A Fitting Tribute
— Logan Circle Heritage Trail —
The Imposing Double House to Your Left
, numbers 1 and 2, was built as an investment for Ulysses S. Grant, Jr., son of the 18th president. The house would later serve as the Venezuelan Legation and then a Seventh-Day Adventist nursing home.
Henry M. Letcher and his wife Evelyn purchased 1-2 Logan Circle. Henry, an artist, designer, educator, and decorated veteran of the Tuskegee Airmen, and Evelyn, a teacher opened Letcher Art Center. After receiving accreditation from the Veterans Administration, the center taught commercial art, sign painting, silk screening, and architectural drafting to returning World War II veterans. Henry brought his first cousin and best friend Duke Ellington to visit and be photographed among the students. The School, recalled his son Henry, Jr. enabled scores of service men to become "peace-time earners and family men" despite segregation.
After Letcher's death in 1967, Henry Jr., a musician, took over the mansion, populating it with fellow musicians and artists, among them musician/poet Gil Scott-Heron. The younger Letcher's band Jambo performed locally in the early 1970s and attracted audiences with jazz-inflected R&B accompanied by psychedelic light shows. In 1972, when the neighborhood "became too rough," as Henry Jr. recalled, his mother sold the house. In 1998 it was converted to condominiums.
One block east of this sign is 1316 Rhode Island Avenue, an example of the 1970s wave of rehabilitation in Logan Circle. Architect Robert B. Gordon and his wife Doll purchased the shell of 1316 in 1979. Gordon designed a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired interior within the Victorian exterior of the 1885 red-brick exterior rowhouse.
Sidebar (on reverse):
The Logan Circle Neighborhood
began with city boosters' dreams of greatness. The troops, cattle pens, and hubbub of the Civil War (1861-1865) had nearly ruined Washington, and when the fighting ended, Congress threatened to move the nation's capital elsewhere. So city leaders raced to repair and modernize the city. As paved streets, water and gas lines, street lights, and sewers reached underdeveloped areas, wealthy whites followed. Mansions soon sprang up around the elegant park where Vermont and Rhode Island Avenues met. The circle was named Iowa Circle, thanks to Iowa Senator William Boyd Allison. In 1901 a statue of Civil War General (and later Senator) John A. Logan, a founder of Memorial Day, replaced the park's central fountain. The circle took his name in 1930. The title of this Heritage Trail comes from General Logan's argument that Memorial Day would serve as "a fitting tribute to the memory of [the Nation's] slain defenders."
As the city grew beyond Logan Circle, affluent African Americans gradually replaced whites here. Most of them moved on during World War II, and their mansions were divided into rooming houses to meet a wartime housing shortage. By the 1960s, with suburban Maryland and Virginia drawing investment, much of the neighborhood had decayed. When civil disturbances erupted after the 1968 assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it hit bottom. Ten years later, however, long-time residents, newcomers, and city programs spurred revival. A Fitting Tribute: Logan Circle Heritage Trail
takes you through the neighborhood's lofty and low times to introduce the array of individuals who shaped its modern vitality.