55. Corner of 27th and P Street

Corner of 27th and P Street
Photo by Bob Rives

Herring Hill area surrounding P St.

Located south of P Street between Rock Creek Park and 29th Street was a 15-block area called Herring Hill. This area was named after the main supply of food the neighborhood’s black families fished from Rock Creek. Most of Black Georgetown, almost one thousand people, lived in Herring Hill from the mid-to-late-1800’s. The majority of these persons worked as gardeners, cooks, and stable help for the white population in Georgetown. In 1860, the Georgetown Assessment Book counted 56 families and over 200 individuals who had amassed $71,678 in Georgetown property. The population increased during the Civil War with Contraband refugees and escaped slaves.

Historian Mary Mitchell in her book, ​Chronicle of Georgetown Life, 1865-1900​ as:

“If for many the end of the rainbow for some is Washington for many  other it was Herring Hill in Georgetown where free Negroes had  developed a stable life and self-sustaining community of 951 person  by 1860. Wisp of smoke from cook fires in narrow backyards, pigpens,  cowshed, small two-story frame dwelling, barking dogs in the yards….  pathways leading along a dark road to old Mt. Zion Church called, “the  Little Ark” on Mill Street, and beyond to the Methodist cemetery… all combine to endow this compact region of fifteen blocks with the air of a Close village community .”

Most of the business along P Street were owned and operated by the African Americans in Herring Hill. This self-sufficiency served to shield the community from segregation. It took generations to disperse the area accelerated by gentrification in the 1950s.

(Source: National Park Service)