A Self-Reliant People
—Greater Deanwood Heritage Trail —
Across the street is Watts Branch,
an actively used creek that has tied together many communities. Unfortunately humans have not always been respectful of this resource. The stream has experienced cycles of neglect and rejuvenation.
In 1938 the U.S. Government brought flood control measures to Watts Branch's 1.6-mile-long park. In the decades thereafter, children played in the creek, and churches baptized parishioners in its waters. Yet residents and outsiders also dumped trash here.
A massive clean-up began in 1965 under Lady Bird Johnson's Committee for a More Beautiful Capital, but another 30 years of neglect followed, when polluters, drug dealers, and addicts overwhelmed the park. Then in 2001 area children collected 1,500 signatures to petition the City Council to restore the park. Consequently residents, the nonprofit Washington Parks & People, the District's Department of Parks and Recreation, and thousands of volunteers joined in a multi-million dollar effort that continues to spark new life and new enterprise.
To your right is Riverside Center, which opened in the former Barnett's Crystal Room in 2004. Armstead Barnett had owned and operated this restaurant after working for 15 years in the Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower White Houses. There he rose from pantry
man to butler, and eventually messenger, while building a catering business that employed and trained many Deanwood residents.
Legendary R&B artist Marvin Gaye (1939-1984) spent part of his youth here, often singing a cappella with friends in the park. On April 2, 2006, the city officially rededicated Watts Branch Park as Marvin Gaye Park.
Long a Country Town at the edge
of Washington DC's urban center, Deanwood was forged out of former slave plantations during decades following the Civil War. It became one of Washington's earliest predominantly African American Communities.
Greater Deanwood today emcompasses the historic neighborhoods of Deanwood, Burrville, Lincoln Heights, and Whittingham.
In the 1800s, much of Washington's development followed decisions made by city leaders and investors, who favored areas northwest of Anacostia. Land here remained relatively untouched, and many streets were unpaved into the 1960s. Because builders chose not to apply racial restrictions on who could buy here, African American migrants found Deanwood welcoming, affordable, and convenient. The pioneering National Training School for Women and Girls, founded by Nannie Helen Burroughs (whose portrait appears on each Deanwood Heritage Trail sign), attracted educators to the neighborhood. New residents often built their own homes and created
communities where for years no one locked their doors, adults treated all children as their own, and children behaved accordingly. On this trail you will see rich parkland, handcrafted dwellings, and religious and social gathering places that have made Deanwood an oasis of dignity and self-determination for generations.