17. Volta Place between 33rd and 34th Street

Volta Place between 33rd and 34th Street
Photo by Bob Rives

Pomander Walk (Formerly Bell Court)

After the Civil War, the African American population grew. Usually, they lived in distinct neighborhoods called alleyway slums.   The forty or so African American residents who lived in Bell Court, named after Alexander Graham Bell (whose residence was across the street) used the alleyway as a public space where they sang, played cards and tended to chickens and dogs.   Some African Americans found Bell Court embarrassing.  At one point 41 African Americans lived in 10 houses. During the Roosevelt administration’s New Deal these alleys were targeted for renewal by massive public works projects to fill the federal government workforce expansion housing needs. The Alley Dwelling Act of 1934 made it easy to evict the tenants and raze the structures. The City declared Bell Court uninhabitable in 1950.

(Source: Georgetown University)