— Columbia Heights Heritage Trail —
Fourteenth Street has always been the business backbone of Columbia Heights. Beginning in the 1890s, electric streetcars dropped passengers at nearly every corner, attracting commerce. By 1925 storefronts occupied the blocks between Euclid and Otis Streets.
Most stores, often less than 20 feet wide, were family run and offered one line of products. In 192 on 14th Street between Irving Street and Park Road alone, you could find hats, bicycles, men's clothing, ladies' clothing, automobiles, hardware, musical instruments, candy, cigars, paint, meats, baked goods, and real estate. Larger establishments included drug stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and the Arcade, a granddaddy to the modern shopping mall, with food stalls and family entertainment. After World War II, nightspots featured "hillbilly" music and catered to migrants from rural states.
In 1927 J. Willard and Alice Marriott, a young couple from Utah, chose a storefront on the west side of 14th Street for their first business. The opened an A&W Root Beer franchise at 3128 14th Street, added spicy Southwestern style food, and dubbed the enterprise Hot Shoppe. It grew into the Hot Shoppes chain, and by 1957, Marriott food services and hotels.
The riots following the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in April 1968 devastated 14th Street. Most of the businesses that weren't actually burned out closed, setting off a downward spiral. While immigrants and activists brought some new enterprises in the 1980s, it took the opening of the Columbia Heights Metrorail station in 1999 to begin the latest revival.
More than 200 years ago, city planner Pierre Charles L'Enfant designed a new capital city on the low coastal plain at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, bordered on the north by a steep hill. Today the hill defines Columbia Heights.
Cultural Convergence: Columbia Heights Heritage Trail
takes you on a tour of the lively neighborhood that began as a remote suburb of Washington City. Over time, transportation innovations, starting with streetcars, made Columbia Heights accessible and desirable. Soon, men and women of every background populated the neighborhood, people who changed the world with new technology, revolutionary ideas, literature, laws, and leadership. From the low point of the civil disturbances of 1968, Columbia Heights turned to resident leaders and rose again. Metrorail's arrival in 1999 provided a boost, reviving the historically important 14th Street commercial corridor. Experience both the new and old Columbia Heights, with all its cultural and economic diversity, as you talk this walk.
[A Description of the Cultural Convergence: Columbia Heights Heritage Trail tour and acknowledgment of its creators follows.]