Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Herman Darden- 1616 4th St NW

Herman Darden bought 1616 4th St NW in August 1936. According to the 1940 census, where he appears, he was an African American taxi driver. He wasn’t on 4th Street long. In 1942 he and his wife Janie sold the property to Lula Lee.

When the Darden’s bought 1616, they borrowed $1,800 from the Perpetual Building Association and $750 from trustees. The day they sold to Ms. Lee, the borrowed $2,500 from trustees. That debt was resolved 10 years later after the sale, not sure what that was about.

Since the land records don’t tell much of a story, let’s look at Herman Darden the person. He was born November 1896 (or 1894) in Duplin (?) County, North Carolina. He served in the Army in World War I. He married Janie (sometimes spelled Jannie) Gainey on February 9, 1918 in North Carolina.

And then they had a slew of children. In 1928 they were nearly killed by gas when they were living at 1345 1st St NW and the Evening Star reported that they had 4 children. When the 1930 census rolled around they and one of their ‘lodgers’ from the gas leak rented 1964 2nd St NW. All in the house (which is currently more than 3000 sq ft) were Herman, then a building fireman, wife Janie, children Dorothy, Catherine, Herman Jr., and Lindwood, along with lodgers Arthur and Lillie Taylor, the Little family, sister-in-law Eva and niece Mattie Darden. When the 1940 census rolled around and they were on 4th St, they had added 3 more sons to their family, Orlando, Frederick and Mordecai.

1616 4th St NW isn’t that big. It seemed tight in the 2000s when a family of mom & dad, two boys and one grandpa lived there. Despite living with seven children, the Dardens managed to squeeze two lodgers in there, a mother and daughter. It’s footprint hasn’t changed and it is around 1,200 sq ft.

In 1942, they sold. In 1943, Herman Jr. graduated from Dunbar High School and then got a B.S. from Howard in 1950. The 1950 census had the Dardens living with adult and minor children at 633 Irving Street NW at an even smaller home of about 1,100 sq ft.

Herman died in 1964 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.