Developed in the late 19th century, the Hump was one of five new African-American neighborhoods formed in Alexandria during and after the Civil War. Around the time people settled in the Hump, the abutting Alexandria Canal was closed down, and the railroad tracks that marked its eastern border were abandoned. The suddenly undesirable area, tucked into the extreme northwest corner of Alexandria, may have offered cheap housing options to the working-class blacks and whites who settled there. It was also close to jobs in a nearby brewery and glassworks.
Oral history provides first-person accounts of early 20th century life in the Hump. One resident, Henry Johnson, recalled life as a child there: "It was so cold that you could go to bed and see the moon shining (through the walls). The snow'd come thrugh them cracks on your feet...Ice'd freeze on the washstand...It'd freeze in your bedroom...We had to go to a pump to get water to wash with. The pump was right in the street on just 'bout every corner — great big old wooden pump."
The Hump neighborhood once spanned three blocks along Montgomery Street, centering on the 800 block. The western border was marked by the intersection of Montgomery and North Patrick Streets, the southern border by Madison Street, the eastern border by North Washington Street, and the northern edge was between Second and First Streets. No historic structures survive. The Black History Resource Center is located one block to the south and the Charles Houston Recreation Center is across the street.
Geographical and Contact Information
800 block of Montgomery Street area