Free Walking Tour, January 20

Mark this historic inauguration week by joining us for a free, 90-minute walking tour, “From Slavery to Freedom in Adams Morgan,” on Sunday, January 20th at 1:00pm. starting at the Sun Trust Bank Plaza at 18th Street and Columbia Road, N.W., Washington, D.C. Our starting point at 18th Street and Columbia Road is about an 8 minute walk from the Woodley Park/Zoo/Adams Morgan Red Line Metro buses nearby are the 42, L2, H1, 90, 92, 96, 98, and the Adams Morgan Circulator.

We’ll walk first to Kalorama Park where, in 1861, an enslaved young woman named Hortense Prout made a daring bid for freedom from a lifetime of bondage on the cattle farm of John Little. Because of Hortense’s courageous effort, the National Park Service has named Kalorama Park a “National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom” site.

We’ll then walk to Walter C. Pierce Community Park, the site of Washington’s first (and only) Quaker cemetery and the city’s largest African American burial ground following the Civil War. Howard University archaeologists, the with support of the community, have conducted a unique, non-invasive (no digging!) survey of the park to determine where unmarked graves still exist so they can be protected and commemorated. At the park, we’ll also see and discuss Holt House built around 1800.

Please join us for this special journey into our city’s past! Neighborhood historians Mary Belcher and Eddie Becker will lead the walk, rain or shine. No RSVP required. Questions? Call Mary Belcher at 202-462-9069 or write Eddie Becker at This walk, which is handicapped accessible, is sponsored by the Kalorama Citizens Association.

Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital

  • Located at 9th and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, the building now known as the Hill Center was built in 1866 as a Naval Hospital.
  • The Navy used it during the Civil War and up until 1906 when the Naval Hospital was moved to Observatory Hill at 23rd and E Streets, NW (in Foggy Bottom).

The large brick building had room for 50 patients, and was used by the Navy until 1962 when the building was transferred to the District of Columbia. For five years, from 1906 – 1911, the building was used by the Navy as a training facility, for the Navy Reserves, and an emergency hospital. From 1922 until 1962 the building served as the Temporary Home for Veterans of All Wars.

The District of Columbia used it for various activities and agencies, but the building has been vacant since 1998. In 2002 a group of neighbors formed Friends of the Old Naval Hospital. They set three goals: to see the place properly restored, to see it turned over to an appropriate long-term occupant, and to research the history of the site and the people who have used it.

Later, in 2002, the Old Naval Hospital Foundation was created and developed a plan for the site’s reuse as an educational center and a gathering place for community residents. The city accepted the plan in August 2007, renovations began, and were completed in 2011.

The DC Preservation League held their annual meeting at the Hill Center on November 3, 2011, which included a presentation on the history and the renovation of the Old Navy Hospital by the architect. The four-story, 16,000-sq-ft building has meeting rooms that can accommodate 10-250 people, a beautiful garden, and a demonstration kitchen.


The Hill Center:

The DC Preservation League:

The Old Naval Hospital History:

U.S. National Library of Medicine:

St. Thomas Parish

I recently attended a presentation at St. Thomas Parish, the Episcopal church at 1772 Church Street, NW., organized by the DC Preservation League and given by Matt Jarvis, the architect for new church plans.

Presented as A Civil Union: Marrying the Historic and Modern – the talk discussed the long history of the church and the upcoming new building that, if all goes as planned, could be up by the Christmas holiday season 2012.

The Church’s history begins in 1891, just 20 years after Washington D.C. was designated to be the Nation’s Capital, when Calvary Parish was formed. The first service took place in 1899. There were many well-known parishioners through the last 100 years including President Roosevelt who served on the Vestry in 1918 while he was Secretary of the Navy. He later attended services at St. Thomas’ during his presidency. Harry S. Truman and Lyndon Johnson, also, both attended services at the church.

In 1970 the church was destroyed by arson. The church was constructed from stone with the roof and pews made from wood. The fire was so intense that the entire church structure, except the nave, was razed. The arsonist placed the crucifix and lectionary from the alter outside in the alley, then saturated the floor with gasoline and lit the church on fire. After the fire the church continued to serve the community by holding services in the old rectory, but struggled financially.

From the history of the church:

Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968 sparked riots that destroyed a large portion of the business district along 14th Street, only a few blocks away. Mr. Breul wrote that “we were worshiping in distressing surroundings and most suburban people would not come back downtown without fear and trepidation.” Then came the fire in 1970. It was the last straw for many in the 550-member congregation, which shrank by half and then some. The blaze also marked the beginning of severe financial decline from which the parish would take nearly two decades to recover. Many view the fire as the defining moment in St. Thomas’ 112-year history because it brought about significant changes in the physical and social structure of the parish. “The fire was a seminal event for St. Thomas’,” one former parishioner said. “It really cleansed the church.” While St. Thomas’ had already begun to assume a more pronounced role as a parish committed to social justice and the concerns of the inner city, the fire in many ways solidified that shift. St. Thomas’ — the building and the people — was not what it had been before.

Today the old church grounds are used as a park and a contemplative area. The nave is fenced off but visible, and in the park there are benches and a labyrinth. The parish hall is where all activity is currently conducted. The hall is open for meetings most days a week.

St. Thomas’ Parish today is thriving. The presentation focused on the history of the church as well as the plans for a new church that will be built upon the current park. To see the new plans for the church

The new plans can be viewed on the St. Thomas’ website at:, where you can also watch a design fly-through, and learn more about the past, present, and future of the church.

For more information on the DC Preservation League or to see a listing of events, visit the league at: