Category Archives: History

Brooklanders – Know Your Neighborhood With Two Cool Events!

Our good buddy Thad, who hooked up many Brookland neighbors with free vinyl last summer, let us know about this great event for those interested in Brookland history. This two part event is sponsored by Catholic U’s Mullen Library. Please contact Thad at garrettt(at)cua(dot)edu at least one week prior to the event to request disability accommodations. In all situations, a good faith effort (up until the time of the event) will be made to provide accommodations. See the flyer below and see you there!

Know your Neighborhood


New Blog – Bygone Brookland – Explores Brookland’s History

An Early Drawing Of Brookland Subdivisions Courtesy Of The DC Almanac (
An Early Drawing Of Brookland Subdivisions Courtesy Of The DC Almanac

Brookland neighbor Bob Malesky has started a new blog that explores Brookland’s long and rich history. We think it is a great idea, and worth checking out. The blog is called Bygone Brookland and you can find it here. From the blog:

I think it’s important for people who live in a neighborhood to feel connected to its history, to know how it was created and evolved, to get a feeling for the people who lived here before and helped it grow.

Best of luck to Bob in this new endeavor!

How To Save A Neighborhood – Community Preservation Lessons From The 1960s This Thursday

Brookland Highway Protest
Photo from the Washington Area Spark Flirk Page. (Photo by Brig Cabe. Courtesy of the D.C. Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post)

A meeting entitled How To Save A Neighborhood will be held this Thursday evening September 12th. The focus of the meeting is to learn about community preservation from community activists who were successful fighting an 8 lane freeway that was going to run through the center of Brookland and other neighborhoods like  Takoma Park. Current efforts to preserve neighborhoods such as Ivy City,
Barry Farms, and River Terrace will also be discussed.

We really owe a debt of gratitude to the folks who fought to keep Brookland in tact. Many of us live in homes that were slated for destruction as part of the freeway project. The picture above is of three of the homes on the 2700 block of 10th Street NE that were seized by the city in preparation of the Northeast Freeway. The picture was taken on June 21, 1969 when over 100 protestors entered the yard of the third house down. For more details of this protest, and to see more great photos from this time in Brookland history, check out this Flirk set by Washington Area Spark. (Photo by Brig Cabe. Courtesy of the D.C. Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post)

The meeting will take place Thursday, September 12th, from 6:30-8:30pm at the Brooks Mansion (901 Newton St NE). There will be light refreshments from 6:00 – 6:30. From the meeting invite:

Participants include:

  • Angela Rooney, Brookland neighborhood leader in Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis
  • Arturo Griffiths, DC Jobs with Justice
  • Parisa Norouzi, Empower DC
  • Andria Swanson, Ivy City Civic Association
  • Derrick Nabors, Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689
  • Moderator: John Hanrahan, writer and former executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism

Co-sponsored by: DC Jobs with Justice, Empower DC, Institute for Policy Studies, and Ivy City Civic Association

Lessons of the 60s is a project to record, document and archive the role of hometown DC activists in the great social justice movements between 1960 and 1975.
CONTACT: DCPROJECT60(at)gmail(dot)com or 202-234-9382

Newman Bookstore On St. Paul’s Campus Is Closing After Operating For 58 Years

Newman Bookstore
Photo of Newman Bookstore courtesy of the BrooklandCDC Flickr photostream.

Over the weekend the Washington Post reported that the Newman Bookstore, in operation since 1955, will close this May. According to the article, the owners of the building where the bookstore resides, who are Paulist Fathers, received an offer “they couldn’t refuse” from a new renter. Unfortunately, the bookstore, located on 4th Street, NE on St. Paul’s campus, has not been bringing in enough profits to break even and the university cannot afford to subsidize it.  The article describes the library this way:

Newman Bookstore, where top cardinals in town from the Vatican have brushed elbows with young seminarians and urbane laypeople…Its popularity stemmed in part from its ability to be a neutral intellectual ground during a half-century of intense Catholic culture wars. Since the second Vatican Council in the 1960s, Catholics have been separating themselves into two camps on everything from how much authority God intended for clergy to contraception. The store prided itself on carrying the full range of Catholic thinking and is one of a few in the world where you can peruse a full aisle of Catholic ritual guides in Latin (for traditional types) and another on feminist Catholic theology (for the more experimental). It stocks a huge section of books from popes John Paul II and Benedict as well as from prominent church critics, including James Carroll and Garry Wills.

