Welcome to Brightwood, where a distinguished past meets a promising present. A roam through Brightwood will reveal an illustrious Civil War legacy, ample African American history, and an eclectic assortment of architecture and shops. So summon your inner history buff, grab your walking shoes, and check out this modern urban neighborhood!
More than one individual took credit for shouting this to President Lincoln while he stood, top hat and all, on the Fort Stevens parapet as Confederate soldiers took aim. That hot July day in 1864, Lincoln became the only sitting U.S. president to come under enemy fire.
If you’re a Civil War aficionado, Brightwood has stories galore. Not only is the area home to Fort Stevens, site of the only Civil War battle to occur in the nation’s capital, it also includes Battleground National Cemetery, the final resting place of 41 Union soldiers who fell that day.
As early as the 1820s — decades before Emancipation — a free African American community developed in Brightwood. Infused with this legacy, Brightwood retains sights and sounds of a rich African American past.
Here you can see the Military Road School, the neighborhood’s third public school for black children, and the family residence of George M. Lightfoot, a Howard University scholar who often entertained W.E.B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson, and other major figures. As the neighborhood’s housing stock expanded in the 1930s and 1940s, Greek, Italian, and Eastern European Jewish immigrant families established themselves in Brightwood. New apartment buildings replaced the old African American community, but a second wave of African American families began moving to Brightwood in the 1950s.
Although the residential portions of Brightwood have remained relatively unchanged over the years, Georgia Avenue has experienced some hard times. Today, however, this thoroughfare is enjoying a renaissance, thanks in part to the city’s Great Streets program. New residences and businesses are opening; old ones are receiving façade improvements. With the recreational attractions of nearby Rock Creek Park, the quiet, solid community is welcoming the next wave of people who appreciate Brightwood’s friendly spirit. Don’t forget to take a stroll down Georgia Avenue to check out the variety of businesses that line the strip.
This self-guided walking trail reveals the story of Brightwood – from country road to urban avenue, and from Civil War battle to building boom. Follow the signs to learn about Brightwood's fascinating past!
Check out our Calendar for up-to-date information on exhibitions, lectures and other heritage happenings in the city.
"I looked at the new brochures for the Deanwood and Civil Rights Heritage Trails. I am always astonished and amazed at the work you do and the quality of it. Beautiful."