Shaw & Mt. Vernon Square

Shaw is a neighborhood located in the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C.


Shaw grew out of freed slave encampments in the rural outskirts of Washington City. Originally called “Uptown,” in an era when the city’s boundary ended at “Boundary Street” (now Florida Avenue), in the Urban Renewal Era the neighborhood began to be referred to as Shaw because of the neighborhood Junior High School named after Civil War Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the commander of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.


Shaw thrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as the pre-Harlem center of African American intellectual and cultural life. Howard Theological Seminary welcomed its first students in 1866. Prominent figures, such as Professor Alain LeRoy Locke, were advancing the ideas like “The New Negro,” but the most famous Shaw native to emerge from this period was Duke Ellington.


After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, riots erupted in many D.C. neighborhoods, including Shaw. The 1968 Washington, D.C. riots marked the beginning of a decline in population and development to much of the inner city. In recent years, however, development efforts have picked up once again with many new residents moving into Shaw.


Mount Vernon Square is also a Washington neighborhood and historic district, named for the adjacent city square. Originally, Victorian-style townhomes occupied this area.


In 1977, the city purchased the area southwest of Mount Vernon Square itself.  Over the next few years, the homes and businesses on these blocks were razed. One of the last businesses to exist on was a Chinese restaurant named Nan King (which was one of the first restaurants in the city to serve dim sum).


The Washington Convention Center was constructed in Mount Vernon in the early 1980s and at the time was the fourth largest facility in the United States at the time.


After being replaced by the new Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the old convention center was demolished on December 18, 2004.  Until 2011, the 10-acre site was a parking lot that was also used as the bus terminal for Megabus and BoltBus. The site was also used for special events such as Cirque Du Soleil and the home of the Washington Kastles Stadium.  However, the land has since been replaced with a $950 million complex called CityCenterDC.