Local History

How to Research Local History

DC Public Library 

  • This public library provides a great resource as a starting point for researching the history of Washington, D.C. It not only includes direction and guidance to the many resources available from the Library, it incorporates references to other local collections and resource centers as well.
  • Visit the Getting Started with Washington, D.C. History Guide​​​​​​​
  • DC Historic Sites “is based on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites, the city’s official list of properties deemed worthy of recognition and protection for their contribution to the cultural heritage of the city, the nation’s capital, and the nation. DC Historic Sites was developed by the DC Preservation League, Washington’s only citywide nonprofit advocate dedicated to the preservation, protection and enhancement of the historic resources of our nation’s capital.”
  • DC Preservation League.

HistoryQuest DC by DC Historic Preservation Office

  • HistoryQuestDC is an interactive online map of Washington, D.C. which provides historical data for thousands of buildings around the city. The map offers several layers of information on buildings, residential areas, the L”Enfant plan, and many other aspects of the city’s built environment.
  • DC Historic Preservation Office.

Logan Circle

General: Logan Circle is a traffic roundabout in Washington, DC, and also references the district around Logan Circle from 15th Street to 10th Street and M Street to S Street. The roads leading into the circle extend from the far east side of DC to the northernmost surburbs of the DC area. This allows for a large influx of communities routing through the neighborhood. Despite all of the commuting through the area, the local neighborhood remains unique in its culture.

Logan Circle was built in coordination with its sister circle Dupont. They form a triangular street pattern directly north of the White House. The area within and surrounding this area are considered the center of urban DC. The Dupont-Logan complex is the first connection north from the Capitol Mall.

History: Logan Circle was part of Pierre L’Enfant’s original plan for DC, and was called Iowa Circle until 1930, when Congress renamed it to honor Civil War general John Logan. Jon Logan was the Commander of the Army of the Tennessee during the Civil War, Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and U.S. representative and senator for the state of Illinois. He lived at 5 Logan Circle. An equestrian statue of Logan stands at the center of the circle. The statue was sculpted by Franklin Simmons and the bronze statue base was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt. The 25-foot statue was dedicated by President William McKinley on April 9, 1901.

After the Civil War, the area became home to DC’s wealthy and powerful, and by the turn of the century it was home to many black leaders, including Mary McLeod Bethune. Logan Circle, along with nearby Shaw, became the epicenter of Black Washington in the early- to mid-1900s.

Logan Circle was once home to Camp Barker, former barracks for soldiers later converted into a refugee camp for newly freed slaves from Virginia and Maryland. In the 18702 Mayor Alexander Robey Shepherd encouraged the development of the area by installing streets, elm trees and other amenities. Streetcar tracks were laid into what was then a very swampy area north of downtown Washington. This allowed the development of successive blocks of Victorian row houses marketed to the upper middle class. Many of the larger and more ornate homes came with carriage houses and attached servant’s quarters, which were later converted to apartments and rooming houses as the upper middle class moved out of the area.It was designated a historic location by the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

The neighborhood then attracted a number of car dealerships and was called DC’s “automobile row”, and was a prominent main shopping district for both black and white Washingtonians. Parts of Logan Circle to the north, “14th and U”, became synonymous with a large African American community, later known as Shaw. Segregation marked this large area of well-preserved Victorian row houses as a predominately African-American community with the unofficial dividing line being 16th Street to the west. During this time of segregation, the original Victorian homes in the area were subdivided into apartments, hostels and rooming houses. The end of segregation saw a period of middle class flight from the area, before the 1968 riots completed devastated the 14th Street commercial corridor.

Almost immediately after the riots, the National Capital Planning Commission announced they were working on an “urban renewal” plan for the area. With little to no visible activity, the neighborhood was plagued with heroin addicts visible in abandoned doorways. Activists for the Black Power movement were attracted to the area by the cheap rent and set up residence. Fourteenth Street became an incubator for people who were thinking differently about the world.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Logan Circle was considered by many to be unsafe due to overt drug use and prostitution that existed in the neighborhood. Also during this time, property values in the area increased, highlighting homelessness in the area. 14th Street became widely known as Washington’s red light district and prostitution was it’s best-known trade. The area was also known to be a haven for crack users who inhabited the many burned-out buildings in the area.

