Mapping Georgetown: Rose Park Visits Reveal Valuable Stories


We are so pleased to see that our recent visits to the Rose Park Farmers Market have yielded troves of stories about Georgetown’s hidden past. Did you know that 70 years ago thriving middle class African American communities lived around Rose Park?

A Mapping Georgetown Story-Map from the recent Rose Park visits.

Dorothy Harris Gray sent us an article about her childhood surroundings from the September 18, 2009 edition of Roll Call. Seventy years ago, “the Georgetown of Dorothy Harris Gray’s childhood looked very different. The stores along M Street included novelty shops, small businesses and 5-and-10 cent stores. Children spent entire summer days at Rose Park. Gray’s neighbors on P Street were a solid middle class mix of doctors, lawyers, federal government employees and homemakers. And most of her neighborhood was African-American. From the P Street Bridge across Rock Creek to either side of Wisconsin Avenue, a predominantly black community thrived for generations. Gray was herself a third generation Georgetown resident…. Gray spent most of her summers at the playground at Rose Park, which she said was the center of her world.’  https://www.rollcall.com/2009/09/18/georgetown-recalls-its-diverse-past/

Adele Dodson — the first African American student to integrate Holy Trinity School — gathered her sisters and cousins and gifted us with five stories in addition to her own, each a unique contribution to our local history.

Sondra Dodson said, ‘I remember walking up the steps to go to Rose Park Playground located at the rear of my home on Dumbarton Avenue. Violet McKinney was the playground’s director. Later, I remember Mildred Taylor, the loving director of Rose Park Playground and her assistant Joe Fair’.

JoAnne Dodson Birch wrote, “Growing Up in Georgetown. Rose Park Playground – The hub of the community.  Mrs. Mildred Taylor was the director. Activities [quoted verbatim]:

  • sports of all kinds (tennis was my life)
  • bubble blowing contests
  • hoppy taw (like hopscotch)
  • kite flying
  • arts and crafts (weaving baskets, lanyards from gimp, knitting, crocheting, boat making, bulletin boards, one act plays)
  • I learned a lot from spending time at Rose Park
  • May processions

Margaret Dodson-Hatcher said, ‘I remember going to nursery school at First Baptist Church on Dumbarton Avenue. Mrs. Violet McKinney was my teacher.  She read us books, we played games, and she took us on field trips. Most memorable was our walk to the zoo.… I remember parades. On the first Sunday in May, my church Epiphany Catholic would have a May procession. All of the Sunday School kids were dressed in white with white veils covering their heads and holding flowers…. We would then parade through the neighborhood and return to church where the May Queen would crown the blessed Mother’s statue, followed by prayers and songs.’

Jean D. Jackson remembers Connecticut Pie Bakery at Wisconsin and Q Street.

God Bless Your Soul, Miss Violet McKinney.  You are mentioned by each individual in these endearing childhood accounts of Rose Park and growing up in bliss in Georgetown.  And, you have left a priceless legacy of loving kindness that lives on forever!

If this story brings to mind a story of your own, please contact Marilyn Butler at mappinggeorgetown@gmail.com or download a blank map at www.mappinggeorgetown.com.  This is a community project and our collection is not complete without yours!

For The Georgetowner’s profile of Marilyn Butler and the Mapping Georgetown project, see https://georgetowner.com/articles/2021/07/19/marilyn-butlers-vision-for-mapping-georgetown/

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