The LeDroit Park Market (1901 4th Street NW) has finally reopened under new management. The market stocks essentials like milk, ice cream, chips, bread, coffee, paper towels and is open daily from 7 am to 10 pm. The market also serves sandwiches and fresh coffee and will soon sell beer and wine.
The reviews posted on the neighborhood listserv have been positive so far. Neighbor Anita writes:
I stopped by the morning and picked up a slice of banana bread. I returned for lunch and had a nice chicken Caesar salad. I enjoyed both.
I went there for the grand opening and had what was probably one of the best cups of coffee I’d tasted in a long time. I sat with my friend and we chatted at the window for over an hour, and got a nice cheery goodbye from the staff as we left. It’s definitely a gem in the neighborhood and worth the trip!
The market had operated under various owners over countless decades. It closed in 2011 and the shop owner, Simon, was rumored to have returned to Ethiopia. The building’s owner reincarnated the market for about a year, but the store’s selection, which focused more on exotic gourmet items more than typical essentials of a corner store, failed to attract enough enthusiasm.
The owner closed the market and sold the building to a couple that now lives upstairs. The couple leases the market to a family that operates several small markets throughout the city.
The new Dunbar High School opened in August 2013 at First and N Streets NW in
Bloomingdale Truxton Circle. The new school includes an indoor pool open to the public year round. The Dept. of Parks and Recreation just expanded the pool’s public opening hours to
- Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays: 6 am to 8 am and 5 pm to 9 pm
- Saturdays and Sundays: 9 am to 5 pm
To use the pool for free, you need to prove DC residency with a DC driver’s license or other credential.
On Saturday, Edward Brooke, a LeDroit Park native and the first popularly elected African-American in the U.S. Senate died at age 95. Mr. Brooke grew up at 1938 3rd Street (pictured below) in LeDroit Park, attended Dunbar High School, and graduated from Howard University in 1941.
After serving in World War II, in which he was awarded a Bronze Star Medal, he moved to Boston and graduated from Boston University Law School. He practiced law in Boston and ran for office several times, usually as a Republican. The idea of a black New England Republican seems like an impossibility today, but the party was more ideologically diverse in that era and Mr. Brooke was part of its now-extinct liberal wing.
Mr. Brooke was elected Attorney General of Massachusetts in 1962 and the state’s voters elected him to represent them in the U.S. Senate in 1966. Mr. Brooke was the first African-American popularly elected to the U.S. Senate.
U.S. Senators were typically appointed by state governments until the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913. During Reconstruction the Mississippi state government was under Federal control, meaning those in power were Northern newcomers or abolitionist Southerners with liberal views on race relations. Under this short-lived political alignment, the Mississippi legislature appointed two black Republicans to the U.S. Senate, but their terms were short. Pressure from the former Confederate establishment and political intimidation from white supremacist groups ensured that when the Mississippi government was released from Federal control, new legislators quickly put Jim Crow laws into place. No African-American entered the Senate again until Mr. Brooke in 1966.
Mr. Brooke’s biggest policy achievements include co-sponsoring the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the 1969 Housing Act’s so-called Brooke Amendment, which limited public housing rent to 25% of the tenant’s income.
In 2004, Pres. Bush awarded Mr. Brooke the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 2009 Congress awarded Mr. Brooke a Congressional Gold Medal.
He died on Saturday at age 95 at his home in Coral Gables, Florida. Below is a photo of his childhood home in LeDroit Park.
Every time I come across a photo of Griffith Stadium, which stood where Howard University Hospital now stands, I look carefully for an angle of LeDroit Park. By way of Ghosts of DC comes this superb 1925 aerial shot looking north at the stadium and part of the neighborhood.
The east-west street in the foreground is the 500 and 600 blocks of U Street NW. Zoom in and look around. Notice the streetcars on Georgia Avenue in the upper-left corner of the photo. Notice the previous incarnation of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church in the lower-left corner.
