Civil War to Civil Rights
— Downtown Heritage Trail —
The great depression (1929-1941) meant economic catastrophe for millions of Americans, but in Washington it meant a building boom as the Federal Government staffed up to the end the economic crisis. In 1931 alone Congress approved new government buildings and schools, street paving, bridges, and sewers Thousands found badly needed work.
By this time, the Old City Hall/Courthouse had lost most of its DC government functions. The city's commissioners, police and fire chiefs, and engineers had moved to the 1908 District Building (now the John A. Wilson Building) on Pennsylvania Avenue. But as the city needed more offices, planners looked again at Judiciary Square.
By 1943, the Judiciary Square courthouses and offices you can see from here were complete. Municipal architect Nathan C. Wyeth designed the 1941 Art Deco style Municipal Center across Indiana Avenue for the police and fire departments' headquarters and other agencies.
For Judiciary Square, Wyeth designed three courthouses to harmonize with the Old City Hall; the Juvenile Court at 409 E. Street, and the Police and Municipal Courts framing today's National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
One Judiciary Square, across Fourth Street, became DC's city hall between 1992 and 2001, while the District Building on Pennsylvania Avenue underwent renovation. In 2007, as part of Mayor Adrian Fenty's "Greening the District" program, the building received a green roof.
The Francis Perkins U.S. Department of Labor building, ahead of you along D Street, honors President Franklin D. Roosevelt's secretary of labor, the first woman Cabinet member and the principal architect of the Social Security Acct and other worker protections.
The Civil War (1861 - 1865) transformed Washington, DC from a muddy backwater to a center of national power. Ever since, the city has been at the heart of the continuing struggle to realize fully the ideas for which the war was fought. The 25 signs that mark this trail follow the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Clara Barton, Frederick Douglas, and others, famous and humble, who shaped a nation and its capital city while living and working in historic downtown DC.
Civil War to Civil Rights Downtown Heritage Trail
is an Official Washington, DC Walking Trail. The self-guided tour consists of three distinct loops: West, Center, and East. Each one-mile loop offers about an hour of gentle exercise.
A free booklet capturing the trail's highlights is available at local businesses and institutions along the way. To download the free Civil War to Civil Rights Audio Tour, and learn about other DC neighborhoods, please visit www.CuturalTourismDC.org.