Heart of Black Washington
Interestingly, the residential architecture of this unique neighborhood has been preserved largely because its original occupants moved out. By the mid-1890s, ever more elaborate and expensive mansions were being constructed around Dupont Circle to the west. As fortunes grew during post-war reconstruction, many of Logan Circle’s more well-heeled families moved to Dupont and beyond, to stately mansions on Massachusetts Avenue along “Embassy Row.” And the Circle transformed itself. By the turn of the century, it had become the social, intellectual and artistic center of Black Washington (along with nearby Shaw and LeDroit Park).
Educator Mary Jane Patterson and her family moved into 1532 15th Street during the early 1890s. Ms. Patterson earned a place for herself in history when she graduated from Oberlin College in 1862–the first African American woman in the world to earn a college degree. Other residents shortly after the turn of the century included the famous boxer Jack Johnson at 13th and R; and nationally acclaimed artist Alma Thomas, who lived with her family at 1530 15th Street. Duke Ellington’s family lived just a few blocks north; neighbors remembered the famous jazz musician as a child, playing in Logan Circle’s tree-lined park.
From the 1920s to the 1940s, the cultural fabric of the circle only strengthened. Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), established the council’s headquarters at 1318 Vermont Ave and resided there for a period of time. This house served as the NCNW’s headquarters for many years, visited frequently by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt; it is now a historic site managed by the National Park Service. Other prominent neighborhood families included Attorney Belford and Judge Marjorie Lawson, who lived at #8 Logan Circle from 1938 to 1958 (they rented the top floor of their house to charismatic and controversial Congressman Adam Clayton Powell), and noted architect John Lankford at 1448 Q. Bishop “Sweet Daddy” Grace, founder of the United House of Prayer for All People, lived at #11 Logan Circle--now a museum, lavishly restored--during the 1950s.