American Legion Post No. 5: A home with a rich history

Photos and text by Heather Wilson

Perhaps the American Legion Post’s most distinctive artifact is its home, a rust-colored rowhouse on North Capitol Street, at the juncture of the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods of Edgewood, Bloomingdale and Eckington. Post No. 5 acquired the home in 1954, after selling its original home on Vermont Avenue Northwest. Both houses were purchased by fundraising among members; the North Capitol Street house was purchased for about $13,500.

The Post members still have meetings in the house, though the large basement meeting room often serves as a reminder of the dwindling number of active members. The house is a repository for countless pieces of memorabilia, photos and documents—but perhaps more importantly, it holds the memories and history of the organization’s roles in the return of veterans from American wars, the fight against local and national segregation in the Civil Rights Movement, and even the welcoming of visitors during the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009.

  • The current Post No. 5 ome at 2027 North Capitol Street, N.E., Washington, D.C., was purchased in 1954 at a cost of $13,159, plus the cost of additional improvements. In 1963, before a large assembly of American Legion dignitaries and others, Post No. 5 "burned the mortgage" after paying off the debt.

  • The over the years, Post No. 5 has received many national citations and awards that now line the walls of the house.

  • The honor roll plaque tucked away by the stairs pays tribute to many American Legion members.

  • John Hicks, a Korean War Army veteran, has many roles at Post No. 5. He currently serves as Vice Commander, the cook and he also fills in as the Sergeant of Arms when necessary due to the low membership.

  • John Hicks points to the James Reese Europe Anniversary photo, taken Feb. 18, 2000. He recalls the roles of Effie Johnson, who was Commander of Post No. 5 and an Auxiliary member.

  • Post No. 5 has a visual chronological history in photograph form of past commanders hanging on the walls of its meeting room.

  • Post No. 5 Commander Dr. James Jones, is a retired Air Force veteran who is actively promoting the Post to increase its membership and to preserve its history.

  • The official certificate establishing the American Legion Post No. 5, on June 27, 1919. The Post was started by African American World War I veterans in Washington, D.C.

  • The American Legion Post No. 5 is working to organize and preserve the numerous documents, letters, and photographs detailing the Post’s history over the years.

  • At the head of Post No. 5's basement meeting room is the official table. The commander sits in the center, the vice commander sits to the commander's right, and the chaplain sits to the commander's left.

  • A photo collage of Lieutenant James Reese Europe of the U.S. 369th Infantry “Harlem Hellfighters” Band hangs on the wall of the commander’s office. In 1916, Europe enlisted in Harlem’s Black National Guard regiment, the 15th New York Infantry and then formed his military band.