Hub, Home, Heart
— Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail —
Gallaudet University is world renowned as the premier institution for higher education for deaf and hard of hearing students. It opened as the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and Blind in 1856 on land donated by former Postmaster General Amos Kendall. In 1864 Congress chartered its collegiate program, which President Abraham Lincoln signed into law. The school's current name honors Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, founder of the first school for the deaf in the United States and father of the university's first president, Edward Miner Gallaudet.
Gallaudet was designated a university in 1986. Two years later the university selected its first deaf president after students, supported by faculty, staff, alumni, the national deaf community, and national leaders, demanded a "Deaf President Now!" Their effort launched a movement leading to important laws expanding access to communications, including the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. Gallaudet students study in both American Sign Language and English at the university recognized as the center of American Deaf Culture.
"Gallaudet College" is a National Historic Landmark, and the original campus (1866-1878) is in the National Register of Historic Places.
Just east of the Gallaudet campus is the Trinidad neighborhood, named for the former estate of DC banker and philanthropist William Wilson Corcoran (1798-1888). Among Corcoran's legacies to his city are the former Riggs Bank, Oak Hill Cemetery, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. In 1875 Corcoran donated Trinidad to Columbian College (George Washington University's predecessor), which sold it to Washington Brick Machine Company. Washington Brick eventually sold its property for housing lots.
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.