The non-profit bookstore has changed locations over the years, originally it was on 8th Street, then moved across the tracks, and eventually onto St. Paul’s Campus five years ago. The article is a quick read and rehashes the development vs. historic character of neighborhoods discussion, with the decline of Catholic presence in Brookland woven throughout. Although I regret to see historic institutions disappear, it seems like bookstores in general are struggling to stay afloat, regardless of their particular circumstances, so I doubt development can really be blamed for this closing. Lastly, another thread in the article is the old moniker for Brookland  – “Little Rome”. Although I have heard of this nickname before, I have never actually heard it used in day-to-day conversation. I guess that was larger point of the article after all.

The Newman Bookstore is located at 3025 4th St. NE, is open Monday to Friday from 9:00 -5:00, and Satudays from 10:00 -4:00. They will be liquidating their inventory with the following discounts for everything in stock: Februray – 25%, March  – 50%, and April 75% off.

Interested in Preserving and Celebrating Brookland History? Consider This New BNCA Committee

An Early Drawing Of Brookland Subdivisions Courtesy Of The DC Almanac (
An Early Drawing Of Brookland Subdivisions Courtesy Of The DC Almanac (

The Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association (BNCA) is forming a new history committee. For those of you looking to learn more about our neighborhood’s history, have information to share or just want to see that we preserve what we can, this is a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor and shape the future of this group.

Ideas for the committee that have been floated so far include:

  • Working with Walking Town DC to develop tours, train tour guides, and develop a permanent walking tour with historic markers
  • Offer history programs to share information on Brookland, Invite historians and archivists to share information with the community, collect and share oral histories
  • Develop strategies for preserving Brookland’s historical resources – act a historical society, landmark nominations, preserve records and photos, look at historic district options
  • Act as a resource for the community on general Brookland History

For more information contact John Feeley at 202 526 8754 or contact the BNCA through their website ( or attend the next BNCA meeting on Tuesday February 19th, 7:00 pm at the Howard Divinity School, 1400 Sheperd Street, NE.

Brookland History Lives! Lois Mailou Jones House

Brookland Historic homes NE Washington DCBrookland NE Washington DCLois Mailou Jones (November 3, 1905 – June 9, 1998) was a world renowned artist who made Brookland her home. She lived at 1220 Quincy St. NE, and for a time in the 1940s, she even used the home as a venue for an artists collective called the “Little Paris Studio”. Although she is most often associated with her contribution to the Harlem Renaissance, she had a long remarkable career, producing art well into her nineties. Jones worked in mask making, graphic design, textiles, oils, watercolor, and drawing and taught at Howard University for nearly 50 years. In 1937, she traveled to Paris for a year, on sabbatical from Howard. That year proved to be both prolific and formative for her. She produced one of her best known works, “Les Fetiches” , her first to combine African and Western influences. (The piece is now owned by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.)  Paris also put wind her sails by making her feel liberated from the racial discrimination she often faced in the American arts scene. Later in her career, and after marrying Haitian artist Louis Vergniaud Pierre-Noel, her work was influenced by Haitian culture and style. Jones was honored with many awards during her career, including honorary degrees and an award for outstanding achievements in the arts from President Jimmy Carter. For a great rundown of the highlights of Jones’ life check out her official webpage. Her paintings can be found in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian National Museum of American Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Portrait GalleryBoston Museum of Fine Arts, the National Palace in Haiti, and the National Museum of Afro-American Artists and many others. Bill and Hillary Clinton added one of her paintings to their collection when living in the White House. However, according to Wikipedia, she “…felt that her greatest contribution to the art world was “proof of the talent of black artists.” The African-American artist is important in the history of art and I have demonstrated it by working and painting here and all over the world.” But her fondest wish was to be known as an “artist” — without labels like black artist, or woman artist.” 

