The neighborhood takes its name from its most famous resident: Alexander Robey Shepherd, the governor of the then-Territory of DC from 1873 to 1874. The neighborhood was originally called Sixteenth Street Heights. Part of the neighborhood was renamed Shepherd Park in 1926 when developer L.E. Breuninger proposed 200 new homes. His first model home was built in the new Shepherd Park was 7707 13th Street NW. Shortly before becoming governor (in 1868), Shepherd built a grand Second Empire-style Victorian that once stood near the corner of Floral and 14th Street. (The carriage house still stands in the alley off of Floral, entrance across from the modern house.) Shepherd chose the location because of its elevation and its proximity to Rock Creek. Shepherd dubbed his large country home "Bleak House" after the Dickens novel Bleak House, which he and his wife were reading at the time of their home's construction. The mansion was demolished in 1916. Shepherd owned a plant nursery in the District of Columbia, which enabled the 60,000 trees he had planted. His nursery led to a variety of wildflowers that still thrive in the yards of city residents. It is also the genesis of the streets in Shepherd Park being named for flowers.
The Shepherd Park Citizens Association formed 1917 to petition the government to build a neighborhood elementary school and pave 16th Street between Alaska Avenue and the District line. After developers acquired the land around 1911, they designed it so that the new homes would sit on large tracts of land, and they advertised the location as a "high-class" neighborhood. The developers made sure to retain the large trees in the neighborhood when building the streets. In 1985, residents learned that the owner of an apartment building on Georgia Avenue was close to selling the land for a Wendy's to be built on it. Residents protested, saying that the neighborhood needed a library much more than another fast food location. The District Council decided to build a library on the site instead, and the library opened in 1990. Named the Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park Library, it is named after the neighborhood activist who led the neighborhood association in its efforts to have the library built there.
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