Time travelers should head straight for the Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington DC if they want to be transported back to the late 19th century. Most of the homes on Logan Circle were built during a 25-year period from 1875 to 1900.
You’ll feel dizzy if you try to jog around the Logan (traffic) Circle while looking up to examine the Logan Circle homes. The houses are so tall!
Originally named Iowa Circle, the Logan Circle neighborhood was renamed by the U.S. Congress in 1930. The Circle comprises a roundabout park with an equestrian statue of General John A. Logan. On a busy weekend, you’ll see people reading on benches and dogs running around. It’s a great place for a picnic.
Cultural Tourism DC
Logan Circle Community Association (LCCA), in partnership with Cultural Tourism DC, created a self-guided walking tour of its historic neighborhood. The Logan Circle Heritage Trail is one of Cultural Tourism DC’s self-guided neighborhood tours.
“The elegant mansions around the park rose soon after the Civil War. Later, housing shortages and neighborhood decline turned them to rooming houses and even brothels. But today they shine again.”Cultural Tourism DC
Inaugurated in 2013, the tour starts at the corner of 16th and Q Streets, NW, three blocks east of the Metro Red line’s Dupont Circle stop (Q Street exit). It continues east from 16th street and then loops to the end at Logan Circle Park. There are 15 stops on the tour.
LCCA was founded in 1972 and “brings together residents, businesses, community organizations and government officials to promote a sense of community in our neighborhood.”
“Stroll past the myriad beautifully restored Victorian houses, including the former homes of renowned artists Gil Scott Heron and James Lesesne Wells. Discover religious institutions frequented by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Obama. See where the National Council of Negro Women got its start (and its next-door neighbor, a home for Confederate veterans). Learn about the Whitman-Walker Clinic’s heroic history.” (Pamphlet, Cultural Tourism DC)
19th Century Mansions
Many loom four stories tall. The architectural style is Late Victorian and Richardsonian Romanesque. It is considered “a remarkably coherent example of architectural expression from the gaslight era.
While other areas of the city have been redeveloped, years of neglect have left Logan Circle’s original late-19th century appearance intact.”National Register of Historic Places
In June 1972, Logan Circle was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are 135 “contributing” historic buildings in the neighborhood.
If you prefer an expert to guide you around the neighborhood, I highly recommend booking a Washington Walks tour of Logan Circle. Typically the company’s founder and owner Carolyn Crouch leads the two-hour tour. Currently, it is only offered once a year as a special neighborhood tour.
“If you’re a fan of Second Empire or High Victorian Gothic homes, this walk is for you. If you’re fascinated by the dynamics of urban neighborhoods, consider the residents of Logan Circle: Their tenacity and vision preserved the historic district when it teetered on the brink of decline. Today it is a sought-after address in Washington,” said Crouch.
Solo Class Field Trip
I decided to repeat taking the Washington Walks tour this summer as I had just completed an Olli “history of architecture class” at American University. Getting out of the textbook and onto a street to study different architectural styles was illuminating for me.
In 1791 when Pierre L’Enfant designed the master place for the nation’s capital, he envisioned wide avenues and boulevards named after the states with squares and circles.
Logan Circle is one of only five L’Enfant circles in Washington DC that still exist today. The other four DC circles are: Washington, Thomas, Scott, and Dupont.
If you can find a parking place nearby, start your tour at One Logan Circle. Then slowly progress from house to house as you cross over the intersection at 13th Street, P Street, Rhode Island Avenue, and Vermont Avenue NW.
“Proof that neglect is often the handmaiden of preservation, this eight-block enclave presents scores of virtually unchanged Victorian and Richardsonian town houses.”AIA Guide To The Architecture of Washington, D.C.
You’ll want to pay close attention to such architectural details as the mansard roof, multi-level roofing, rusticated stone, arch doorways and windows, and elaborate ornament.
General Logan Statue
After your tour of the houses, cross the street to enter the park. The fountain in the once-named Iowa Circle was replaced by an equestrian statue. In 1930, the circle took his name.
A politician and Civil War Union general, John A. Logan (1826-1886) stands guard over the small green park in the center of Logan Circle. Logan was the founder of Memorial Day.
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House
One of the most prominent of the African American l residents who moved to Logan Circle was activist and educator Mary McLeod Bethune. The Council House was the first home of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW). It was also Bethune’s last home in Washington, DC.
Her residence is now a National Historic Site. The National Park Service offers free public tours of the house on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Old Korean Legation House
If time permits, book a tour at the Old Korean Legation House. “The Overseas Korean Cultural Foundation, an affiliate of the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea, is dedicated to the study and protection of Korean cultural heritage worldwide,” according to Cultural Tourism DC.
The institution describes itself as “a cradle for the Korea-U.S. friendship born out of the dedicated diplomatic efforts of King Gojong (r. 1863–1907).” The Legation House also provided a window for absorbing modern cultural elements from the West.
“Today, the Old Korean Legation building is the sole example preserving its original appearance among the extant nineteenth-century diplomatic mission buildings in Washington D.C. and is highly valued for its historical significance.”Old Korean Legation in Washington DC
There is a lovely meditation garden located on the side of the Legation Building. The Victorian style museum features a library, banquet hall, and small garden. It is a contributing property to the Logan Circle Historic District and Greater Fourteenth Street Historic District.
The opening hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. Advanced online reservation is required for entry.
Luther Place Memorial Church
Come visit Logan Circle. Feel yourself lost in the past, 20, 40, 60, 80, 100 years old. This is a DC neighborhood that developers did not destroy or knockdown. From the century-old churches and mansions to the historic National Park sites, Logan Circle represents living history.
“We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”Martin Luther King
These words from MLK can be found on the exterior of Logan Circle’s Luther Place Memorial Church. It reminds us that we cannot move forward without looking back at our history, but we must always “march ahead.”