With private developers unwilling to take a risk on the neighborhood, Mayor Marion Barry came up with the vision of building a 500,000-square-foot government office building where the riots had begun at 14th and U. The plans for this building were delayed by mismanagement, design flaws, and disagreements between the city and its contractors for more than a year until the eight-story, $50-million Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center opened in September 1986.

During the 2000s, housing costs sharply increased as derelict buildings were torn down or remodeled. The commercial corridors along 14th Street and P Street saw significant revitalization and are currently home to a variety of retailers, restaurants, art galleries, live theater, and nightlife venues. The area also has a number of gay bars catering to the neighborhood’s large LGBT population.

Since the 1990s, thousands of white young adults have moved into the neighborhood, while thousands of black adults have been forced to move out of the neighborhood, causing a dramatic change in the neighborhood demographics.

Read more about the history of the revitalization of 14th Street here.

Neighborhood Character: Logan Circle contains a mix of historic row houses, brand new luxury condos, and a wide variety of retail. It has one of the highest concentrations of apartments in the city and represents a variety of architectural styles, but the gentrification that has come to the area in the past decade has significantly raised rents, and affordable housing is a concern.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at 15th and Church, was designed by the city’s first professional African American architect, Calvin T. S. BrentThe Louise Hand Laundry on 12th Street is now a private home, but originally it was the place to which the White House sent its soiled garments. The boarded-up brick building at 1433 11th Street NW was a boarding house where Ella Watson lived. Watson is the cleaning woman immortalized by Gordan Parks in his 1942 photograph “American Gothic, Washington, D.C.”

The Logan Circle Historic District is an eight-block area surrounding the circle, containing 135 late-19th-century residences designed primarily in the Late Victorian and Richardsonian Romanesque styles of architecture. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in June 1972.

The former home of Mary McLeod Bethune is located one block south of the circle at 1318 Vermont Avenue NW. This Second Empire-style building is designated as a National Historic Site and currently houses the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial Museum and the National Archives for Black Women’s History.

In addition to the Logan Circle Historic District, the neighborhood also includes the much larger Fourteenth Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. There are 765 contributing properties that are considered historically significant because they represent residential and commercial development which resulted from one of the earliest streetcar lines in Washington, DC, the Capital Traction Company’s 14th Street line, built in the 1880s.

The oldest house of worship in the Fourteenth Street Historic District is Luther Place Memorial Church, built 1870-1873 on the north side of Thomas Circle. The church was originally known as Memorial Evangelical Lutheran Church of Washington, DC, but was renamed in 1884 after a bronze statue of Martin Luther was installed on the church’s property. Luther Place Memorial Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in July 1973.

The Gladstone and Hawarden, designed by architect George S. Cooper in 1900, are examples of Washington’s early middle class apartment houses. They were named for UK Prime Minister William Gladstone and his estate Hawarden Castle and are the first documented twin apartment buildings in Washington, DC. The Gladstone and Hawarden were added to the National Register of Historic Places in September 1994.

Although not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, there are many properties in Logan Circle that are on the District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites. These properties include the former residences of Charles Manuel “Sweet Daddy” Grace (a flamboyant founder of the United House of Prayer for All People), John A. Lankford (the first African-American architect in Washington, DC), Belford Lawson, Jr. (lead attorney in the landmark case New Negro Alliance v. Sanitary Grocery Co), Alain LeRoy Locke (the first African-American Rhodes Scholar and a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance), Mary Jane Patterson (the first African-American woman to earn a bachelor’s degree), Ella Watson (noted above), and James Lesesne Wells (noted graphic artist and longtime art instructor at Howard University).

Please click button below to download a report of the Logan Circle Historic Preservation

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The Logan Circle Community Association is one of the premier civic and residential organizations in the District of Columbia.

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