Hub, Home, Heart
Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail #3
This is the western edge of what once was the rough, working-class Swampoodle neighborhood.
In the early days the marshy Tiber Creek ran between what are now North Capitol and First Streets, NE. Legend has it that lingering rain puddles ("poodles") led to the neighborhood's nickname.
Swampoodle's earliest residents, mostly Irish immigrants and free African Americans, helped build this city. Their hands crafted the White House and the Capitol, among other buildings. Swampoodle grew during the Civil War (1861-1865), when more once-enslaved people arrived seeking work. In the 1880s Italian stonecarvers and masons found affordable lodging here while building the Library of Congress, Union Station, and the National Cathedral.
In the early 1900s, Congress located Union Station in Swampoodle. Hundreds of homes and businesses disappeared as railroad tracks were laid and the station rose. Many of the displaced moved east, settling today's H Street corridor.
Soon the city rezoned the remaining Swampoodle area for commercial/industrial use. Railroad, Government Printing Office, light industry, and Post Office jobs made nearby H Street Tiber Creek with bridges at G and H Sts. The Swampoodle neighborhood became dryer after the creek was diverted to an underground pipe in 1876.
attractive to more families.
Swampoodle's large immigrant Catholic population drew two institutions honorong Jesuit Saint Aloysius Gonzaga: St. Aloysius Catholic Church, dedicated in 1859, and Gonzaga College High School, founded in 1821 and relocated beside the church on North Capitol Street in 1871.
In the early 1950s, Father Horace McKenna revived a shrinking St. Aloysius, refocusing it to serve the neediest. Father McKenna founded So Others Might Eat (some), Martha's Table, Sursum Corda Cooperative, and other enduring programs providing meals, clothing, child care, and shelter.