Washington DC History Resources

Matthew B. Gilmore

Where did Washington DC’s 1950 Population of 800,000 Live?

Where did Washington DC’s 1950 Population of 800,000 Live?

By Matthew B. Gilmore

COMPLETE COLUMN here: intowner.com/2018/07/31/where-did-washington-dcs-1950-population-of-800000-live/

RESOURCES https://matthewbgilmore.wordpress.com/what-once-was-where-did-washington-dcs-1950-population-of-800000-live/

In 1950 the United States federal census recorded the population in the District of Columbia at 802,178 — Washington’s high population milestone. Today, as Washington’s estimated population crosses the 700,000 mark and may surpass 800,000 in 2025, we might look back and see what has changed; where within DC’s 64 square miles did people live then and how does that compare to where they live now.

Graph of Washington DC's population change from 1800 to 2010. compiled by the author. Graph of Washington DC’s population change from 1800 to 2010. compiled by the author.

Graph of Washington DC’s population change from 1800 to 2010. compiled by the author.

District of Columbia Population History

 

 

The District’s population initially grew slowly, beginning with the transfer of the federal government to the Potomac in 1800. The Civil War and aftermath brought tremendous population growth in the mid- and later 1800s, continuing strongly through the New Deal era and World War II. Surprisingly, DC’s population peaked, not during World War II but shortly afterward.

Annual estimates of the population having peaked at 900,000 in 1948, [1] with some radical fluctuations of 10% before and afterward. Such swings might make the estimates look a bit suspect. But the Board of Trade did a survey of population in 1945 which indicated 10% of the population expected to move away from the Washington area in the next year, lending credence to the census estimates. In addition, the military population does not seem to have been consistently included in the estimates, adding to the variability.

To compare 1950 statistics to current some data analysis is required. The map labeled no. 1 shows the census tracts used in 1950 with today’s (DC Office of Planning) neighborhood names. Census statistics are collected on the block, block group, and census tract level. But neighborhood names are much more familiar and offered for orientation.

 

 

Mapping the statistics from the 1950 DC census compared to those of the 2010 census allows us to illustrate where shifts in the population concentration occurred — both losses and gains.

Map no. 1 shows the District’s census tracts as of 1950 with the current neighborhood names superimposed and the outline of the original City of Washington as laid out by Peter Charles L’Enfant. compiled by the author.

Map no. 1 shows the District’s census tracts as of 1950 with the current neighborhood names superimposed and the outline of the original City of Washington as laid out by Peter Charles L’Enfant. compiled by the author.

In 1950, much of the population was still concentrated in the area bounded by Florida Avenue to the north and the Potomac — the original L’Enfant Washington City plan. Slightly less than one quarter of the area of the District’s territory, in it housed 35% of the population. It had taken 60 or more years for development to jump over what was then Boundary Street (now Florida Avenue) into what was then the County of Washington; but the growth of the residential population beyond had still barely reached the boundaries of the District itself (Western, Eastern, and Southern Avenues).

Many of these newly developed areas were streetcar suburbs, dependent on transit to the center city, rather than self-contained neighborhoods — development resembled more Boston than London, which was comprised of many towns grown together.

Washington’s historic core stretched across the L’Enfant city, from the banks of Rock Creek at Georgetown diagonally along Pennsylvania Avenue to the banks of the Eastern Branch (Anacostia River) at the Navy Yard. Commercial Washington would slowly migrate from its downtown spine of  F Street, NW between 7th and 15th Streets to K Street further north and west.

The 2010 federal decennial census recorded the District’s population as 601,723 — three quarters that of that of 1950. Map no. 2 illustrates patterns of change in where DC’s population lived between the two, 60 census years apart. The tracts used are those from the 1950 census. [2]

Map no. 2 illustrates patterns of change in where DC’s population lived between the two census years. The tracts used are those from the 1950 census. compiled by the author.

Map no. 2 illustrates patterns of change in where DC’s population lived between the two census years. The tracts used are those from the 1950 census. compiled by the author.

 

Blue indicates population decline, red indicates increase. The baseline decline in population is 25%; tracts with that loss are left uncolored. Blue shades indicate population loss greater than the average 25% overall city decline, with darker color gradations indicating greater loss. Those tracts in red shades show an increase in population over 1950, with darker color gradations indicating greater increase.

 

COMPLETE COLUMN here: intowner.com/2018/07/31/where-did-washington-dcs-1950-population-of-800000-live/

RESOURCES https://matthewbgilmore.wordpress.com/what-once-was-where-did-washington-dcs-1950-population-of-800000-live/

APPENDIX: V Street Houses–appendix to: Where did Washington DC’s 1950 Population of 800,000 Live?

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