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Cultural Convergence
Columbia Heights Heritage Trail #15

College Hill

Wayland Seminary opened in Foggy Bottom just after the Civil War to train formerly enslaved people and others as “preachers and teachers for the South” and as missionaries to evangelize Africa. In 1875 it moved here, later merging with Richmond Theological Seminary to become Virginia Union University in Richmond. Among Wayland’s distinguished alumni was Booker T. Washington.

Just two blocks up the hill is the former site of George Washington University’s predecessor, Columbian College. Founded by Baptist missionaries in 1821, Columbian gave the area the nickname “College Hill.”

Some 24 years before Wayland Seminary’s arrival, landowner Col. Gilbert Livingston Thompson and his wife, Mary Ann Tolley Thompson, attended, attended a Prince George’s County slave auction and purchased Emily Saunders Plummer and three of her children to serve them here. After Emancipation, Plummer’s son Henry returned to attend Wayland Seminary.

The Thompson home, which stood where 16th Street is today, was built in the early 1800s by Commodore David Porter, During the Civil War, it was used as a hospital.

By the 1870s, Thompson’s land was subdivided into building lots, and a working-class community of mostly African Americans developed. “Residents depended entirely upon wells and the rain barrel for water,” wrote local historian John Clagett Proctor, who lived nearby after the Civil War. “There were no streets or sidewalks.” Around 1912 the federal government forced the residents out and razed their houses to make way for Meridian Hill Park (later also known as Malcolm X Park).
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