History Task Force

SW Heritage

Task Force Chair, William Zeisel

The History Task Force works to celebrate the unique and compelling history of our community and reinforce progressive and inclusive identity. The task force researches and identifies ways to promote our heritage through a variety of platforms including public forums, commemorative events, publications, oral histories, interpretative panels, public information displays, and nominating sites for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

For more information, please contact [email protected]

Shulmans Market
Temple Court

Task Force Accomplishments

  • Sponsored grant funding for the publication “How The Railroad Changed Food & Diet In Washington DC” written/researched by QED Associates LLC.
  • Funded trips for local youth, organized by Youth Activities Task Force
  • Updated History Task Force web pages
  • Release of “Southwest DC” book published by Arcadia Press (limited copies still available for donations of $30 [or above], to support History Task Force and other SWNA efforts)
  • Annual February Black History Month community meeting, organized by the Black History Subcommittee
  • Worked with neighbors, DC Preservation League, and DC Historic Preservation Office to look at potential DC historic site nominations around SW
  • Participated in various events around Southwest, wrote articles for The Southwester, and participated in interviews about local history and related matters
  • Learn about the proposed Old Southwest Historic District nomination here. SWNA has decided not to submit this nomination at this time, following public input


Collected Historical Reports and Studies

  • Various studies and historical context reports have been written over the years about Southwest.  Linked here is a collection of some of these research projects, including those commissioned by SWNA.
    Southwest Histories & Studies

Oral History Recordings: “Southwest Views

  • In 2006, Rev. Brian Hamilton of Westminster church produced a series of oral history reports from SW residents. Rev. Hamilton graciously shared these with SWNA to make them available to the public.
    “Southwest Views” hosted on YouTube

“Southwest Remembered”

  • This video provides insights into how Urban Renewal changed the face of Southwest and its residents.
    Watch the videoHosted on YouTube by Humanities DC.
  • Humanities DC
  • DC Library interview collection

Art On Call, Southwest

  • This project in partnership with Cultural Tourism DC transformed obsolete police and fire call boxes around SW into works of public art reflecting important themes in the community.
    PDF | Brochure on Cherry Blossom Call Boxes

DC Public Library Online

Historic Washington

  • Historic Washington is a local email forum of “people interested in or involved with the history and preservation of Washington, D.C. and its neighborhoods. This is a forum for exchanging views, ideas and information with those who share a common interest in portraying, protecting and preserving the cultural resources of our great city.” 
  • Link to archives maintained by this group

DC Historic Sites Project by DC Preservation League

  • DC Historic Sites “is based on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites, the city’s official list of properties deemed worthy of recognition and protection for their contribution to the cultural heritage of the city, the nation’s capital, and the nation. DC Historic Sites was developed by the DC Preservation League, Washington’s only citywide nonprofit advocate dedicated to the preservation, protection and enhancement of the historic resources of our nation’s capital.”
  • DC Preservation League

Shulman's Market- Washington D.C.

  • Shulman’s Market located at 485 1/2 N Street, SW (corner of N & Union Streets) in Southwest, Washington, D.C. The owner, Harry Shulman (1899-1984), was a Jewish Lithuanian immigrant who operated three grocery stores in Washington, D.C.

    The market was one of many Jewish-owned businesses once located throughout the Old Southwest neighborhood. Jewish immigrants began moving to SW in the 1840s, followed by Eastern European Jews in the late 1800s. Their community, along with other immigrants and a large African-American population (documented by Gordon Parks), lived in the neighborhood until the mandatory relocation of every resident, done in the name of “slum” clearing, alley dwelling removal, and urban renewal. Called the “Southwest Washington Redevelopment Plan”, the majority of buildings in SW were razed, including the one pictured.

    Here’s what the site looks like now. Union Street no longer exists and the surrounding area is occupied by condominium buildings constructed in the 1960s.

The Southwester Archives

The Historical Society of Washington, DC: “The Bulldozer and the Rose”

  • A recreation of Garnet W. Jex’s slide presentation, using his original script and images, chronicling the destruction of old Southwest Washington as it was being demolished for redevelopment between 1958 and 1964.
    Download this presentation. Note: PDF file (6MB), hosted by The Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
  • Historical Society website

River Farms to Urban Towers: Southwest Heritage Trail

  • Follow this self-guided Cultural Tourism DC Neighborhood Heritage Trail to learn more about Washington’s Southwest waterfront. The Southwest Heritage Trail consists of 17 poster-sized, illustrated signs that combine storytelling with historic images. The first sign is located at the Waterfront/SEU Metro station plaza, Fourth and M Streets, SW. (PLEASE NOTE: Sign 11, located on Water Street, SW, between Sixth and Seventh Streets, is temporarily missing. Sign 6, located at Seventh and E Streets, SW, is also temporarily missing.) As designed this is an approximately two-hour self-guided tour, however walkers are encouraged to follow the trail at their own pace, sampling neighborhood character, businesses, and restaurants along the way.
  • For more information about this heritage trail, email [email protected] or call Cultural Tourism DC  at 202-661-7581.
  • Download the companion guide PDF English or Spanish

Local University Student Research Projects

HistoryQuest DC by DC Historic Preservation Office

  • HistoryQuestDC is an interactive online map of Washington, D.C. which provides historical data for thousands of buildings around the city. The map offers several layers of information on buildings, residential areas, the L”Enfant plan, and many other aspects of the cities built environment.
  • DC Historic Preservation Office