The Triangle Known as Truxton Circle

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Frankenmaps.jpgWell after a year of planning The Triangle Known as Truxton Circle (#TheTraingleKnownAs #TruxtonCircle) is up in a Truxton Circle gallery for Truxton Circle/Shaw residents to view.

Our opening was last night, and despite my own problems with crowded rooms, it was wonderful. Speaking for myself my goal was achieved, I told the history of the neighborhood and people got it, they really got it. I have been trying to tell a story of this neighborhood, this section of the Shaw School Urban Renewal Area I call Truxton Circle for over a decade on this blog. Maybe this blog was always too small and it story needed to be made more real and told with something that can be seen and touched.

But maybe it needed to be told with my colleagues artists Ira Tattelman and Brian Bakke who also told a story of Truxton Circle. Ira told the story the old traffic circle with his installation. People at the opening would look for the traffic circle on my maps. Hint: you can find the remnants of it on the 1970 "You Are Here" map where visitors from Shaw, east of 7th St can place a pin where they live, and an outline of the circle on the "Freeway Plan circa 1957-1960". I'll leave it to everyone else to argue about where exactly the circle was. Brian and I told the story of the people of Truxton Circle (though he doesn't call it that). Whereas I focused on demographics, Brian told stories of particular people, including one character we don't see around much anymore, Hollywood. You remember Hollywood don't you, bearded black man in Parliament-Funkadelic outfits, used to hang out at 7th & P and the BP Station across the street from the gallery (410 Florida Ave NW) where all this is taking place?

I really liked how everyone interacted with the art and the exhibit. And I hope those of you who came will come again to get the luxury of reading the captions and panels on a less crowded day. The gallery (410 GooDBuddY at 410 FL Ave NW) is open on Saturdays 12-2PM, Fridays 10AM-12PM until we shutter the thing February 17. Inauguration Day stop by we'll be open until 3pm that day, and we have an artists talk February 11th 2-4PM so you can ask us questions. 

Thanks to BACA, the DC Humanities Council, ANXO, Right Proper and other sponsors, oh and Scott Roberts (Mr. Info).

This is a fight I'm done with- Richardson Place

So I'm back from a BACA meeting. Two topics took up a majority of the meeting, one being the District of Columbia's criminal justice system, the other being the proposed co-housing, 24 bedroom, 24 bath thing up on Richardson Place. The residents of Richardson, particularly Jim N. have my sympathy, but that property, that problem, I'm done with it. I fought that fight in 2005, it's been over a decade, and I can think of worse things.... which we fought against, and what OakTree development proposes, that ain't it.

Back in November 2005, eleven years and two months ago, I wrote on the old InShaw blog about Wilbur Mondie/ Mondi and his plans to build some buildings on the empty lots, and later Jim N.'s beautiful garden. In that month a few neighbors on that block, people on Richardson, 4th Street and New Jersey Avenue banded together and got our then ANC and BACA president Jim Berry involved.

Then the residents were concerned about water drainage, parking and a concern about shoehorning families in need into some cheaply built cramped looking housing. I should mention in 2005, parking was plentiful (compared to today) and we had lots of Section 8's (poor people housing) with disruptive tenants. No Big Bear. Nothing cool.

The person spearheading the effort was a lawyer (or employed in the legal profession) named Karl K. and of all the people deeply involved he was the last to move in 2016(?). Jim Berry stepped back and later moved. Toby and his wife moved to NoVa after the birth of their first kid. John stuck around to fight another zoning fight but moved to a guaranteed good DC school district after getting married and having kids. And there were others, who eventually moved. A lot happens in 11 years.

Greater density has happened. Within a 5 minute walk houses are getting re-divided (many were built as duplexes, turned into 1 unit, then divided again) into condos, tall infill buildings were filling in, and there were pop-ups, some good, some bad, and some downright ugly. Street parking became harder to find, and until I married a car-owner, I didn't care. And this was coming from the east with NOMA and the west with U Street amenities slowly moving east. 

Regardless if there are 24 or the feared 48 residents, or even a possible 15-20 residents at one time (because of vacancies) parking is going to get scarce. Those wonderful restaurants and businesses that are slowly making their way down Florida Avenue will bring competition for parking. Demographics are changing and the two bedroom, one den condo or house bought by the power couple, and the dozen more like them, will in time get rented to a gaggle of bros or gals or mixed group when the power couple wants to move because of kids or another job opportunity in Phoenix or New York. 

The building is not as ugly as Mondi had initially proposed. It looks like the infills that dot Shaw.
The people that will supposedly occupy the building would be young single childless professionals. That demographic is taking over the area. Whippersnappers.
At this point I'm not sure what would be gained with such fight. Nah, I'm saving up energy to fight for a turret.


