We met at the corner of 16th St,. and Florida Ave., NW, which had been the northern border of the city in times past. And proceeded from there up 16th Street for several blocks before veering off into the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. On that first stretch we passed multiple churches, a few embassies and apartment buildings that once housed famous people of one sort or the other.
The occasional historic placard told us about sites noted for their architecture, previous tenants or historic moments. Among my favorite stories was that of Rev. James Reeb, pastor of All Souls Church that we passed, who was beaten to death while marching for civil rights in Selma, Ala. It was also intriguing to learn that a tiny offshoot off of 16th Street was built to accommodate Sacred Heart Church, because at that time the city didn’t want a Catholic church on its most prominent thoroughfare.
When we veered off of 16th Street we were in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, with its mix of impressive mansions, row houses and unique blend of ethnicities over the years. There was the little Czech block; the block where Bo Diddley of R&B fame lived and recruited Asian neighbors as backup singers; a block that unsuccessfully fought the arrival of an African-American family after a court ruled against the city’s laws that at the time allowed homeowners to sign a covenant never to sell to blacks. It was on that block that there was a sculpture built of tricycles. And further down the road a beautiful mural influenced by the participants of a community center’s activities for Latinos..
We ended up on a commercial street where the city’s first bodega was opened, and that now has a mix of Latin American and African eateries and shops as well as a bakery more than 60 years old.
The best part of the walk was soaking up some springtime sun and enjoying flowers and trees in full bloom.