Bloomingdale Tour: 40 Randolph Place
In 1924, a government clerk named Sereno Ivy attempted to buy this house. However, the developers Middaugh & Shannon had included a racial covenant in the property’s original 1902 deed.
Despite the fact that African Americans already lived within a block of here, neighbors successfully sued the white owners of 40 Randolph Street—the Torreys—for breaking the covenant. When the Torreys challenged the ruling, the appellate court maintained that all the homeowners had agreed to subject themselves to the developers’ covenant with the assurance that the other houses would be similarly protected. The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled in Torrey v. Wolfes that, regardless of their willingness to pay a $2,000 penalty for violating the covenant, as required by a clause in the deed, the Torreys could not sell their house to a black buyer.
The court’s enforcement of the covenant set a precedent in DC for upholding deed restrictions barring black residents. In Bloomingdale, the continued enforcement of covenants along the neighborhood’s unit blocks made First Street a barrier to black settlement to the east.