History of Bloomingdale
The present-day neighborhood of Bloomingdale originated from several large estates. Located just outside the original boundary of the City of Washington as designed by Pierre L’Enfant in 1792, and in the former County of Washington, the neighborhood known today as Bloomingdale began to develop its residential character in the late 1880s, shortly after the County of Washington was absorbed by the City of Washington, and just over a century after L’Enfant’s plan was developed.
(1792-1870s) Farms and Estates
The lands that comprise Bloomingdale first began as large estates and orchards. Boundary Street, today Florida Avenue, was the dividing line between paved, planned streets (to the south of Boundary), laid out in the original city L’Enfant plan, and rural country (to the north of Boundary), where a variety of landowners maintained orchards, large country estates, and later, a mixture of commercial properties.
In 1823, George Beale and his wife Emily Truxton Beale bought a 10-acre (40,000 m2) parcel of land north of the Capitol, along the City boundary, for $600.00 from Wm Bradley. This estate, which they named the “Bloomingdale Estate,” grew to 50 acres (200,000 m2).
As late as the 1870s, the land where Bloomingdale now sits was largely a collection of undeveloped private estates and farming properties, most prominently those of the Beales and of the Moores.
(1880s onward) Residential Development
Following Emily Truxton Beale’s death in 1885, her heirs began to sell large tracts of the estate to developers. The old Bloomingdale estate rapidly changed into the modern neighborhood configuration as developers and land speculators transformed the undeveloped lands for denser residential development, located between the already established residential LeDroit Park and Eckington neighborhoods. By 1887, city planners had proposed extending the city’s paved street grid into Bloomingdale.
In 1891, the 45-acre (180,000 m2) Moore farm, located north and west of the former Beale estate and representing some of the last undeveloped property in the area, was also sold to private developers. It was incorporated into the already-underway Bloomingdale neighborhood.
By 1892, the reconfiguration of Bloomingdale was underway, as large estates had been consolidated and reconfigured into the predecessor to the modern neighborhood, with further development of the neighborhood by 1894. During this time, roads corresponding to the grid system of Washington’s streets were improved, curbed, and paved. Streams and creeks were buried or re-directed, most notably the Tiber Creek, much of which had already been buried south of Bloomingdale in the original City of Washington. One section of the Tiber Creek in Bloomingdale ran along what is now Flagler Place.
Construction on some of the earliest homes were completed between 1892 and 1900. And, in the early 1900s, the remainder of the surrounding blocks had been built in a speculative nature by such developers as Harry Wardman, Francis Blundon, and S. H. Meyers within the following decade. The neighborhood website contains a list of Bloomingdale’s Wardman built homes. Many of Wardman’s first homes incorporate elements of Richardson Romanesque architecture (a sub-category of Victorian). This can be seen in the ornate floral and vine-like stone carving around doors and windows of many Bloomingdale homes. His later homes, like those on Adams and Bryant Streets, are in an architectural style for which he is most prominently known, brick homes which incorporate a deeper setback from the street and large covered front porch. Blundon built several homes along 1st Street including 100 W Street, NW, which he occupied with his family.
Development continued, and in 1904, the neighborhood’s first school, the Nathaniel Parker Gage School, was built on the 2000 block of 2nd Street. (The school has now converted in private condominiums.) By 1909, the old estates had been sold and divided, the Tiber Creek had been buried, and the neighborhood street layout had been fully developed into its present form.
Many homes in the northern section of Bloomingdale still retain carriage houses in the block interiors. Some have been converted to private residences.
During this period of rapid change, numerous new businesses have opened in the neighborhood, primarily restaurants, bars, and food markets. These include Windows Market, Big Bear Cafe, Yoga District, El Camino, Bacio Pizzeria, FieldToCity, Rustik Tavern, Boundary Stone, Aroi Thai Sushi Bar, Grassroots Gourmet, Red Hen, and Showtime Lounge. Every summer, the Bloomingdale Farmers’ Market operates on Sundays on R St between Florida Ave and 1st Street, N.W.
On May 22, 2010, the city officially dedicated a new street, Bloomingdale Court, N.W., on the alleyway between the 100 block of U and V Streets, N.W., and the 2000 block of 1st Street and Flagler Place, N.W.
The neighborhood has several active neighborhood groups and associations including the Bloomingdale Civic Association.