Logan Circle, Washington DC
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One of Washington’s most historically rich neighborhoods, Logan Circle has seen much change. During the Civil War, it became known as an executioner’s square, where spies and deserters were hanged. At the turn of the 20th century, it became the social and artistic center for African Americans in Washington. Today, Logan Circle is an arts, entertainment and dining destination that has retained much of its historic charm.
A Time to Flourish
During the Civil War, Logan Circle Park was the site of Camp Barker, a former barracks converted into a refugee camp for freed slaves from Virginia and Maryland. Today, the site’s history is marked by an equestrian statue of John A. Logan: a Union Army general during the war; he later served as a U.S. Senator. Come to admire the imposing 25-foot monument, complete with two reliefs depicting events from Logan’s life. It was dedicated by President William McKinley in 1901. On a nice day, bring a book and grab a spot on one of the park’s many benches.
In the mid-1800s, before the Civil War, Logan Circle was mostly farmland and was officially known as Iowa Circle (unofficially: “Blodget’s Wilderness”). During the Civil War, the circle itself was infamous as a place of public execution for deserters and spies. In a blend of styles including Gothic and Romanesque Revival, the Victorian houses that still line the neighborhood’s streets first appeared in the closing decades of the 19th century.
In the opening decades of the 20th century, the neighborhood developed its reputation as “Automobile Row” for the car garages and showrooms that lined 14th Street. The circle officially changed its name in 1930 to Logan Circle, after the Union commander John A. Logan. The last several decades have been a renaissance period driven by development.
Logan Circle, with its grand Victorian mansions flanking the curves of the notable traffic circle, is the city’s last remaining residential one. Stroll around it, admiring turrets, towers and architectural flourishes and admire the historic charm galore. The National Park Service maintains the circle itself after which the area is named; a park measuring 360 feet in diameter, furnished with wooden benches, decorative lampposts, mature trees and green lawns where residents come to relax, read and walk their dogs. In Logan Circle you’ve got the makings of a memorable urban adventure.
While the exact boundaries of Logan Circle vary depending on whom you speak with, the neighborhood is commonly considered to be between Thomas Circle (to the south), S or T Street NW (to the north) and 15th and 10th Streets NW (to the west and east, respectively). Logan Circle is one of DC’s most vibrant, happening and desirable neighborhoods. The redevelopment of Logan Circle has been a resounding success and the area continues to attract residents and retailers alike. The neighborhood’s main business drag is 14th Street NW, where the past decade or so has transformed the blocks between M and U streets into a playground for the young and stylish thanks to dozens of restaurants, indie and national-brand shops and a happening bar scene.
A View of Logan Circle
Things to do in Logan Circle
Get a history lesson on the Heritage Trail. Run by the community, the Logan Circle Heritage Trail offers a 1.5 mile walking tour through the neighborhood’s storied past, including famous homes, Civil War camps, and the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church (which dates back to 1866). On pleasant days, it’s a great way to put the neighborhood’s progress into perspective.
Have dinner at Doi Moi or Estadio. For a time, there wasn’t a month that went by without a new restaurant or bar opening in Logan Circle. While options are plentiful, our recommendations for a dinner out would be Doi Moi, a restaurant focusing on Southeast Asian cuisine, or Estadio, a Spanish eatery that screens old soccer matches at the bar.
See a show at Studio Theatre. With so many places to have dinner in Logan Circle, Studio Theatre fills out the “show” side of the equation. Since 1980, the theatre has been putting on a diverse range of eclectic, groundbreaking productions in their current space—an old hot dog warehouse.
People-watch at Logan Circle. Stop by the namesake circle on a nice day and you’ll see an eclectic neighborhood picnicking, walking dogs, playing music, and suffering through fitness boot camps. It’s quieter people-watching than what you’ll get right on 14th Street.
Find an obscure treasure at Miss Pixie’s. Packed with hidden treasures, this colorful consignment shop has been on 14th Street since 2008. New shipments arrive weekly, so just when you think you don’t need another clothes mannequin, pop-art-style painting, or old photograph, you’re always coming back for a look.
Places to Explore in Logan Circle
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House: This Victorian town house was the residence of Mary McLeod Bethune, who founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935. Bethune was one of the country’s most influential black women and in this house, she received heads of state, government officials and leaders from all around the world. Today the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House and the National Archives for Black Women’s History are located here.
Statue Of General John A. Logan: Sitting smack dab in the center of the Circle, the statue of General John A. Logan was completed in 1901 to commemorate the life of this Congressman, Senator, and Union officer in the Civil War. Notably, Memorial Day is now celebrated as a national holiday largely due to Logan’s efforts.
Statue Of Major General George Henry Thomas: Sitting at the intersection of 14th Street NW and M Street NW, George Henry Thomas’ equestrian statue stands at the center of the circle named for him– Thomas Circle Park. Thomas was a much-celebrated Union general during the Civil War and came to be known as “The Rock of Chickamauga.”
National City Christian Church: This imposing neo-classical structure at the corner of 14th Street and Thomas Circle was built in 1930, but its congregation dates to 1845 and was home to both President Garfield and President Johnson during their time in office. LBJ’s state funeral was held here in 1973. Stop in for one of the church’s famed Friday afternoon concerts and take in the music of the incredible pipe organs the church is known for.
Old Korean Legation Museum: Don’t miss this remarkable house museum right on Logan Circle. The diplomatic home to the Joseon and Korean Empire legations until 1905 when Japan’s control of the Korean government ended the legation’s presence in DC. More than 100 years later, the house is back under the ownership of the South Korean government and now dedicated to education and the history of Korea-U.S. friendship.
Franklin Square Park: A bucolic square of land sitting on the edge of the Logan Circle area and purportedly named for Benjamin Franklin, Franklin Square was purchased by the federal government in 1832 to protect a freshwater spring that fed the White House.
Fun Fact For Your Next Trivia Night
One of the most prominent buildings surrounding Franklin Square is the Franklin School, which was constructed and designed designed by Adolf Cluss in the German round-arch style in 1869 and initially served as a flagship school for a comprehensive system of universal public education. Additionally, it was at this school that Alexander Graham Bell produced the first wireless message.
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