Hub, Home, Heart
— Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail —
The small scale and low rents of H Street's oldest buildings have lured waves of immigrant entrepreneurs since the buildings were new in the 1880s. By 1930, alongside Greek, Italian, Irish, and other immigrant-owned shops, at least 75 Jewish-owned businesses operated on H Street.
Abe and Anna Shulman ran a dry goods store and lived at 1237 H, with a kitchen in back and living quarters upstairs. Two of their five children remained on H Street as adults: Israel, a dentist, and Fred, who sold baby furniture and toys. Known as the "Queen of H Street," Anna founded the Hebrew Sheltering Society to house recent imigrants, and led teh Sisterhood, a women's aid society, for Ezras Israel Synagogue at Eighth and I Streets. The Shulmans and most of their Jewish neighbors had emigrated from Russia around 1900.
In the 1950s former boxer Eddie Leonard brought sandwiches to H Street. A decade later Chuck Brown, the future "Godfather of Go-Go," bought his first guitar at Chuck and Marge Levin's music store at 1237 H Street. In 1968, after looters destroyed their store, the Levins moved to Wheaton, Maryland, opening Chuck Levin's Washington Music Center.
At 1238 H is the former office of Granville Moore, M.D., a native Washingtonian, World War II veteran (Buffalo Soldier), Howard University faculty member, and civil rights activist who practiced medicine here for more than 50 years. Former patients also recollect how Dr. Moore (1916-2003) made house calls and treated the ill free of charge two days a week.
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.