So yesterday I was walking home and noticed this box on the sidewalk on New Jersey Avenue. See picture. Whatever was in the card had been taken out. It looked new enough not to be trash.

Now earlier on my walk I noticed a handcart between two cars on the 600 block of S Street with an Amazon box on it.

Because of what I'll call a #SeeSomethingSaySomethingFail that I'm still kind of smarting from, I had zero interest of investigating to see if these were what I suspect were stolen packages.

There are tons of videos out there of people stealing packages off the porches and front stoops. Cameras don't seem to stop package thieves. But cameras are helpful, just not at stopping the crime.

So try to avoid having packages delivered to your home if you are not planning to be home. Also try to tell people who are apt to send you packages to send them to your office (if you are allowed to receive packages) or to an Amazon Locker or friend or to give you the tracking number. I have seen creative solutions to the problem. I saw a clunky looking "Packages" receptacle in someones front yard. In Baltimore, I saw a sign someone placed on their front door that could be read across the street "FED-EX- UPS- USPS Do Not Leave Packages On Step".

There are packages that you can receive. If you have a big enough mailbox you might be able to receive small things. Items heavy as sin don't go far. Once I noticed a package on a neighbor's stoop. I left a note and was about to take the package in and it was well over 50 pounds. So I amended the note, offering to help bring it in if needed.

A Triangle called Truxton Circle- Art exhibit

1930.jpg I guess I should write something up about an exhibit I'm excited about.
As I've said several times I live on a great block and it's the people that make it great. Anyway, some years ago our block had a art exhibit/ potluck party at a neighbor's house who at the time had all white walls and thought, hey let's put on an exhibit. So IT does art and Brother Brian does art and discovered some other neighbors had an artistic side and throw in some musician neighbors and you have a shin dig. I mention this because that same artistic neighbor energy has created a new thing, "The Triangle Called Truxton Circle". So, IT, Brian and myself are gonna put on a show.
"But Mari, you're not an artist," you say.
"Damned right," I answer.
My role is as historian but I am trying to be more visual than wordy to share with neighbors and the people who show up at gallery openings the history of Truxton Circle. The map above is one of 6 in a set on canvas. I've got several maps to show but I'm most excited about something I'm calling BEANS! BEANS! will tell the story of change with the set of maps. You have to see it to see what I'm talking about.
So what else will be there? Well IT will focus on the fountain that used to be in the circle that was the Truxton Circle that used to sit at Florida and North Capitol. Brian's art will look at people who live and used to live in the neighborhood.
Okay, say you're interested in seeing this, great.
WHERE: 410 GooDBuddY @ 410 Florida Avenue NW
WHEN: January 13- Opening Reception 6-8pm
   January 20 10AM-3PM
   January 21 12PM-2PM
   January 27 10AM-12PM
   January 28 12PM-2PM BACA Event-2PM-4PM
   February 3 10AM-12PM
   February 4 12PM-2PM
   February 10 10AM-3PM
   February 11 12PM-2PM Artist's Talk 2PM-4PM
   February 17- Closing 6-8pm 

There is no way for you to miss this.

Hawk! and other wildlife

City Hawk in Tree
I spotted this lovely creature on my street last week.
I was amazed to see what I think is a hawk or falcon or some bird of prey here in the city. Maybe he (I'm calling it a he) came for the fine locally sourced mice and rats. Or G-d willing he came for the evil squirrels, for they are evil and are greatly deserving of the horrid and slow death that Mother Nature provides, not the swift merciful end brought by modern man in the form of a car. Many a morning riding to work I have wondered what is that flattened form in the road, squirrel or rat? Both are rodents, however one has better PR due to a fluffy tail, but I digress.
The hawk hung around for a little less than an hour. I stood around for ten minutes or so just admiring him as he sat in the tree pictured. Then I remembered my neighbor was working from home and got him to look at the bird. Then I went back to staring at the bird and later thought to take a picture. Then I went back in the house. I came back out to run an errand and accidentally spotted him on a fence. It gave me a fright, I jumped and he flew away.
Another neighbor once told me a deer had made its way into our alley. I have no reason to doubt this neighbor, however I'm not sure how a deer could get here. If a deer came via the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) bike path, then it would need to get past North Capitol, a road I sometimes have trouble with. Maybe it made its way down from MBT through Brookland, near the hospitals and got past a less congested N. Cap, then went down by McMillian and crossed Florida and Rhode Island.
On numerous times I've seem possums. Once in my front yard. Those things are ugly and friggin scary.
And it has been a good long while since spotting a raccoon around these parts. I had the misfortune of having a racoon run through my ceiling crawlspace, as it headed to my neighbor's crawlspaces on a regular basis at 4AM. I think I spotted the culprit wandering out of the alley one evening in no big rush.
We may be urban but wildlife still wanders through visiting the sites that are us.

