patrick O'Boyle was a patient, as was a Union Terminal Market butcher who paid Collins in fresh meat. Although devoted to this community, Doc Collins moved away after the 1968 riots left much of it in ruins.

(Back):
Trains and streetcars created the Near Northeast neighborhood around H Street. The B&O Railroad's arrival in 1835 made this a center of energetic, working-class life. Workmen living north of the Capitol staffed the Government Printing Office, ran the trains, stocked the warehouses, and built Union Station. When a streetcar arrived linking H Street to downtown, new construction quickly followed.

H Street bustled with shops and offices run by Jewish, Italian, Lebanese, Greek, Irish, and African American families. During the segregation era, which lasted into the 1950s, African Americans came to H Street for its department stores and sit-down restaurants. Most businesses welcomed all customers.

Then came the civil disturbances in the wake of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in 1968. Decades of commercial decline followed. Just off H Street, though, the strong residential community endured. The 2005 opening of the Atlas Performing Arts Center signaled a revival, building evocatively on H Street's past. Hub, Home,
Capital Children's Museum and Tom Collins image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
3. Capital Children's Museum and Tom Collins
Left: Six-year-old Robiah Johnson considers ancient alphabets at the Capital Children's Museum, 1981.

Right: Tom Collins, left, grandfather of broadcaster Pat Collins, was an engineer for the Capitol Limited train that ran between Washington and Chicago.
Heart
is a bridge to carry you from that past to the present.

Hub, Home, Heart: Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail is an Official Washington, DC Walking Trail. The self-guided, 3.2-mile tour of 18 signs offers about two hours of gentle exercise. Free keepsake guidebooks in English or Spanish are available at businesses and institutions along the way. For more on DC neighborhoods, please visit www.CulturalTourismDC.org.
 
Erected 2012 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 5.)
 
Location. 38° 53.997′ N, 77° 0.114′ W. Marker is in Near Northeast, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is at the intersection of 3rd Street, NE and H Street, NE, on the right when traveling north on 3rd Street, NE. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20002, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Roll Out the Barrel (approx. 0.2 miles away); Sanctuaries (approx. 0.2 miles away); Swampoodle (approx. 0.2 miles away); Gateway to The Nation's Capital (approx. ¼ mile away); Get Behind the Wheel (approx. 0.3 miles away); The Fires of 1968 (approx.
Dr. Tom Collins Home image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
4. Dr. Tom Collins Home
Dr. Tom Collins's home and office at 322-24 H St., where he posed with son Pat around 1950. Below, young Pat enjoys his family's first television set.
0.3 miles away); The Freedom Bell (approx. 0.3 miles away); Christopher Columbus (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Near Northeast.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail
 
Back of Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
5. Back of Marker
Little Sisters' of the Poor Home image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
6. Little Sisters' of the Poor Home
Residents play cards at the Little Sisters of the Poor home, 1939.
Map of the H Street Heritage Trail image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
7. Map of the H Street Heritage Trail
Community Caretakers Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
8. Community Caretakers Marker
Senate Square condominium complex today image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 29, 2012
9. Senate Square condominium complex today
Note the concrete barrier wall running beside the condominium, for the H Street overpass.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 30, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 255 times since then and 22 times this year. Last updated on February 11, 2014, by A. Taylor of Laurel, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on September 30, 2012, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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