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  • Random fact – This house was built in 1873 by James H. McGill, the same architect who designed the massive Northern Liberty Market in present-day Mount Vernon Triangle. There are 50 remaining houses in the LeDroit Park Historic District that were designed by McGill.

    • typo – designed by McGill, not built by him

    • I count 20 on the 400 block of U and 8 more scattered along T and 3rd, and this is kinda, like, my job, so if you have an enumeration please do share. If you are quoting a deceased hyperbolist, that’s cool too. FYI I’m hoping to get my data more publicly available in the coming years.

      • From the LeDroit Park Historic District NRHP nomination form: “The LeDroit Park Historic District was originally a planned architecturally, unified subdivision of substantial detached and semidetached houses designed by James McGill and constructed mainly between 1873 and 1877…LeDroit Park presently contains approximately 50 of the original 64 McGill houses.”


        P.S. I should note the document is from 1974, so the number is approximate.

        • justinbc

          LeDroit Park was developed as an exclusively white residential area, and this
          policy was enforced to the extent that a wall enclosed the area and guards
          were stationed at the gate to restrict access.
          Attempts were made through legal actions to have the fence removed, and, in
          July of 1888, the fence was torn down by protesting blacks. Four days later
          it was rebuilt, but this incident was the beginning of a movement toward
          integration of the area. In 1893, a barber, Octavius Williams, became,
          perhaps, the first black to move into the subdivision. His daughter, Mrs.
          Gilbert Spears lives in the House at 388 U Street today, and recalls that
          her father told her often about -the time shortly after they had moved into
          the house and were seated at dinner when a shot was fired into the dining
          room. The bullet remained in the wall until the children were old enough
          to see it and appreciate the story. The LeDroit Park area was integrated
          only a short time, and by the beginning of the First World War, the white
          families had moved out and the area was almost totally black.
          Interesting historical footnote.

          • Thank you Justin. There is a bit of mythology about LP and that is a shame, because what we know for sure makes it’s history uniquely awesome. Octavius Williams’s daughter was interviewed by a Post reporter in the 1970s and that is the source of two dubious stories, the gun shot and that the Williams family was the first black family in The Park. In her memoir Mary Church Terrell says that she and her husband were the second and she did not name the first. I keep oral history at arm’s length but EVERYBODY would have known such a thing, so we should assume she got that right. However, both the land records (quite definitive legal documents) and the city directory (good enough) show the Terrells in LP before Octavius Williams, so that is just false. I labored desperately to find the first black family in LP, but could not. The Williams daughter, Ms. Spears, was born about the time the family moved to U Street (in LP) from S Street (out), so she had no first-hand knowledge of what she was saying. And she was wrong, so I take her bullet hole story as neither truth nor fiction, but just something she said.

            The fence story is empowering as told, but the truth is more interesting. The main impetus for opening the neighborhood streets came from Charles E. Bains, a white LP resident, who represented a real estate syndicate that owned land just north of the Park in Howardtown. The syndicate probably used the race and class aspects of the fence to gain sympathy and the poor (literally and figuratively) Howardtowners who helped them likely had know idea their dusty, working-class hood was about to be gentrified out of existence.

          • Wait, did you say she lives there today?! F’real? When was she born? Her parents moved there 121 years ago! Is she maybe the daughter of the daughter?

        • Yes, I am see those figures quoted elsewhere. Back then a survey was not needed for a new Historic District, and local history seems to have been largely a process of people recording their beliefs. And once “facts” are established they can have really long and robust lives. I can document 30-some McGills and that requires some reasonable speculation. McGill pretty much left architecture in the mid-1880s to sell building supplies. There are many permits for LP before that time with no architect named. It is possible that a bunch of those are his and the number approaches 60, but that is highly speculative and undocumented.

      • justinbc

        I met Brian on one of the MLK’s home history tours, and just gotta say I love what you do for the city man.

        • Thank you Justin. Come on my Annual Presidents Day Weekend Columbia Heights Historical Drinkabout on 2/14, 2-5PM. It’s always a lot of fun! Palisades (9:20 am) will be there.

      • palisades

        OOOooooooo drama in the housing data discussion

      • For those of us who haven’t been paying as close attention, can I ask what you do, Brian? It sounds like a wonderful job.

      • Brian — Is your database of building permits available to the public on-line?

  • Wow, beautiful house!

  • It’s beautiful except for the trim that look like painter’s tape.

    • Seriously. I walk by here every day, and every day I hope the ugly bright blue paint is some sort of primer. It completely clashes with the brick. So terrible.

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