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Street Smart: What to do in Swampoodle

“Swampoodle” — whose name was derived from a journalist’s description of the area as “swampy” (because of its proximity to Tiber Creek) and awash in “puddles” — was the heart of Washington’s Irish immigrant community in the mid-19th century. Today it’s dense with city and federal government buildings and thousands of car commuters.

National Guard Memorial Museum and Library
1 Massachusetts Ave. NW

A unit of the New York National Guard, the "Fighting 69th" brigade - composed largely of Irish Americans - lost well over a thousand men in the Battle of Fredericksburg, says Anne Armstrong, director of the museum that tells the 378-year-old story of America's "citizen-soldier." "In the history of the Guard, the Civil War was a huge game-changer," Armstrong says.

National Postal Museum
2 Massachusetts Ave. NE

This museum has 6 million items in its collection, the second-largest in the Smithsonian system. "Most of our material is foreign," says curator of philately Dan Piazza. "If you only tell the U.S. side of the story, it won't make any sense." The William H. Gross Stamp Gallery opened in September 2013.

Phoenix Park Hotel
520 North Capitol St. NW

Opened as the Commodore Hotel in 1922 by Harry Wardman - whose last name is synonymous with a style of D.C. rowhouse and whose other hotels include the Hay-Adams - the Phoenix Park is named after Dublin's green space of the same name. And, yes, Irish soda bread is on the breakfast menu.

The Dubliner Restaurant and Pub
Inside the Phoenix Park Hotel

Over the years politicians with Irish roots - including President Obama, on his mother's side, and the late Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill - have downed pints here. The general manager of the pub is Danny Coleman's son Gavin, whose other restaurant, Sixth Engine, is at 438 Massachusetts Ave. NW, where you can ask the bartender for an off-menu cocktail: the Swampoodle, made with Jameson's Irish whiskey.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church
19 I St. NW

Desperate to escape the potato famine, tens of thousands of Irish came to Washington in the mid-1840s, says Kathleen Lane, visiting lecturer at Catholic University's School of Architecture and Planning. "The Jesuits saw an opportunity to create a church close to the Capitol," says Lane, whose ancestors were among those immigrants. The church, as well as the Capitol, features paintings by Italian American artist Constantino Brumidi.

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