A Fitting Tribute
—Logan Circle Heritage Trail —
Luther Place Memorial Church
has been a neighborhood fixture since 1873, when the Maryland Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church established it as a "memorial to God's goodness in delivering the land from slavery and from war." It quickly established a reputation for community service. A century later, this very urban church was galvanized by civil disturbances following the 1968 assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Place offered shelter during and after the riots, and provided food, clothing and medical care for thousands of affected people.
With the 1970 arrival of the Reverend John Steinbruck, the church expanded its social justice program. New women's shelters eventually became N Street Village, a community of empowerment and recovery for homeless and low-income women. Luther Place hosted the Community for Creative Non-Violence, which operated Zacchaeus Medical Clinic, housing for offenders awaiting trial, and a group residence. Zacchaeus later merged with Bread for the City, which was organized by Luther Place in 1976. The church declared itself a sanctuary for refugees of the war in El Salvador (1979-1992).
Social justice leaders, including Harriet Tubman, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dr. King, Dorothy Day, and St. Francis of Assissi are memorialized in stained-glass
windows and outdoor murals. The church building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Just behind you, near the intersection of Vermont Avenue and N Street, is where the organizing meeting for what would be Howard University took place in 1867. Dr. Charles B. Boynton of the First Congregational Society hosted the meeting in his home (since demolished).
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, waster and gas lines, street lights, and sewers reached undeveloped areas, wealthy whites followed. Mansions soon sprang up around an 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 the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it hit bottom. Ten years later, however, long-time residents, newcomers, and new 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.