Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Alexandria, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The Hump: Open Lots For Blocks

 
 
The Hump: Open Lots For Blocks Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014
1. The Hump: Open Lots For Blocks Marker
Inscription. The racially integrated working-class neighborhood known as the Hump, named for the high ground at its northern boundary, once spanned three blocks, centering on the 800 block of Montgomery Street. The Hump was first settled in the decade following the Civil War. After the nearby Alexandria Canal was abandoned in 1886 and the railroad tracks along Henry and Fayette streets were closed in the early 20th century, inexpensive housing in this marginal area attracted European immigrants and African Americans, descendents of free and enslaved black Alexandrians, including the thousands of African Americans that refuge in the city during the Civil War. Many residents were employed by the railroad, at Portner's Brewery, and a several local glassworks. Notable among the Neighborhood occupants in the early 1900s were African American educator John F. Parker and Reverent Robert Robinson.

"It was so cold that you could go to bed and see the moon shining (through the walls). The snow'd come through them cracks on your feet...Ice'd freeze on the washstand...It'd freeze in your bedroom...We had to go to a pump to get water to wash with. The pump was right in the street on just 'bout every corner—great big old wooden pump." —Henry Johnson, a neighborhood resident in the early 1900s, from oral history recordings owned by
The Hump: Open Lots For Blocks Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014
2. The Hump: Open Lots For Blocks Marker
the Alexandria Library.

Considered one of Alexandria's several historic African American neighborhoods, the Hump appears to have remained ethnically diverse and was characterized by wide open spaces that were utilized for agriculture, public refuse disposal, and social life. In the 1950s many of the homes and small businesses in the neighborhood were razed as part of urban renewal.

"We're talking about 1915...We played baseball because there were plenty of open spaces. We could build a baseball diamond any place. We played marbles in the street. Played spin tops in the street...there was open lots for blocks and blocks. No houses whatever." —Buster Williams, a neighborhood resident in the early 1900s, from oral history recordings owned by the Office of Historic Alexandria.

Vacant lots on these blocks were used in the 1940s and possible earlier by the African American-owned and -operated traveling tent variety show, Silas Green from New Orleans, which toured th South by rail between 1904 and 1957.

Part revue, part musical comedy, part minstrel show, Silas Green became one of the longest-lasting tent shows in American show business history an featured well known performers, including Bessie Smith, the legendary blues singer. It was enormously popular among both black and white audiences and offered a segregated seating arrangement
800 Block of Madison Street<br>1940s Photo image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014
3. 800 Block of Madison Street
1940s Photo
Close-up of photo on marker
Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library
with a section reserved for whites only.

"... there used to be a Silas Green show and that was a very entertaining show under a tent. They would come to town with a tent and they would have entertainment. We never paid, we just kind of looked under the tent and watched...." —James E. Henson, Sr., a neighborhood resident in the mid-20th century, from oral history recordings owned by the Office of Historic Alexandria.
 
Erected by City of Alexandria.
 
Location. 38° 48.86′ N, 77° 2.85′ W. Marker is in Alexandria, Virginia. Marker can be reached from the intersection of North Alfred Street and Montgomery Street, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 840 North Alfred Street Park, Alexandria VA 22314, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. James Bland Homes (here, next to this marker); The Memorial Pool (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Robert Robinson Library -1940 (approx. 0.2 miles away); Parker-Gray High School (approx. 0.2 miles away); War, Rails, and Wells (approx. 0.3 miles away); Colross-Alexandria's Urban Phoenix
800 Block of N. Alfred Street<br>1940s Photo image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014
4. 800 Block of N. Alfred Street
1940s Photo
Close-up of photo on marker
Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library
(approx. 0.3 miles away); Alexandria Canal (1843 - 1886) (approx. 0.3 miles away); Washington-Rochambeau Route (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Alexandria.
 
Categories. African AmericansMan-Made Features
 
900 Block of Madison Street<br>1940s Photo image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014
5. 900 Block of Madison Street
1940s Photo
Close-up of photo on marker
Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library
Silas Green Band Half Sheet image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014
6. Silas Green Band Half Sheet
Close-up of image on marker
Hatch Show Print
1912 Sanborn Insurance Map image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014
7. 1912 Sanborn Insurance Map
Close-up of photo on marker
Sanborn Map Company
The 800 Block of North Alfred Street image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014
8. The 800 Block of North Alfred Street
The park at 840 North Alfred contains two historical markers.
The 900 Block of Madison Street image. Click for full size.
By Allen C. Browne, March 15, 2014
9. The 900 Block of Madison Street
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on March 22, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. This page has been viewed 840 times since then and 27 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on March 22, 2014, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
Paid Advertisement