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Shepherd Park

Map of Washington, D.C., with Shepherd Park highlighted in maroon.

Shepherd Park is a neighborhood in the northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C. In the years following World War II, restrictive covenants which had prevented Jews and African Americans from purchasing homes in the neighborhood were no longer enforced, and the neighborhood became largely Jewish and African American. Over the past 40 years, the Jewish population of the neighborhood has declined (though it is now increasing again), but the neighborhood has continued to support a thriving upper and middle class African American community. The Shepherd Park Citizens Association and Neighbors Inc. led efforts to stem white flight from the neighborhood in the 1960s and 1970s, and it has remained a continuously integrated neighborhood, with very active and inclusive civic groups.

Shepherd Park and the rest of Ward 4 were represented in the Council of the District of Columbia by Muriel Bowser, until her election as Mayor of the District of Columbia in the fall of 2014. It is home to a number of prominent people including NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and his wife, law professor, Lia Epperson. A number of judges, professors, newspaper reporters, and doctors also live in the community.


  • Geography 1
  • History 2
  • Neighborhood Institutions 3
  • Education 4
  • Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park Neighborhood Library 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The northern line of the neighborhood is defined by Eastern Avenue NW, which divides Shepherd Park from 16th Street NW.[1]

Most east-west streets are named after flowers, shrubs, and trees. Iris Street, Primrose Road, and Geranium Street are but a few flower-inspired street names.

Georgia Avenue is the only commercial corridor near the neighborhood.[2]

Local architecture includes Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival, and Spanish Colonial Revival houses; bungalows and other early-20th-century vernacular styles; and midcentury ramblers. There is a significant concentration of mail-order kit houses by the Lewis Manufacturing Company and by Sears in the southeast corner of the neighborhood.


The neighborhood takes its name from its most famous resident: Alexander Robey Shepherd, the governor of the then-Territory of DC from 1873 to 1874. The neighborhood was originally called Sixteenth Street Heights until it was renamed Shepherd Park in 1943.[3]


Shortly before becoming governor (in 1868), Shepherd built a grand Second Empire-style Victorian that once stood near the corner of Geranium and 13th Street. Shepherd chose the location because of its elevation and its proximity to Rock Creek.[4]

Shepherd dubbed his large country home "Bleak House" after a Dickens novel that he and his wife were reading at the time of their home's construction.[5] The mansion was demolished in 1916.[5]

Shepherd owned a plant nursery in the District of Columbia, which enabled the 60,000 trees he had planted. His nursery led to a variety of wild flowers that still thrive in the yards of city residents. It is also the genesis of the streets in Shepherd Park being named for flowers.

The Shepherd Park Citizens Association formed 1917 to petition the government to build a neighborhood elementary school and pave 16th Street between Alaska Avenue and the District line.[2]

After developers acquired the land around 1911, they designed it so that the new homes would sit on large tracts of land, and they advertised the location as a "high-class" neighborhood.[5] The developers made sure to retain the large trees in the neighborhood when building the streets.[6] The developers also made sure that the land was bound by covenants prohibiting its sale to blacks and Jews.[7] The covenants stood until after World War II when the Supreme Court struck them down as unconstitutional.[7] At that point, speculators would move a black family into a house on a block that otherwise had white residents. Speculators would then tell the white residents that property values would imminently fall and pressure the white families to sell their homes to the speculators. The speculators would then sell the homes to other black families at large profits. This was called blockbusting. Starting in 1958, the Shepherd Park Citizens Association and Neighbors Inc led efforts to fight blockbusting and maintain the integrated nature of the neighborhood in the 1960s and 1970s. It is one of the only neighborhoods on the east side of Rock Creek Park where white flight was stemmed in those years.

In 1985, residents learned that the owner of an apartment building on Georgia Avenue was close to selling the land for a Wendy's to be built on it.[8] Residents protested, saying that the neighborhood needed a library much more than another fast food location.[7] The District Council decided to build a library on the site instead,[9] and the library opened in 1990.[10] Named the Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park Library, it is named after the neighborhood activist who led the neighborhood association in its efforts to have the library built there.[10]

Neighborhood Institutions

  • The National Synagogue.
  • Congregation Tifereth Israel.
  • Alexander Shepherd Elementary School.
  • Shepherd Park Citizens' Association.
  • The Washington Ethical Society.


District of Columbia Public Schools operates public schools.

District of Columbia Public Library operates the Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park Neighborhood Library,[11] which opened in 1990.[2]

Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park Neighborhood Library

Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park Neighborhood Library is part of the District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL) System. It was open to public in July 29, 1990.


  1. ^ a b Harriston, Keith (December 8, 1990). "Fighting For Their Character: Shepherd Park Meets Any Crisis Head-On". The Washington Post. p. E1. 
  2. ^ a b c Brenner, Joel Glenn (October 2, 1993). "Shepherd Park: Feisty Fighter for Community Standards". The Washington Post. p. E1. 
  3. ^ "Sixteenth St. Heights To Discuss Rationing". The Washington Post. January 17, 1943. p. 14. 
  4. ^ Sadler, Christine (November 28, 1939). "Untitled". The Washington Post. p. 17. 
  5. ^ a b c Kelly, John (February 13, 2011). "Alaska won a place on D.C. maps long before it won statehood". The Washington Post. p. C3. 
  6. ^ "Keep Natural Charm: Modern Idea Marks Sixteenth Street Heights.". The Washington Post. June 22, 1913. p. R2. 
  7. ^ a b c Bruske, Ed (August 15, 1987). "Shepherd Park: Activism Working Within Tradition". The Washington Post. p. E1. 
  8. ^ Bredemeier, Kenneth (May 2, 1985). "Neighbors' Beefs Stall Wendy's Plans". The Washington Post. p. C1. 
  9. ^ "Council Votes to Build Shepherd Park Library". The Washington Post. July 4, 1985. p. DC3. 
  10. ^ a b Camp, Margaret (July 26, 1990). "Library to Open in Northwest: Neighbors Win 'Books Not Burgers' in Fight Against Planned Eatery". The Washington Post. p. DC7. 
  11. ^ "Hours & Locations." District of Columbia Public Library. Retrieved on October 21, 2009.

External links

  • Shepherd Park History Documentary produced by WETA-TV
  • Shepherd Park Homes Documentary produced by WETA-TV

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