The stands beyond Griffith’s straightaway center field backed up to 5th Street from Elm to V Streets. Can you imagine hearing the crack of a bat and roar of crowds during a Senators game?
Also note what’s no longer standing. All but seven houses pictured east and north of the stadium have since been demolished, replaced with parking garages, parking lots, public housing, or academic buildings. Nearly all of these houses would be illegal to rebuild today under our 1950s zoning code, which mandates minimum lot sizes and house widths to which much of historic LeDroit Park does not conform.
Photo source: National Archives
A new restaurant is coming to the short-lived hair salon (pictured right) at 5th Street and Florida Avenue NW. From Paul Carlson, the owner of Vinoteca, comes The Royal, named for the Royal liquor store that once occupied the building many, many years ago.
Mr. Carlson described his forthcoming 40-seat restaurant as a place “where people can stop by on their way home, the price points are lower, and people know each other and know the staff.”
Though Mr. Carlson doesn’t expect the Royal to open for a few months, interested neighbors are invited to visit on Sunday, January 26, from 2pm to 4pm. If you can’t make it on Sunday, come hear Mr. Carlson’s presentation at Tuesday‘s civic association meeting. The association will likely vote on the Royal’s request for an alcohol license.
We found this 1875 article about LeDroit Park’s fast-growing population from 1875. This was just as the neighborhood was being developed as “suburb” of Washington City.
October 9, 1875
AN INTERESTING ITEM, showing the growth of the city to the north, is the fact that eighteen months ago only two families lived at LeDroit Park, while now more than twenty families make it their residence, and the demand for homes in that beautiful locality is far beyond the supply.
The Historic Preservation Office’s newly released 2016 Historic Preservation Plan has some good maps about LeDroit Park’s historic architecture and development.
Though James H. McGill designed the neighborhood’s original eclectic country houses, architects A. H. Beers, George S. Cooper, N. T. Haller, and A. E. Landvoight designed much of the neighborhood’s subsequent housing. (Click any of the following maps for larger versions)
If you research your house’s original building permit at the Washingtoniana Division of the MLK Library, you will find that it lists both an architect and a builder. The builder typically hired the architect and arranged for the financing and sale or lease of the finished product. The McGill-designed houses were built by A. L. Barber & Co., but other builders included Barr & Sanner, W. R. Coon, George C. Hough, Harry A. Kite, and Thomas W. McCubbin.
Not every building in a historic district is historic or worthy of preservation. The National Park Service defines a contributing structure as one that “by location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association adds to the district’s sense of time and place, and historical development.” A non-contributing building can include “one where the location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association have been so altered or have so deteriorated that the overall integrity of the building has been irretrievably lost.” Also, buildings built within the past 50 years are typically considered non-contributing. (The “50-year Rule” is a common, if controversial, historic designation threshold.)
Date of Construction
The McGill houses were built between 1873 and 1883. After that other lots were sold off and developed as rowhouses. Some McGill houses were torn down and replaced with smaller rowhouses.
All of the above maps are from page 69 of the Historic Preservation Office’s report.
Join your fellow neighbors for food and fun at the LeDroit Park Holiday Party. There will be free appetizers, a cash bar, and all children are welcome.
The party is on Sunday, December 15 from 4 to 7 pm on the second floor of Shaw’s Tavern (6th Street & Florida Avenue).
The LeDroit Park Civic Association is hosting the party, but you don’t have to be a member to attend.
A Bloomingdale resident share this 1937 news story in which the author recounts the early days and residents of LeDroit Park.
The writer describes what LeDroit Park looked like before 1875, which is about the time the neighborhood started to develop. He recalls that he could stand at 7th Street and Florida Avenue (née Boundary Street) and see all the way down to North Capitol Street.
Few houses stood on Florida Avenue at that time, he notes. The Washington & Georgetown Railroad, a streetcar company, kept a car barn on the triangular block opposite what is now the Howard Theatre.
