My partner, Michelle Buckman and I just listed a house for sale at 649 Orleans Pl NE. The 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom federal style house is full renovated by its long time owner, and is within walking distance of the H Street NE corridor, Union Market, the Capitol and Union Station. This week, however, I decided to write not about the area near our listing, but rather about an area nearby it that no longer exists. The area is called “Swampoodle”.
Swampoodle would be the area that is now Union Station, and the nearby surrounding neighborhood. That is, Swampoodle was the area bordering what is now called NoMA and Union Station. The neighborhood was once predominantly Irish. Because there were huge waves of Irish immigration to the United States in the mid 1800s it is not surprising that DC had its own Irish Enclave. The area behind the Capitol was at the time underdeveloped and mainly marshland. Moreover, there were said to be many puddles and thus the name Swampoodle: A marshy underdeveloped area with many puddles.
Swampoodle was a typical working class DC neighborhood back in the day. Emancipated slaves and working class immigrants eventually inhabited the neighborhood. They mainly lived in alley way houses and tenements. The neighborhood was notorious and perhaps legendary in its time for lawlessness and gangs. By the late 19th century the neighborhood was better developed and from 1886-1889, the area boasted the home field of the Washington Statesmen baseball club. Unfortunately like all cities with investment comes changes, and by the turn of the century most residents of the area were pushed out by the construction of Union Station. Union Station was completed in 1907, and was at the time the largest train station in the world.
Today the only remaining buildings from Swampoodle are the St. Aloysius Church and the Gonzaga College High School. Gonzaga College High School was erected in its current location in 1871. The Church was built in 1857, and legend has it the name Swampoodle was coined when a local reporter used it when writing about the new church.
So next time you find yourself in the area between Union Station and the NoMA Metro Station remember that it used to be a poor lawless neighborhood. Now it is full of office buildings and condos. Times sure have changed!
By the way, if you are down that way, please check out our listing at 649 Orleans Pl NE, and walk around the area to admire Swampoodle as well.
If you need information about DC or any real estate matter, do not hesitate to contact me, Michael Buckman, W.C. & A.N. Miller, a Long and Foster Company, at 202-251-8721 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.