History

Mount Vernon Square Historic District Brochure

In 1791, when the District of Columbia was established, the area that would become the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood was part of a tract of land known as Port Royal, which originally encompassed 500 acres patented by John Peerce in 1687. The land was initially subdivided by a deed of gift from John Peerce to his three sons in 1740. Subsequent to the Peerce ownership, numerous land transactions occurred between 1740 and 1794 among the Coombs and Downes families and, by 1794, Joseph Coombs, Jr., owned the land that was designated Reservation 8 on L’Enfant’s 1791 plan for the new Federal City.

The historic plan of the nation’s capital was designed by Pierre L’Enfant in 1791, and details a city with a coordinated system of radiating avenues, parks, and vistas. Originally, at the intersection of the grand avenues, L’Enfant designated reservations to be divided among the states in the Union to improve and landscape as appropriate. Now known as Mount Vernon Square, Reservation 8, with its intersecting diagonal avenues and broad vistas, was created between 7th and 9th Streets where Massachusetts and New York Avenues, N.W., intersected at K Street, N.W., as a major focal point of the L’Enfant Plan.

Read the Mount Vernon Square Historic District Brochure (910K PDF)

 

The Past Is Present, Washington Post, 3/13/03

What is now Mount Vernon Square would have been close to beachfront property during the dinosaur era, when the Atlantic Ocean still crashed against what is now Capitol Hill. The climate would have been perpetually muggy, too, like the hottest summer day in Washington every day. It was an ideal environment for the sequoias, horsetail rushes and tree ferns that grew here in abundance beside the bald cypresses.

Read the full article

A Community Analysis of the Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood, Social Work Class, 4/15/96

Produced by students in a social work class this is an extensive study of the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood covering the people who have lived here. The report was graded A.
Written by:
Mary Anne Gehrenbeck Adelanwa
Susan Campbell
Vicky Foxworth
Austin Murphy
Lauren Simpson

Read the report (1.7 MB PDF)

Don’t Tear It Down, Lower Shaw/Mt. Vernon East Survey FINAL REPORT, June 1984

This report was written by the Don’t Tear It Down coalition which described themselves as “A Citizens action group working to protect and enhance Washington’s physical environment”. It offers a detailed report of the history of the neighborhood and surrounding area.

Read the report (4.3 MB PDF)

Midcity at the Crossroads: Shaw Heritage Trail, Installed May 2006

Follow the signs on this self-guided Cultural Tourism DC Neighborhood Heritage Trail to learn more about Shaw, the crossroads neighborhood at the edge of downtown Washington, which includes the Mt. Vernon Square Historic District. Midcity at the Crossroads: Shaw Heritage Trail’s 17 poster-sized illustrated signs combine story telling with historic images. The Shaw neighborhood you will discover is one of the city’s oldest, where traces can be found of nearly every group that has called Washington home. Shaw has always been “a place between places,” where races and classes bumped and mingled as they got a foothold on the city. It has been home to the powerful seeking a convenient location, immigrants and migrants just starting out, laborers in need of affordable housing, men and women of God – and people living on luck, both good and bad. The first sign is located at Seventh Street and Mt. Vernon Place, NW , at the front of the Washington Convention Center. The two-hour self-guided tour proceeds north up 9th Street, down 7th Street, and east along M Street, before returning to end a block from where it started. Six of the trials seventeen signposts are within MVSNA’s boundaries.

Along the way, you’ll learn about:
* One of the city’s earliest roads and commercial arteries, 7th Street.
* Charles M. “Sweet Daddy” Grace and the history of the United House of Prayer for All People at 6th and M Streets.
* 415 M Street’s riveting tale of neighborhood change. Once home to a butcher at Northern Liberty Market, it was also the first DC home of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association.
* Mt. Vernon Square area landmarks such as the Fletcher Chapel, the Bible Way Temple, and the Yale Steam Laundry.
* The Northern Liberty Market, which stood along 5th Street between K and L Streets, and was also the city’s first convention center, seating 6,000.
* The Carnegie Library at Mt. Vernon Square, one of few public spaces in Washington never to have been segregated.

Download a pdf of the trail booklet (2.6 MB) and a pdf of the trail map (150K)

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