Bad neighbors begone!

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Jimbo noted one evening that I no longer write catty blog posts about neighborhood characters anymore. There are reasons for that, a main one being the people with serious problems either don't live here anymore or they are long term neighbors and well I gotta live with them. But fate was kind and removed some characters from the block, who I will call bad neighbors, and so I feel free to express.

Trash on sidewalk
'Cause they moved.

The Evil Landlord and the Stupid Young People deserved each other. After years of crackhead tenants the Evil Landlord put in some lovely students, mistreated them, and replaced them with the Stupid Young People.

The group of roommates got this title this winter when we had the big snowstorm. Our block is an awesome block, neighbors come out and shovel the sidewalks. These guys, did not do such a thing.  I could blame it on them being renters and there are others who aren't community minded. But what earned them the title was they managed to get their hulking SUV out onto the unplowed street, to ride around the block then on other separate trips looking for Red Bull. There was constant going in and out, spinning tires, rocking back and forth over snow/ice banks over and over again. All friggin day.

But what really made me want them out and gone was the fake pot. We have long term neighbors who smoke the skunky real pot and the chemically fake pot. Given a choice, the cheapo skunk pot is preferable. The Stupid Young People smoked the fake stuff, but if that wasn't bad enough, they shared the smell with the rest of the block. They would sit a box fan in the window facing the street and blow the fake pot smell out to the sidewalk.

According to other neighbors they were annoyingly loud in the rear yard. They never cranked up the music, which is bound to have a neighbor call the cops. But they would talk loudly, late at night.

So when we saw them moving furniture out a few of us rejoiced. However the Evil Landlord is bound to get more misfit tenants. Yet over time the tenants have gotten better. About a decade ago there were the crackheads who left their friend for dead on the sidewalk. Then there were the crackhead parents, who were at least trying to do right. For a brief moment there were some normal people, but they were replaced by the Stupid Young People. Since the rental screams crappy cheap rathole, maybe we might get more students or people heading downward on the social ladder. I'm hoping for a loner misanthrope who only smokes Camels.

1420 4th St NW - Don't trust, verify

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First off, I want to write that it is up to the residents of square 553W (1400 blk of NJ, 3rd and 300 block of P & O Streets) to care more about this than me. I don't live on that block, it isn't my rear yard parking that is at risk. And for those of you who have skinny funky alleys that you use regularly use, let this be a cautionary tale.
Behind 1420 3rd St NWAt yesterday's ANC 5E05 meeting at the Dunbar High School, there were a few residents in attendance who, I gather live on square 553W. They were angry and frustrated. A new infill property at 1420 4th St NW was causing problems. The construction is not finished, but they wanted DDOT (the agency at the meeting) to do something about a pole in the alley, but it became clear that the pole was not the worst of the problem. Apparently residents have been trying to deal with the city for 14 months. The DDOT people said something about yards had encroached upon the alley. I, Scott Roberts and Jonathan Rogers have been twittering about the issue since the meeting.

After the meeting Scott and I wandered over to see what the fuss was about. The front just looks like new construction near a super skinny alley, however when you wander down the alley and look in the rear, that's when you see what the big deal is. In short, it's f'ed up, if a car is parked behind 1420 no one else is getting their car down the alley. I'm not totally sure what is wrong. It sort of looks like the property is at 100% FAR (everyone should be at 60%) and the parking pad looks like it juts into the alley.

So today I decided to look into how this came to be. I blogged about this in fill back in April and July of 2012, and even then no one seemed to care. I looked at the video segment of the BZA hearing and related material. I'm not going to say that the photographs and the drawings lie, but they are very inaccurate and they leave important details out. There are also other little easy to miss problems with the application. No one opposed the application, as noted in the BZA video, and the BZA let the lack of real communication with the then ANC slide, so it was approved.

I only care because a) I feel badly for the residents who now see they have a problem and b) it makes people like me who try to do right and follow the rules feel like suckers. When I had my addition put on, I paid $1,500 for surveyors to come out to survey my property. There is no such certified survey in 1420's BZA application that I can see. Without such a thing, any developer can make up crap, photograph things 'just so',  as long as no one from the neighborhood calls them on it.

The submitted drawings show that the alley from 3rd St is 10 feet wide. I decided to verify that with my little laser measure/ cat toy. The cat toy says it is 9'10" near the front and 9'7" in the rear. Don't trust, verify.
Width of an Alley

Do Not Vote for Thorpe

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Just don't.
I have no idea who else is running in the ANC 6E-02 race on the other side of New Jersey Avenue and I pray that the vote isn't split, but do not vote for that man.

