January 27, 2014 - 8:29 am

1925 photo of Griffith Stadium also shows LeDroit Park

photo1925

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

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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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July 31, 2013 - 8:17 am

Is something like Eastern Market coming to the U Street area?

The Griffith as seen from Florida Avenue

The Griffith as seen from Florida Avenue

There’s some big news over on Florida Avenue by the 9:30 Club.  The District has chosen the MRP-Ellis Development team to develop 1.45 acres of city-owned land at 965 Florida Avenue.  The site sits on the east side of Florida Avenue at the intersection with Sherman Avenue.  The MRP-Ellis proposal, dubbed The Griffith*, is a 370,000-square-foot building with 35,000 square feet of retail topped with several floors of residential.

I haven’t found the apartment unit count, but the retail component is envisioned as a market somewhat like Union Market and Eastern Market.  Furthermore, The Griffith proposal extends Bryant Street from 8th Street to the intersection of Florida and Sherman Avenues.  East-west connectivity is a goal of the DUKE Small Area Plan and something that the city has been seeking as that area is redeveloped.

Site plan and surrounding streets for The Griffith development

Site plan and surrounding streets for The Griffith development

Part of the story for this award is who didn’t win.  Both MRP-Ellis and JBG competed for the site.  Many people following the competition thought JBG had the upper hand, since it controlled an adjacent site on Florida Avenue (see the big blank area above).  JBG’s plan involved connecting W Street instead of Bryant Street.  The JBG plan also included a Harris Teeter, 125 hotel rooms, 30,000 square feet of office space, 20,000 square feet of retail, 150 condos, 250 apartments, and 200 micro-apartments.

According to the Washington Business Journal, the District preferred The Griffith’s program for several reasons:

What put MRP over the top, according to [the District], was an offer to build more affordable housing, an agreement to submit to the District’s planned-unit development process (ensuring community coordination) and its willingness to pay more for the land.

Don’t expect shovels in the ground just yet.  The details of the deal will have to be finalized and then approved by the Council.  Then the project will go through a Planned Unit Development (PUD) process that involves a few months of community input and zoning hearings during which the developer will likely negotiate a community benefits agreement.  After that’s finished, the permits will need to be approved and construction can finally begin.  It may be four or five years until we see a ribbon-cutting.

In the meantime, JBG may build a smaller project on the land it owns immediately to the south of the awarded site.  No plans have been released, but whatever it is, says JBG, it won’t include a Harris Teeter or a W Street connection.

View the proposals:


* “The Griffith” is an homage to Griffith Stadium, which once stood where Howard University Hospital now stands.

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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 04, 2012 - 9:12 am

Historian describes Mickey Mantle’s LeDroit Park home run record

On April 17, 1953, Mickey Mantle hit one of the longest home runs in baseball history at Griffith Stadium, which stood where Howard University Hospital stands today. The ball landed in LeDroit Park and was alleged to have traveled the remarkable distance of 565 feet.

Sports historian Jane Leavey investigated the so-called “tape measure home run” in her 2010 book The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood. She appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation yesterday to discuss that record-setting home run that landed in LeDroit Park and she described her efforts to verify distance claim.

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