Textile Design. Photo Courtesy of Chapman Pharmaceutical Consulting.
Brookland Historic Homes NE Washington DC
La Route à Spéracédès, Photo Courtesy of Chapman Pharmaceutical Consulting.

Brookland History Lives! Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings House

Famous Writers Homes Brookland NE Washington DC
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Home

 Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was born in this Brookland home at 1221 Newton St. NE in 1896. Her parents were Arthur Frank Kinnan, an attorney for the US Patent Office, and Ida May Traphagen Kinnan. Rawlings grew up here in Brookland until she went off to college at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. A writer, Rawlings is best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Yearling,” and her memoir, “Cross Creek.” In 1938, The Yearling was the best-selling novel in America and is considered a classic of American popular fiction. Her body of work includes short stories, novels and nonfiction works about life in the backwoods of Florida, where she lived as an adult. Ms. Rawlings has a Historic State Park named after her in Florida where she lived when she wrote The Yearling. In 2008 The United States Postal Service released a commemorative stamp in honor of Rawlings.

Comprehensive Rundown of Brookland’s 125th Birthday Celebration – Fun For All!

An Early Drawing Of Brookland Subdivisions Courtesy Of The DC Almanac (

As you probably know, our neighborhood got its name when the land formerly owned by Colonel Jehiel Brooks started being developed into a formal neighborhood after the Civil War. The first subdivision of the Brooks Estate was recorded with the District of Columbia Surveyor in September 1887, which means this month marks the 125th Anniversary of the neighborhood of Brookland. This Saturday, Sept 29th,  there will be a celebration of this milestone. This promises to be a real home-grown event, and I can’t wait. Here is a rundown of events:

10:00 Parade down 12th St. featuring Brookland kids, Langdon Dog Park Assn. dogs, the Greater Brookland Garden Club, (maybe a fire truck!)  and more. The parade will start at 12th and Franklin and end at Turkey Thicket Rec Center (1100 Michigan Avenue, N.E.) 

11:00 – 1:00 Picnic provided by the Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association (BNCA) , The Greater Brookland Garden Club, The Greater Brookland Business Association and the The Michigan Park Citizens Association. It is suggested that folks bring a blanket and are welcome to contribute a prepared dish. The picnic will be at the Turkey Thicket playground. There will be a moon bounce and other fun activities.

11:00 – 1:00 Tree Tour of the Brook’s Mansion Grounds by Casey Trees. Meet at the Mansion, 901 Newton St NE, and  learn about the trees found on these historic Mansion grounds including pines, spruce, and southern magnolias. Register at the link above.

1:30 – 3:00 Walkingtown DC Tour of  Brookland, focusing on the development of its black middle-class and will explore Brookland’s famous African-American luminaries. The tour meets and ends at St. Anthony’s School, (3400 12th St., NE). No reservations needed, but the tour will be cancelled if it rains.

Brookland History Lives! Pearl Bailey House

Pearl Bailey Brookland NE Washington DC
Pearl Bailey Album Cover

Pearl Bailey was a Tony and Grammy award winner, and a former Brookland resident. Bailey began her career in the 1930s by singing and dancing in Philadelphia’s Black nightclubs. Around this time, she lived in Brookland for a short stint. Along her path to success, she toured with the USO performing for American troops during World War II. In 1959, she played the role of Maria in the film version of Porgy and Bess, starring Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge. Bailey won her Tony award in 1968, as part of an all-black cast version of Hello, Dolly! with Cab Calloway. In 1975 President Ford appointed her as a special ambassador to the United Nations. In 1988 President Reagan awarded Bailey the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Pearl Bailey Washington
Peal Bailey House Today