There used to be a site up but now it only lives on's Wayback Machine, here. The last update was sometime in 2010 and the site went down around 2014-2015. It went into more detail of why residents shouldn't vote for him.
Walking around last week I saw a number of new Thorpe signs, so once again he keeps trying to get his old seat back. I'm not too worried. Even if he wins his old seat the demographics have changed enough that I really don't think he'd be able to keep the seat for longer than a term, once the electorate are reminded of what a demagogic, homophobic, misogynistic jerk he is.
So, vote this November 8th for someone who isn't a meanie.

Turrets are cool

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R and 4th NWSo at this week's BACA (almost every 1st Monday of the month at Mt. Sinai) meeting the development team for 319 R St NW came to connect with the community about their project. Good start, maybe it will make up for failing to take care of the weeds that got overgrown on the property while they owned it.

They had diagrams of their plans and maybe those may show up later on the BACA blog should they submit them. They need zoning variances for a few things, such as building a little bit beyond their envelope, a proposed penthouse on top of a 3rd floor addition, and they want to remove the turret.

They had pictures of the 1700 block of 4th Street and the 200 block of R Street to show differences. Yes, the 1700 block of 4th doesn't have turrets. That's probably because it was built in the 19th century and the houses on the 300 block of R are from the early 20th century. Also the houses on the odd side of the 300 block of R Street are Harry Wardman houses. Yes, authentic Wardman houses, look it up. The 200 block of R? I have no idea.

I'd would like it if they kept the turret. Turrets are cool. Truxton Circle doesn't have as many turrets as Bloomingdale, but the ones we do have, I like. The one's Bloomingdale has lost stay ugly. You get used to it, like a blemish, but it is still ugly.

Now I know some of you are saying, "if you were in a historic district...." I spit on your historic districting. I don't care about the kinds of windows or doors they are putting in the places there are spaces for windows and doors. I don't care that they are putting an entrance on 4th St and adding a parking pad (don't know how that will impact access for others into the alley). I don't care about the paint colors or roofing material. I do care about the rooftop deck area with a penthouse as I am concerned about noise. I'm worried about the loss of the turret. More importantly, I'm fearful that breaking it up and adding the ugly by removing the turret would doom the property to the horrid fate of the adjoining vacant buildings, which are defunct condos.

Besides the turret there were a few other things that bugged me. As far as I know the Korean Presbyterians never had hundreds of people lined up outside of their mission house at 319 R. They may have had dozens, at most, and people hanging out, but never hundreds. Even the 7th day Adventists on 4th St with their Sunday soup kitchen never had hundreds. The other thing they mentioned was that they reached out to neighbors. Well the neighbors across the street missed that outreach or it wasn't clear. It isn't entirely clear that the residents who live on the same block and in view of the project were adequately reached.   

Spoiled by DC History- Mari does Baltimore

Baltimore 1901 Vol 1.jpg
So you may have seen my somewhat out of date site where you can find maps of the NW Truxton Circle neighborhood dating back to 1887 and census information for every resident who lived in the TC from 1888 to 1940.
Silly me figured this could be replicated for another large city. I tried doing what I did for the TC to do a house history for a tiny property I bought in Baltimore*. So I headed to the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. They pointed me towards resources they had copies of but I realized the University of Maryland...... College Park back in the DC Metro area had what I needed.
I hoped there would be something on the UMCP Library Catalog. Somethings are digitized, and a lot of stuff isn't. They've got digitized maps, but none of them are the ones I wanted or had the detail I needed. So I had to make a trip up the green line.
Since I have a personal connection at UMCP (got my MLS there) I was able to talk to the librarian who was the architecture/land expert in the Maryland Room. He grabbed a bunch of atlases and we looked for one that captured the street where my property sat, with an outline of my property. We were able to find what I needed in the Sanborn 1901 insurance map atlas.
I was disappointed because the property dated to the 19th Century and I could not find a detailed map going back that far showing my property. If I found detailed maps that outlined buildings, they did not cover my area. When I found my area, it lacked detail.
DC has spoiled me. The DC Public Library and the Library of Congress has free plat maps showing properties. Even map sellers who sell online have their own digital copies of the District going back to the 1870s.
Even looking at the census has been disappointing. I did find residents in 1940. However, looking in previous censuses using Dr. Steven Morse's Census tool for large cities, I haven't found anyone prior to 1940, yet.
It is possible the house was a company property used to house workers. I'll have to dig into the land records to confirm this. The librarian who helped me earlier suggested I do that, but at the time I wanted to concentrate on maps. If it was housing for workers, the interesting story (and easier one) is the relationship the company had with its workers, Baltimore as an industrial city, and not the individuals who happened to rest their head in my house.

*Don't be impressed. You too could buy a property in West Baltimore that needs (lots of) work for a mere $7,500. The cost of fixing it up is way more than the place would be worth.

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