This district of residential, commercial, and service structures is notable for the network of alleyways enclosed behind a facade of middle-class residential streets. In isolated and cramped conditions, amid the stables and warehouses, such alleys provided habitation for the working poor. Blagden Alley in particular inspired humanitarian reformers to eradicate the deplorable living conditions that these alleys came to embody.
While African-Americans were disproportionately represented in the alley population, the area developed as an economically and racially mixed neighborhood with a rich variety of architectural styles and diverse quality. The district includes dwellings of freedmen, examples of black real estate ownership prior to emancipation, and houses like the home of Blanche K. Bruce, the first African-American to serve a full term as U.S. Senator. There are approximately 150 buildings, dating from about 1833 to 1941, as well as sites with archaeological potential.
DC Inventory: September 19, 1990 (effective November 13, 1990)
National Register: November 16, 1990; designation superseded by an expanded DC district July 22, 1999 (effective September 7, 1999)
National Register listing amended September 8, 1999 to create a larger Mount Vernon West Historic District; original DC designation reinstituted December 16, 1999.