Midcity at the Crossroads
— Shaw Heritage Trail —
Across the intersection stands the tower of O Street Market. When the market opened in 1881, and refrigerators had not been invented, people shopped here daily for everything from live chickens to fresh tomatoes. At first the vendors were German immigrants, but by the 1960s, most were African American. Damaged in the riots of 1968, the market was restored in 1980 but lost its roof in a 2003 snow storm.
On this side of the street, landscaper John Saul began planting fruit trees in 1852. His son, B. Francis Saul, later opened a real estate that became the B.F. Saul Company and Chevy Chase Bank. During the Civil War, the Union Army camped here at Wisewell Barracks and Hospital.
Rowhouses facing Sixth Street eventually replaced the camp, along with the Henry, Polk, and Central High schools for White students. Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, class of 1913, is Central's best-known graduate. Central High School moved in 1926 to a grand new facility astride the 13th Street hill (now Cardozo High School). In the 1950s, this entire block was leveled for a playground.
Completed in 1964, the playground was dedicated to the memory of President John F. Kennedy. Kids eager for play space clambered on its 1888 steam locomotive, a tugboat, and two surplus Air Force jets. But in the following decades, the playground's equipment was removed, and the facility became crime-ridden. Friends of Kennedy Playground led clean-up efforts in the 1990s, and a new recreation center opened her in August 2003.
[ Photo Captions, front of marker:
In the refurbished market of 1980, shoppers found fruit, fresh fish, and more. (Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Public Library.)
John Saul grew fruit trees here. (B. F. Saul Collection.)
The girls of Washington [later Central] High School class of 1886. (Historical Society of Washington, D.C.) By 1908 three schools, left
occupied this block. (Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Public Library.)
J. Edgar Hoover, Central High School's most famous graduate (1913), and the debate team. (Paul K. Williams, Kelsey and Associates Collection.)
A young boy sat atop a surplus fire boat during a Kennedy Playground carnival, August, 1968. (Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Public Library.)
[ Photo caption on reverse of marker:
At the center of the first Kennedy Playground was a soapbox derby racetrack, 1964. (Washingtoniana Division, D.C. Public Library.)