Hub, Home, Heart
— Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail —
One year before Congress and the President arrived in their new capital city in 1800, Washington's Navy Yard opened at the foot of Eighth Street, two miles south of this sign. The yard soon became the city's biggest employer. In 1908 streetcars began connecting H Street to the Navy Yard via Eighth Street, allowing workers to commute. As the transfer point between the Eighth Street line and the H Street line to downtown, this busy spot attracted the Home Savings Bank's Northeast Branch and the Northeast Savings Bank, founded by H Street merchants, across Eighth Street from each other.
Before Prohibition closed DC's many saloons in 1917, 727 H Street housed the German-owned Beuchert Tavern. Louis Kavakos bought the place in 1929 and ran it as a lunch counter/confectionery. After Prohibition ended four years later, Kavakos and his sons William, George, and John replaced the luncheonette with Club Kavakos, a bar and grill with live music, dancing, vaudeville, and strippers. Like many DC night spots, the club thrived during World War II. After the war, patrons enjoyed evenings hosted by WMAL radio DJ Willis Conover. Jazz greats Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, and Dizzy Gillespie all recorded live albums here.
In 1914 Ezras Israel Orthodox congregation moved from its space above a grocery on H Street into the former Centennial Baptist Church at Eighth and I Streets, one block north. Forty-five years later it closed as most of H Street's Jewish population moved north, and eventually re-opened in Rockville, Maryland.
Trains and streetcars created the Near Northeast neighborhood around H Street. The B&O Railroad's arrival in 1835 made this a center of energetic, working-class life. Workmen living north of the Capitol staffed the Government Printing Office, ran the trains, stocked the warehouses, and built Union Station. When a streetcar arrived linking H Street to downtown, new construction quickly followed.
H Street bustled with shops and offices run by Jewish, Italian, Lebanese, Greek, Irish, and African American families. During the segregation era, which lasted into the 1950s, African Americans came to H Street for its department stores and sit-down restaurants. Most businesses welcomed all customers.
Then came the civil disturbances in the wake of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in 1968. Decades of commercial decline followed. Just off H Street, though, the strong residential community endured. The 2005 opening of the Atlas Performing Arts Center signaled a revival, building evocatively on H Street's past. Hub, Home, Heart
is a bridge to carry you from that past to the present.
Hub, Home, Heart: Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail
is an Official Washington, DC Walking Trail. The self-guided, 3.2-mile tour of 18 signs offers about two hours of gentle exercise. Free keepsake guidebooks in English or Spanish are available at businesses and institutions along the way. For more on DC neighborhoods, please visit www.CulturalTourismDC.org.