The neighborhood was created by combining the Miller, Prather, McClelland, and Gilman properties pictured below. The Prather property was used as a pasture and the Miller property was not maintained.
The wood and iron fence, which caused a great dispute in the 1880s, extended from the neighborhood’s boundary at 2nd Street to within a few feet of 7th Street. “At the west of the grounds is an attractive old gate, made to match the artistic fence. It was evidently driveway gate, though its use as such has been abandoned and the driveway itself obliterated.”
The author lists several of the neighborhood’s earlier residents. Before LeDroit Park became the favorite enclave of Washington’s black elite, it housed many prominent whites. While few of the people listed below are household names today, many of them held high positions in government.
- Henry Gannett, Chief Geographer, U.S. Geological Survey, and described as the “Father of Government Mapmaking“
- Rep. Benjamin Butterworth, House of Representatives (R-OH) and Commissioner of Patents
- Arthur A. Birney, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia
- Col. O. H. Irish, Chief, Bureau of Engraving and Printing
- Sumner I. Kimball, General Superintendent, U.S. Life Saving Service, forerunner to the U.S. Coast Guard
- William T. Hornaday, Chief Taxidermist, U.S. National Museum (now called the Smithsonian) and controversial director of the Bronx Zoo
- Arnold B. Johnson, Chief Clerk, U.S. Lighthouse Board
- Edmund Wood, Chief of the Financial Division, Bureau of Indian Affairs
- De Lancey Gill, painter and photographer, Smithsonian Bureau of American Ethnology
- George S. Prindle, patent attorney
- Ellery C. Ford, lawyer (This name appears at the African-American Civil War Memorial on U Street)
- Andrew Langdon, co-developer of LeDroit Park
- James H. McGill, architect of LeDroit Park and other Washington buildings
- Staughton S. Doyle, music teacher
- Ezra B. Barnum, clothier and grand juror who indicted Charles Guiteau, who assassinated Pres. James Garfield in 1881
- Dr. Joseph N. Rose, botanist
- J. J. Albright, possibly the wealthy coal magnate and associate of LeDroit Park developer Amzi Barber.
- Capt. Howard L. Prince, Civil War captain and Librarian of the U.S. Patent Office
- George E. Sloat, employee of the Pension Office
- Charles Ruoff, partner, Willet & Ruoff
- Marie Ginesi, employee of the Post Office
- Charles Darwin (no, not that Charles Darwin), librarian, U.S. Geological Survey
- W. Scott Smith, correspondent, New York Times
Here are names I haven’t been able to research:
Brenton L. Baldwin, Emma B. Smith, F. H. Ramey, W. E. Williams, Ralph Baldwin, B. Pettingill, S. S. Gannett, F. J. Young, Henry A. Merrick, Rev. C. H. Fay, N. M. Brush, Charles W. Fisher, Abram L. Swartout, W. Norman Fleming, Charles A. Hamilton, O.B. Brown, William H. Degges, W. F. Hildebrand, James A. Marter, T. B. Campbell, T. J. W. Robertson, E. M. Merrick, H. B. Wyman, M. Horstman, A. W. Conlee, C. R. Follin, Mary Ragan, Oscar T. Towner, E. Woodruff, W. Hollingsworth, H. E. Cooper, and J. B. Thomas.
If you dig up any information on these people, please add it to the comments.
LeDroit Park will be part of a rat control pilot program sponsored by the city. Learn how you can participate at the next LeDroit Park Civic Association meeting, which will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 7 pm in the basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church (623 Florida Ave NW – enter on U St). The full agenda includes:
- Rat control pilot project coming to LeDroit Park
- Howard University community update
- Common Good City Farm presentation
- Public safety update
- Community open forum
- Holiday party plans (Dec. 15, 4 – 7 pm at Shaw’s Tavern)
All neighbors are welcome and encouraged to attend.
Want to join the civic association? Join online or at the meeting!