Article recounts the early days and residents of LeDroit Park
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.