Bloomingdale (Washington, D.C.)
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The neighborhood of Bloomingdale is in the heart of Washington, D.C. less than two miles (3 km) north of the United States Capitol building. The neighborhood lies in Ward 5, and the current Councilmember is Kenyan McDuffie. Bloomingdale's most local representatives are (from south to north) Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners Teri Janine Quinn, Wanda Foster, Mark Mueller and Dianne Barnes (term 2012-2014).
Quite a few universities are close to Bloomingdale. Howard University borders the neighborhood on the north. Trinity and Catholic Universities are about one mile (1.6 km) northeast. George Washington University and Gallaudet University both are about three miles (5 km) southwest and southeast respectively. The University of the District of Columbia is less than four miles (6 km) northwest. Georgetown University is about four miles (6 km) west, while its law school campus is one mile south. American University is about six miles (10 km) northwest.
Most of the homes within Bloomingdale are rowhouses built around 1900 and are in the Victorian style. Nearby neighborhoods that border on Bloomingdale are Pleasant Plains to the northwest, LeDroit Park to the west, Shaw to the southwest, Truxton Circle to the southeast, Eckington to the east, and Edgewood to the northeast.
The present day boundaries of Bloomingdale originated from several large estates. The subdivisions that currently comprise Bloomingdale are that of Bloomingdale to the southeast, LeDroit Park to the southwest, the Moore & Barbours addition in the center, the Dobbins addition to the northeast, and another LeDroit Park addition to the northwest (map to be added). See Hopkins and Baist Real Estate Atlases, Vol. 3, 1968.
The Truxton-Beale Estate
George Beale, born in 1792, in Hampton, Virginia and Emily Truxton, born 30 Sept 1798 in Perth Amboy, New Jersey were married in Philadelphia May 4, 1819.
Mr. Beale was decorated in 1820 with a Congressional Silver Medal for "Galantry, good conduct, and services in the decisive and splendid victory gained on Lake Champlain on the 11th of September 1814 over a British Squadron of superior force" in the Battle of Plattsburgh in the War of 1812.
In 1823, Mr. Beale bought the 10-acre (40,000 m2) Bloomingdale estate one mile (1.6 km) north of the Capital for $600.00 from Wm Bradley (who was from Wilkes-Barre, PA). This estate grew to 50 acres (200,000 m2), and became the family home for several Beale generations until the death of Emily Beale in 1885. The Beale's grandson Edward Beale McLean, was the publisher and owner of the Washington Post from 1916 until 1933.
George died on the 4th of April 1835 at the age of 44 at his "Bloomingdale" estate in Washington, DC and was buried in Congressional Cemetery. Emily (picture to be added) passed on 50 years later on May 21, 1885 and is also buried at Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
One of George's and Emily's seven children saw the growing value in the estate's property. That son, George Nancrede Beale, upon his return from accompanying his noted brother Edward Fitzgerald Beale on one of the famous Fremont Expeditions west (see John C. Frémont), began selling large tracts of the estate to developers.
It is theorized that George Nancrede's favorite grandson, George Beale Bloomer (son of George Nancrede's daughter Violet), is where Bloomingdale derived its name.
The Bloomingdale and Brentwood neighborhoods are low-lying areas, located at the foot of hills a few blocks north. Because of this, flash flooding can occur during the spring and summer downpours which are common in Washington. Current storm drains are not adequate, resulting in submerged vehicles and filled-up basement apartments.
Located just outside the original boundary of the City of Washington as designed by Maj. Pierre L’Enfant in 1792, and in the former County of Washington, the neighborhood referred to today as the Bloomingdale, began to develop its residential character in 1877, just over a century after Pierre L'Enfant's plan was developed. The lands that comprise Bloomingdale first began as large estates and orchards and, just prior to its residential development, were utilized for a variety of light industry. Boundary Street, today Florida Avenue, was the dividing line between paved, planned streets (to the south of Boundary), laid out in the original city L'Enfant plan, and rural country (to the north of Boundary), where a variety of landowners maintained orchards, large country estates, and later, a mixture of commercial properties. In this area, a small community of Eckington emerged as a result of an intersection of two rural roads and at about the time that a much more planned and protected LeDroit Park was conceived in the late 1870s.
One of the first uses for the area following agriculture, was for train yards and transportation routes into and out of the City of Washington. In 1889, Silas Daish established a large flour mill at the corner of 3rd and Florida Avenue, seen in the photograph (Photograph to be added). It was one of only two flour mills in the City of Washington at the time, the other one being located nearby on Delaware Avenue, NE. The lack of paved streets and the intrusion of massive telephone poles were among the sources of early complaints from Eckington residents, many of whom felt the promises of "idyllic residential living" had been dashed by the intrusion of new and increasing industrial activity.
