August 15, 2016 - 4:56 pm

Two free history walking tours of LeDroit Park next month

U Street in 1908U Street in 2009

Come on out for a free history walking tour of LeDroit Park next month.  I conduct this tour annually as part of WalkingTown DC.

We will explore the unique architecture and the historical figures who transformed the neighborhood into the home of Washington’s black intelligentsia at the start of the 20th century. Neighborhood notables included Dr. Anna J. Cooper, Mayor Walter Washington, Sen. Edward Brooke, Rep. Oscar De Priest, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Mary Church Terrell, Duke Ellington, and Rev. Jesse Jackson. We will also admire the unique 19th-century houses and the 12 distinct architectural styles present in the neighborhood.

The tours will be on Sunday, September 18 at 2 pm and Sunday, September 25 at 2 pm. Meet me at the arch at 6th Street and Florida Avenue NW.  The tours are free and open to the public.

Alternatively, for $15 you can attend Sarah Shoenfeld’s tour on September 11 to explore the history of housing segregation in LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale.

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September 15, 2015 - 3:30 pm

Free history walking tours of LeDroit Park this month

U Street in 1908U Street in 2009

Come on out for a free history walking tour of LeDroit Park.  I conduct this tour annually as part of WalkingTown DC.

We will explore the unique architecture and the historical figures who transformed the neighborhood into the home of Washington’s black intelligentsia at the start of the 20th century. Neighborhood notables included Dr. Anna J. Cooper, Mayor Walter Washington, Sen. Edward Brooke, Rep. Oscar De Priest, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Mary Church Terrell, Duke Ellington, and Rev. Jesse Jackson. We will also admire the unique 19th-century houses and the 12 distinct architectural styles present in the neighborhood.

The tours will be on Saturday, September 19 at 1 pm and Sunday, September 27 at 1pm. Meet me at the arch at 6th Street and Florida Avenue NW.  The tours are free and open to the public.

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October 04, 2013 - 2:49 pm

Reminder: Free history walking tour of LeDroit Park this weekend

U Street in 1908U Street in 2009

Come on out Saturday or Sunday for a free history walking tour of LeDroit Park.  I conduct this tour annually as part of WalkingTown DC.

The tours will be on Saturday, October 5 at 1 pm and again on Sunday, October 6 at 10 am. Meet me at the arch at 6th Street and Florida Avenue NW.  The tours are free and open to the public.  No reservations are required.

We’ll cover

  • The neighborhood’s founding
  • Relationship with the Howard Theatre
  • Architectural history
  • The Park at LeDroit
  • Walter Washington
  • Ernest Everett Just
  • Robert & Mary Church Terrell
  • Anna Julia Cooper
  • William Birney
  • Edward Brooke
  • Octavius Williams
  • Oscar De Priest
  • Griffith Stadium
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September 12, 2013 - 10:29 am

Get a free history tour of LeDroit Park on Oct. 5 & 6

How was LeDroit Park established and who built all those unique homes on U Street? Why did the neighborhood start as exclusively white but become important to black history? As part of the annual WalkingTown DC event, I will lead two free walking tours of the neighborhood.

The tours will be on Saturday, October 5 at 1 pm and again on Sunday, October 6 at 10 am. Meet me at the arch at 6th Street and Florida Avenue NW.  The tours are free and open to the public.

We’ll cover

  • The neighborhood’s founding
  • Relationship with the Howard Theatre
  • Architectural history
  • The Park at LeDroit
  • Walter Washington
  • Ernest Everett Just
  • Robert & Mary Church Terrell
  • Anna Julia Cooper
  • William Birney
  • Edward Brooke
  • Octavius Williams
  • Oscar De Priest
  • Griffith Stadium
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September 12, 2012 - 7:40 am

Get a free history tour of LeDroit Park on Sept. 30

How was LeDroit Park established and who built all those unique homes on U Street? Why did the neighborhood start as exclusively white but become so important to black history? As part of the annual WalkingTown DC event, I will lead two free walking tours of the neighborhood.

The tours will be on Sunday, September 30 at 1 pm and again at 3:30 pm. Meet me at the arch at 6th Street and Florida Avenue NW.  The tours are free and open to the public.

