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Heurich House Museum

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This is a contributing entry for Heurich House Museum and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.
The Southwest Washington we know today only emerged in the 1950s after the original neighborhood's destruction by city renewal and redevelopment movements. During the first part of the 20th century, working-class European immigrants and African Americans like Marie Miles, who worked as a maid for the Heurich family, called Southwest home.

Photo of a Black woman, likely Marie Miles, with a large dog in the Heurich mansion garden.

Black and white photo of a Black woman and a dog held in front of current day Heurich Museum garden.

Despite low incomes and inadequate housing, those living in Southwest DC at the beginning of the 20th century built tight-knit communities and organized for better living conditions. After World War I, federal officials became concerned with the neighborhood, which they deemed “shabby” and “crime-ridden.” Rather than creating more affordable housing for the families who had lived there for generations, officials decided to “renew” the area to attract white and middle-income residents. 

Marie Miles lived in Southwest during this period of change, commuting between home and work in Dupont Circle for nearly two decades. She became so close to the family that Amelia left Marie money in her will. The two women also enjoyed watching wrestling together. Which wrestlers do you think were their favorites?

We do not know where Marie lived in her early years, but the DC City Directory records her address in 1929 at 615 2nd Street SW, Apartment 1. She then moved around the neighborhood until at least 1950, experiencing first-hand the process of urban renewal. What did Marie think of all the changes? Was she involved in any neighborhood activism? 

Heurich House Museum. "Meet Marie Miles, a Black woman born in Washington, DC in 1889. She worked for the Heurich family from 1927 through the 1950s as a maid." Instagram, February 13, 2021.

Melder, Keith. “Southwest Washington: Where History Stopped." In Washington at Home: An Illustrated History of Neighborhoods in the Nation’s Capital, edited by Kathryn Schneider Smith, 89-104. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

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