I STREET 2600 BLOCK OVERVIEW
The corner of 26th and I Streets offers a view of the Foggy Bottom area that was destroyed when the Potomac Freeway - an extension of I-66 from Roosevelt Bridge - was built in the mid 1960s. The highway construction wiped out several blocks of historic Foggy Bottom, including renovated row houses, alleys, and an elementary school. Three remaining historic row houses are visible on I & 27th Streets. The area also included an ancient Native American burial site, a reminder of the area's first residents.
26th Street overlooks the Potomac Freeway (I-66). In the 1960s, planners intended to connect this highway with additional roads to form an "Inner Loop Beltway" within Washington D.C. Fortunately, the effort was blocked and funding went to the Metro subway system instead. But this section of highway was built before the plan was abandoned. The highway construction wiped out about one-third of the neighborhood and displaced over 270 families. Demolished buildings included: The Briggs-Montgomery Elementary School, originally an African American School built in 1903 (named for Margaret Briggs, an African American educator and contemporary of Frederick Douglas, and H.P. Montgomery, an African American school administrator from the late 1800s), the Sharon Baptist Church (900 27th St.); Green’s Court (Square 5, between 26th and 27th, I and K Sts.), which had houses that had been recently renovated; and the Thomas Peter House at 27th and K Streets, built by Robert Peter, the first Mayor of Georgetown, for his son Thomas and new bride Martha Parke Custis in 1795. George Washington actually slept here on his visits to D.C. in the 1790s (including on his last night in Washington, August 5, 1799).
It could have been worse – the original plan was to route a six-lane highway down 25th Street, displacing even more people and wiping out more historic homes. After protests from the community and developers, the highway was relocated to the west.
The three isolated row houses (2635, 2637, 2639 I St.) (Square 5) are all that remains of the neighborhood west of 26th Street. Nos. 2635 and 2637 were constructed in 1879 by Peter McCartney for owner Gilbert Cannon. The houses are relatively simple and are two stories and three bays wide. The façade of No. 2635 has been replaced. No. 2639 is a single dwelling that appears to have been designed as a double residence, and has a side entrance as well as two front doors. It was built by W.H. Serrin and owned by Edward Welsh in 1877. The houses were included in the original proposal for the Foggy Bottom Historic District, but omitted from the final designation, so they lack historic protection. The highway construction has left the houses difficult to access.
In the direction of Georgetown is the Whitehurst Freeway (b.1949). Excavation for Whitehurst renovations in 1996 unearthed a Native American burial site that contained the cremated remains and grave goods of a high status 30 to 40 year old woman. Artifacts included a comb carved from antler, fossil shark teeth, beads, and cloth. The site dated from between AD 640 and 790, towards the end of the Middle Woodland period. The Site was located beneath the historical remains of what was Reed Alley, about 15 feet below ground surface. Other artifacts, including potsherds and stone tools found throughout the area show native people camped here as long as 5,000 years ago.
2635-2639 I Street (F. Leone 2022)
2635-2639 I Street (DDOT Historic Collections, 1960s)
Potomac River Freeway nears completion (DDOT Historic Collections)
2600 Block of I Street showing recently renovated homes - which soon would be demolished for the Potomac Parkway (Wash Post, May 21, 1956)
Artifacts from Native American burial site near Whitehurst Freeway. circa 700 A.D. (National Park Service)