The Ellingtons rented the three-story Elm Street house circa 1906. (BTW Images)

This modest rowhouse in LeDroit Park was once home to Duke Ellington, one of several houses he lived in during his time in Washington.

Described as “one of America’s most important composers as well as its most influential jazz musician” in The Washington Post’s May 1974 obituary, Ellington led one of the most popular orchestras of the Big Band era. He was an inventive and prolific composer. The New York Times obituary stated that he wrote more than 6,000 pieces, and The Post declared that he had 1,500 works to his credit. His official website claims he composed 3,000 songs, including “It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing,” “Sophisticated Lady” and “Mood Indigo.”

The man who became one of the kings of swing was born Edward Kennedy Ellington in 1899 at his grandparents’ house on Ward Place NW. His father was a blueprint maker for the Navy and occasionally worked as a butler, sometimes at the White House. The musician was given the nickname Duke by childhood friends because of his elegant attire and courtly manner.

The Ellingtons rented the three-story Elm Street house circa 1906. It was one of a series of LeDroit Park homes where the family resided.

According to LeDroit Park Historic District information, the neighborhood was established in 1873 by Amzi L. Barber, one of the founders of Howard University. Barber, who married the daughter of a successful real estate broker, LeDroit Langdon, named the enclave after his father-in-law. It was developed as an exclusively white residential area, with a fence and guards to restrict access. The fence gate remains to this day.


brick patio with fence (BTW Images/BTW Images)

The first African American resident moved into LeDroit Park in 1893. By the beginning of World War I, the white families had moved out, and LeDroit Park had become an enclave of the black elite.

The 1892 rowhouse, with its brick and stone facade, is part of a cluster of homes built on this block by J.W. Serrin for developer A.B. Hines. It has remained in the same family since 1953.

The home has been updated for today’s living. An exposed brick wall runs the length of the main level. Hardwood floors warm to the space. Leaded glass interior shutters adorn the windows in the second-floor family room.

A fence surrounds a brick patio behind the house, providing private outdoor space.

The four-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,620-square-foot house is listed at $1.2 million.