Leftover from the earlier industry, to the north, McMillan Park Sand Filtration Site ("Site") and McMillan Reservoir ("Reservoir"). The Site and Reservoir, bounded by North Capital, Channing, and First Streets, NW and Michigan Avenue, NW, is just part of a chain of public green spaces established in Senator James McMillan's 1901 "McMillan Plan" for beautifying Washington (see McMillan Commission). The original grounds of the Site were designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.. The Army Corps added the Reservoir and the Washington City Aqueduct (10 meters in diameter and 4 miles (6.4 km) long) between 1882 and 1902. In 1905, a slow-sand water-filtration method was added at the Site, and additional improvements were continually made. Following the death of Senator McMillan in 1902, the grounds of the Site and Reservoir were renamed McMillan Park. The Site was designated a historic landmark by the DC Historic Preservation Review Board in 1991. One of the finest surviving examples of American Beaux Arts fountains was sculpted by Augustus S. Gaudens a member of the McMillan Commission (along with Olmstead). The fountain is located behind a fence on the grounds of the Reservoir (but was formerly located in Crispus Attucks Park). Efforts have been underway to have the fountain relocated to a central and public location in Bloomingdale.
The rural nature of this area changed before the turn of the twentieth century as the rest of Washington neighborhoods began to experience the pressures of growth stemming from the huge influx of workers and freed men for decades following the Civil War. Bloomingdale, located just east of LeDroit Park (one of the Nations’s earliest suburban developments when it was opened in 1877, changed when developers and land speculators began to chart the industrial and orchard lands for proposed development, including the area between the village of Eckington and LeDroit Park. Roads corresponding to the grid system of Washington's streets were improved, curbed, and paved, in order to introduce extensions of the popular trolley lines, opening the area to residential development in the late 1890s. Earlier, streams and creeks were re-directed into large infrastructure projects under Alexander "Boss" Shepard like that of Tiber Creek that was redirected into the Washington City Aqueduct under the now existing street, Flagler Place.
Churches often led the way, and in 1902, the Rhode Island Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church built their elegant structure at the desirable corner of Rhode Island and 1st Street, N.W. In a postcard dated 1907, (picture to be added) the church was headed by Reverend J. M. Gill. The Church, now named Mount Bethel Baptist Church, (current pastor Bobby L. Livingston, Sr.) houses an active congregation founded by former slaves. Mount Bethel was a staging point for the famed 1963 March on Washington. The century-old church was featured on the History Channel’s show, “ America’s Most Endangered” because of its need for preservation and upkeep, which the church has begun. The congregation is actively involved in community outreach programs.
Construction on some of the earliest homes were completed between 1898 and 1900. Eleven homes along the unit block of Rhode Island Avenue joined the M. E. church just a year later, in 1903, and the remainder of the surrounding blocks had been built in a speculative nature by such developers as Harry Wardman, Francis Blundon, and S. H. Meyers within the following decade. The neighborhood website contains a list of Bloomingdale's Wardman built homes. Many of Wardman's first homes incorporate elements of Richardson Romanesque architecture (a sub-category of Victorian). This can be seen in the ornate floral and vine-like stone carving around doors and windows of many Bloomingdale homes. His later homes, like those on Adams and Bryant Streets, are in an architectural style for which he is most prominently known, brick homes which incorporate a deeper setback from the street and large covered front porch. Blundon built several homes along 1st Street and including 100 W Street, NW, which he occupied with his family. The only changes to the exterior of 100 W Street since its original construction have been the former rear porch being filled in with a garage built towards the alley and the replacement of the original clay roof tiles with standard roofing material. Blundon had previously lived nearby at 67 Street, NW. (See TheInTowner, April 2008).
Home construction often necessitated school construction, with the Gage School in the 2000 block of 2nd Street being erected in 1904. Utilized for decades before school consolidation, the 21,000-square-foot (2,000 m2) facility has been turned into award-winning Parker Flats at Gage School that have retained the historic nature of the original school house building. Many homes in the northern section of Bloomingdale still retain carriage houses in the block interiors. Some have been converted to private residences.
The photograph (photo to be added) dated March 7, 1936 at right was captured on 4th Street, looking south from the 2300 block toward Rhode Island Avenue. The larger Eckington neighborhood had begun to take on the identity of several neighborhoods, including this area, coined Edgewood. Other areas of the neighborhood were absorbed into LeDroit Park and the newly named Bloomingdale to the west. The boys waiting in front of the store were no doubt hoping to earn funds carrying groceries home for shoppers in their wagons. The small store was part of the Sanitary grocery chain, founded in 1909, which had hundreds of locations throughout the district until it was purchased by the Safeway Company in 1928. The Sanitary name was utilized until 1941. In a way typical of many neighborhoods, this area, at the edge of Brookland, had a diverse population as the owners of the stores along that block reveal: Henry Lee (Laundry), Samuel Tripi (Shoe Repair), Benjamin Cherkasky (Billiards), Nazret Carcoginian (Grocer), and E. G. Schafer (Plumbing Supplies).
