DC Heritage Trails: City Within a City: Greater U Street Heritage Trail:
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- TRUST_170909_01.JPG: City Within a City
Greater U Street Heritage Trail
12 A Prestige Address
The grand Beaux-Arts buildings near this corner stand witness to the status of this area in early 20th century Washington, and as tribute to the indomitable spirit of Mary Foote Henderson. The wealthy wife of Senator John B. Henderson, she lived one block from here at 16th and Florida Avenue in a Romanesque castle and spent decades promoting 16th Street as the prestige address in the nation's capital. In the 1980s, she was instrumental in having 16th Street extended into the still undeveloped land just north of here.
Developers followed, and in 1900 the Balfour Apartment building went across the street to the west at a cost of $100,000, making it one of the most expensive structures of its kind in the city. Designed by Washington architect George S. Cooper, it offered 36 large, luxurious apartments.
Prestigious apartments continued to spring up in this neighborhood providing popular accommodations for congressmen, military personnel, and other federal government officials. The Northumberland, just north of here on the east side of the street at 2039 New Hampshire Avenue, is a remarkably preserved example. Architect Albert H. Beers created its Renaissance-inspired design in 1909 for prolific Washington builder Harry Wardman. The building featured such innovations as a public dining room, trash chutes from each kitchen, wall safes, and a telephone switchboard which has operated 24 hours a day since the building opened in 1910.
The impressive Beaux-Arts building on the corner behind you was built in 1914 for the Congressional Club, founded in 1908 on another site as a non-partisan gathering place for the spouses of members of Congress. Mary Henderson provided the land, substantial construction funds, and her favorite architect, George Oakley Totten, Jr. He designed nine other mansions for Mary Henderson along 16th Street, which she rented to foreign embassies. She even encouraged the president of the Untied States to move from the White House into her 16th Street neighborhood, but in that she did not succeed.
- TRUST_170909_07.JPG: Architect George Cooper added elaborate detailing, above, to the Balfour Apartments, left, built in 1900 at 16th and U.
- TRUST_170909_13.JPG: Harry Wardman, right, built the prestigious Northumberland Apartments at 2039 New Hampshire Avenue, seen below and below right, decorated for the holidays.
- TRUST_170909_16.JPG: City Within a City
Greater U Street Heritage Trail
For the first half of the twentieth century, this U Street neighborhood inspired and sustained the rich social, civic and cultural life of Washington's African American community. Here in the shadow of the renowned Howard University, neighbors responded to the injustices of a segregated city by creating their own self-reliant culture as well as generating leaders for the city and the nation in science, medicine, law, the military, education, literature and the arts. Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, though only one of many celebrated residents, personifies their achievements. Follow this trail to the places that tell the story of this exceptional community in the heart of the nation's capital.
A tour booklet, City Within a City: U Street Heritage Trail, is available in English and Spanish at local businesses and institutions along the route. To learn more about other DC neighborhoods, please visit www.CuturalTourismDC.org.
- TRUST_170909_19.JPG: This stately building on the southeast corner of 16th and U Streets graced a quiet, residential neighborhood in the 1920s. In the 1960s the building became the headquarters of Pride Inc., a job-development organization founded by Marion Barry, later mayor of the District of Columbia.
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