1240 Heidt Street1240 Heidt Street
German immigrant and “pioneer contractor” William J. Heidt built this residence about 1879 and lived here with his family until 1912. In 1919, Mary E. and Nathaniel Russell, a letter carrier for the post office, purchased the property from Heidt and lived here with their five children.
Their second son, Edwin Roberts Russell, graduated with degrees from Benedict College and Howard University in chemistry before entering the PhD program at University of Chicago in 1942. His arrival coincided with the university’s creation of the Metallurgical Laboratory, or “Met Lab,” where scientists studied the new element plutonium as part of the larger Manhattan Project during World War II. Russell, one of the few African Americans at the Met Lab, served as the director of a group investigating the extraction of plutonium-239 from uranium. Returning to Columbia after the war, he served as Chairman of Natural Sciences of Allen University. He later joined the Savannah River Plant as a research chemist and authored 11 patents while researching atomic energy processes before retiring after 22 years. In 1953, Russell built 1302 Heidt Street, where he lived with his wife, Dorothy Nance Russell, and daughter, Vivian. He was an early advocate for the preservation of the Waverly neighborhood.