Samuel Gompers the founder of the American Federation of Labor in 1886 (which later became the AFL-CIO), built a house for himself at 2122 1st Street, N.W., in 1900. Born in London, England on January 26, 1850 to poor Jewish immigrants from Holland, Gompers began working as a shoemaker at the age of 10. He soon switched trades to become a cigar maker, which brought him to New York City (with his family) in 1863. He headed the AFL-CIO until his death on December 13, 1924. His house was declared an individual landmark on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
Another notable former resident of Bloomingdale is one of Broadway's most accomplished and versatile singer, dancer, and entertainer, Chita Rivera (1933–present). She is a recipient of the prestigious Kennedy Center honor, presented by the President of the United States, has won two Tony Awards as Best Leading Actress in a Musical and has received six additional Tony Award nominations. Known to her friends in the neighborhood as Dolores, Ms. Rivera lived with her parents (both Federal government employees) on the 2100 block of Flagler Place NW. Her father was Puerto-Rican and her mother was of Scottish and Italian descent. Chita lived in the neighborhood until the age of 15 when she auditioned for and was admitted to the prestigious Jones-Haywood School of Ballet in Washington, D.C. and her career took off.
At 127 Randolph Place, Barnett-Aden was the first privately owned black gallery in the US and one of Washington, D.C.’s principal Art galleries when it opened in 1943. Founded by James V. Herring and Alonzo J. Aden, it was named ‘Barnett-Aden' to honor Aden’s Mother’s family. Howard University professor emeritus and former head of the art department, Dr. James Herring also helped to establish the gallery (picture to be added).
While the owners of the gallery were African American, Barnett-Aden was not conceived as a “black gallery.” It was one of the few art places in the city in which artists representing different nationalities, races and ethnicities were exhibited together. Noted for its afternoon art openings the Barnett-Aden Gallery became an important social gathering place. The collection is currently housed in a museum in Tampa Bay, Florida.
Much of the neighborhood had large Italian, Irish, German, Jewish, and African American populations even before neighboring LeDroit Park had integrated. In 1948, a famous Supreme Court case, Hurd v. Hodge, 334 U.S. 24 (1948), found the enforcement of racial and religious covenants restricting home ownership from African Americans, Jews, etc. were unconstitutional. The house at issue in the case is located at 116 Bryant Street, NW and had been purchased by James M. Hodge and his wife, an African American couple. These pioneering home-owners made it easier for all Americans, regardless of race, religion, or ethnic origin, to purchase property in this country.
Bloomingdale has been touched by gentrification, thereby straining the previously close-knit community. The population is primarily African American, which has maintained deep roots in the community for many years. There is also a growing Hispanic and Caucasian population. According to the 2010 census, the diverse population of Bloomingdale was 59% African American and 30% Caucasian with the last 11% split between Hispanic, Asian, and international residents. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/in-dcs-bloomingdale-neighborhood-population-changes-welcomed-and-resented/2011/03/24/AB4gd6QB_story.html.
Neighborhood revitalization has had its positive and negative impacts. The sewer and water systems in the area have been put to the test due to the population growth over the past 10 years. Proof of this can be seen at the Parker Flats at (the former) Gage School. Designed by Architect David Haresign, AIA, Parker Flats is ranked among the top 12 Residential Designs for 2008. According to the AIA, "this old DC public school building near LeDroit Park in Northwest Washington had sat empty for more than 30 years. Today, the historic landmark is the centerpiece of a 92-unit condominium project that has catalyzed neighborhood revitalization. In addition to the complete restoration of the Gage School, the development includes two new flanking buildings that are in keeping with the architecture of the area’s early 20th century apartment buildings and row houses."
Not all of Bloomingdale's energy has gone into improving the homes. Bloomingdale is the rare D.C. neighborhood to have its own greenspace, Crispus Attucks Park (CAP). CAP is named after African-American Crispus Attucks, who was killed during the Boston Massacre and who is often regarded as the first person killed in the American Revolution. The acre-and-a-quarter park, located within the court bounded by 1st, U, V, and North Capitol Streets NW, is dedicated to all victims of violence, like Crispus Attucks himself. CAP is privately owned, but open to the public, and is maintained through the donations of time, money, and sweat of neighbors. It is a beautiful urban greenspace.
The neighborhood has many active neighborhood groups and associations including, but not limited to, the Bloomingdale Civic Association, the Big Daddy Running Club and Crispus Attucks Development Corporation (which owns and oversees CAP).
New businesses have opened such as Window's Market, Big Bear Cafe, Yoga District, Green Paws, Bacio Pizzeria, FieldToCity, Rustik Tavern, Boundary Stone, Aroi Thai Sushi Bar, Grassroots Gourmet, Red Hen, and Showtime Lounge. Every summer, the Bloomingdale Farmers' Market is open on Sundays from 10:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. on R St between Florida Ave and 1st Street, N.W.
On May 22, 2010, D.C. Council Chair Vincent Gray officiated the dedication of a new street, Bloomingdale Court, N.W. between the 100 block of U and V Streets, N.W., and the 2000 block of 1st Street and Flagler Place, N.W. This new street came about through the efforts the residents of Bloomingdale Court and former Commissioner John Salatti. The street was given its name by Frederick Louis Richardson, a local author ("Black Rush" and "The Rococo Paradox") who resides on Flagler Place.
- "Councilmember: Relief fund needed for victims of Sunday's flooding". wtop.com. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- Neighborhood website
- Why Is It Named Bloomingdale?
- If Walls Could Talk: Big Bear Cafe - history of the building which houses Big Bear Cafe