We’ll cover

  • The neighborhood’s founding
  • Relationship with the Howard Theatre
  • Architectural history
  • The Park at LeDroit
  • Walter Washington
  • Ernest Everett Just
  • Robert & Mary Church Terrell
  • Anna Julia Cooper
  • William Birney
  • Edward Brooke
  • Octavius Williams
  • Oscar De Priest
  • Griffith Stadium
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April 03, 2012 - 8:58 am

The 1940 Census reveals a full profile of LeDroit Park

U.S. Census records are kept confidential for 72 years, meaning that the 1940 Census went public yesterday.  Whereas previous census ledgers were difficult to find online for free, the U.S. Archives released the full 1940 Census online. We have started perusing the pages to look for famous figures and interesting patterns in LeDroit Park, which is covered by enumeration districts 1-514 through 1-516.

A few things stand out.  First, nearly the entire population of LeDroit Park in 1940 was black, illustrating the sharp racial segregation at the time.  Second, nearly every house was packed with residents and many residents took on lodgers.  Our house, a modest two-bedroom built in 1907, housed 13 people!

* * *

We will publish some interesting records as we find them, but let’s start off with the listing for Anna J. Cooper (née Haywood), her lodger, and her nephew, who lived at 201 T Street (pictured below).  The Cooper household is listed as entries 53 – 55 in the ledger at the top of this post.

Anna J. Cooper HouseCooper was the principal of the M Street High School, she was an author, a feminist, and a teacher.  The census only collects unambiguous personal statistics, so there is actually a longer story behind every column entry.

The first column in the snippet above states the value of her home as $20,000, a high sum compared to other LeDroit Park homes.

The 11th column lists “C8”, meaning that she received eight years of a college education.  What the record doesn’t state is that she received a PhD from the Sorbonne in 1924, making her among the first black American women to receive a doctorate.

The 8th column states her age as 80 (she was actually 81) and the 13th column simply states that she was born in North Carolina.  What the record doesn’t state is that she was born in North Carolina in 1858 into slavery.

The rest of the record not pictured in the above snippet states that by 1940 she was unable to work, though in reality she was likely still running a small night school.

She died in 1964 at the age of 105. The circle at 3rd and T Streets is named in her honor, she is featured on a postage stamp and on pages 26 and 27 of the U.S. passport.

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November 17, 2010 - 8:52 am

Name the New Park

Park construction is underway, but when the park is ready in the coming months, what should we call it? The ultimate decision is up to the DC Council, but Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) has assured us that the Council will strongly consider any three names that neighbors finally settle on.

You can submit your suggestions online. Anyone may submit names and you may submit as many as you like. The LeDroit Park Civic Association will gather the names and allow the public to vote for the names. The top three winners will be forwarded to the Council.

What would you like to call the park?

If we want to honor notable residents, here are a few famous figures from the neighborhood’s history:

  • Walter Washington – 408 T Street – First elected mayor of DC.
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar – 321 U Street – Notable poet.
  • Mary Church Terrell – 326 T Street – Notable civil rights activist.
  • Oscar De Priest – 419 U Street – First black Congressman elected since Reconstruction.

We have excluded Duke Ellington since he lived here for only one year and since he already has several civic works dedicated to him.  We also excluded living people since their histories are still being written.  We also left out Anna J. Cooper since she already has the circle park named after her.

One other deceased person who might merit distinction is Theresa Brown, who died in 2009.  Ms. Brown was instrumental in establishing the LeDroit Park Historic District and protecting the neighborhood’s unique architecture from the wrecking ball.  Without her, the neighborhood we know today may have been turned into parking lots.

Most parks operated by the Department of Parks and Recreation end their names with “Recreation Center”,  a suffix with as much charm as the tax code.  Perhaps Playground, Gardens, Park, or Field would set off our park from other projects.

What would you like to name the park?

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February 17, 2010 - 1:56 am

Anna J. Cooper in the Mail


One of LeDroit Park’s notable residents was featured on a stamp in June.  Our very own Anna J. Cooper (1858 – 1964) lived at the veranda-lined house at Second and T Streets. The circle at Third and T Streets was named in her honor.

Ms. Cooper is most famous for her book A Voice from the South, considered a foundational text in black feminism and published while she was the principal of the M Street High School (now called Dunbar High School).  She then moved on to teach night classes for black Washingtonians at Frelinghuysen University, which was located in her house for a time.  She received a PhD at the Sorbonne in 1924, making her among the first black American women to receive a doctorate.

If you have a newer U.S. passport, you may notice that she is quoted on pages 26-7: “The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class— it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.”

Get a sheet of her stamps and send a little piece of your neighborhood’s history whenever you send a letter.

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