The site of the only Civil War battle to take place within the District is at the heart of a new Heritage Trail in Brightwood, a historic farming village that has become a modern, urban neighborhood. On Cultural Tourism DC’s self-guided tour, Battleground to Community: Brightwood Heritage Trail, 18 poster-sized street signs combine storytelling, photography, and maps to lead residents and visitors through the community’s storied past.
The official unveiling and inaugural heritage trail stroll will take place Saturday, August 16. Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser will join Cultural Tourism DC and the Brightwood Heritage Trail Working Group at Emery Recreation Center (Georgia Avenue and Madison Street, NW) for the 10 am ceremony. Students from Marie Reed’s Civil War Cadet Academy representing DC’s first regiment of US Colored Troops in 1863 will present the colors to introduce the program along with members from the Calvin Coolidge High School Marching Band.
From 11 am to 4 pm, visitors are invited to join community members in the Brightwood Heritage Trail Stroll. Participants should stop at Emery Recreation Center first to pick up the trail brochure and map. The Heritage Trail’s first sign is located at 14th and Jefferson Streets, NW. The 90-minute, self-guided tour then proceeds up Georgia Avenue and winds around Fort Stevens, ending at Van Buren Street, NW, one block south of Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Between trail signs, walkers can explore local businesses and organizations, many of which are offering activities and/or refreshments. These events are free and open to the public.
Along the way, walkers will learn how the neighborhood has been shaped by its location near the toll house once located on the 7th Street Turnpike (later Georgia Avenue) linking Washington City and Rockville, Maryland. Trail highlights include:
“It might be easy to miss Brightwood while driving along Georgia Avenue, but after spending some time here, you will discover a proud neighborhood with a distinguished past,” says Linda Harper, Cultural Tourism DC executive director. “Longtime residents, business owners, and advocates have come together to tell its rich history and the result is compelling.”
Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser looks forward to the launch of the Brightwood Heritage Trail. “I’m very pleased the Brightwood Heritage Trail is now complete. It will help link residents to the vibrant past of this neighborhood. It will create a sense of community today and foster a culture of curiosity among our young people for tomorrow. I hope residents and visitors will visit the trail often and continue to learn about the rich history in our backyard,” said Councilmember Bowser.
Cultural Tourism DC and the Brightwood Heritage Trail Working Group began their work to create the trail in 2004. Community residents led the effort to collect neighborhood stories and photographs, shaping the trail every step of the way. “We know and love this neighborhood for its rich history and dedicated community and are thrilled to be able to share it with other residents and visitors,” says Patricia Tyson with the Brightwood Heritage Trail Working Group.
Dr. Benjamin Cooling grew up in Brightwood and returned to share his Civil War knowledge with the working group. He is pleased that “the trail portrays the area’s transition from suburban community in the nineteenth century to culturally diverse urbanscape today. The legacy of hostelries and summer houses, battlefield and national cemetery, businesses, schools, and homes are remembered by these educational markers, capturing real people, places, and events that will excite and inform residents and visitors alike.”
Free guides will be available at Emery Recreation Center on August 16 from 11 am to 4 pm, and at local businesses that day and thereafter. The guidebooks can be downloaded for free or may be ordered for $5 shipping and handling per guide at www.CulturalTourismDC.org. A complete list of distribution points is online as well.
Public transportation is available via the Georgia Ave-Petworth Metro station (Green and Yellow lines) and then the 70 series Metrobus, which stops at the Georgia Avenue station and again at Kennedy Street, two blocks south of the recreation center. Street parking is also available.
Battleground to Community: Brightwood Heritage Trail is a project of Cultural Tourism DC, in collaboration with the Brightwood Heritage Trail Working Group and Military Road School Preservation Trust. Design is by Karol A. Keane Design & Communications based on an original design by side view/Hannah Smotrich.
The Washington, DC Neighborhood Heritage Trails are funded by the District Department of Transportation, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, and U.S. Department of Transportation.
Additional trails are: Civil War to Civil Rights: Downtown Heritage Trail; City Within a City: Greater U Street Heritage Trail; Tour of Duty: Barracks Row Heritage Trail; River Farms to Urban Towers: Southwest Heritage Trail; Midcity at the Crossroads: Shaw Heritage Trail; Roads to Diversity: Adams Morgan Heritage Trail; and Village in the City: Mount Pleasant Heritage Trail. For more information about Washington, DC Neighborhood Heritage Trails, check www.CulturalTourismDC.org or call 202-661-7581.
Cultural Tourism DC is a nonprofit coalition of 200 arts, heritage, cultural, and community organizations throughout the nation’s capital. We help Metro area residents and visitors experience Washington’s authentic arts and heritage, while promoting local culture as a tool for economic development. For more information, visit www.CulturalTourismDC.org or call 202-661-7581.
The Brightwood Heritage Trail Working Group is a diverse coalition of neighborhood residents, business owners, activists, historians, and others organized to develop and support the Brightwood Heritage Trail in collaboration with Cultural Tourism DC.
"The Heritage Trails which you create are such gifts to DC.
H Street NE will be enhanced immeasurably by the addition of its guiding signposts of the past and point us towards the future."