So after 20+ years Shiloh might do something with its vacant properties

My usual path no longer takes me along 9th Street anymore. Trips to Giant stops right at 8th Street. I might wander over to 9th to see if Buttercream has any ho-hos. And so the search for specialty cake products brought me over to the 1500 block of 9th Street NW and I was surprised to see what looked to be work on Shiloh Baptist Church’s long vacant properties.

Shiloh maybe getting their act togetherThis might be old news to some, as I did notice another Shiloh property on the opposite side of the street appeared no longer vacant. And the poster celebrating Victory Village looks, old. When doing a Google search for Victory Village and Shiloh, I came across a 2010 CityPaper article about the project. That doesn’t provide a lot of confidence. What does provide confidence is the scaffolding up along the sidewalk. And the fact that the block is a little less vacant than 10 years ago.

Shiloh maybe getting their act togetherNext to the National Park Service’s Carter G. Woodson House, formerly owned by Shiloh were some 3 story high scaffolding with the banner of a contractor, Thomas Archer on it. That looks a bit more real, and this thing might actually happen. Maybe. Hopefully. Lord willing.

I pray that in 5 years the 1500 block of 9th Street NW is as healthy as the 1500 block of 7th St NW. I hope that Shiloh will no longer be known as the church with all those run down vacant properties. I don’t expect Shiloh to gain the real estate mojo of UHOP, that would be akin to expecting Keneau Reeves to out act Christian Bale.

 

This has been cross posted with the DC Vacant Properties blog.

Can Cops and Teachers live in subsidized housing?

The Advoc8te who runs Congress Heights on the Rise pointed out a problem with income limited or affordable housing in DC. That has continue to bug me, because for years at community meetings when ‘workforce’ housing is trotted out residents are told it would allow government workers such as police and teachers to live in the communities they serve. Then when I see the income limits and then look at the starting salaries for DC police and teachers, I think, I’ve been lied to.
Sign- Join DC MPD I decided to just glance at what DC pays its teachers and police. Almost all government employees’ salaries are public, mine, my spouse’s, my cousin who makes a quarter of a million, it’s no secret, so I can actually see what DC pays. Grade school teachers, not teachers aides, not substitute teachers, nor administrative staff, if they’ve been teaching 3-4 years at least, are in the $60-70K range. There is a school librarian making six figures, as a fellow librarian, I say good for them. I didn’t pay much attention to MPD salaries, but officers are making over $60K. That makes sense if this poster is true and the pay starts at $55,362. If a teacher and cop fall in love, a la rom-com adventure, they’re making six figures as one household if they marry.

Okay, let’s get back to housing and income limits. There are a couple of key things you have to keep in mind, household size and AMI, area median income or MFI, median family income.

2018 income limits for DC Say Anna works for a non-profit and makes $40K, and there is a new affordable housing development with studios and 1 bedrooms that’s at 50% and 60% AMI/MFI. She might be able to get a studio at 60% MFI, but not at 50%. She makes too much at 50%. But if Anna was a single mom, a household of 2, aiming for a 1 bedroom (I don’t remember the rules about this), she would qualify at 50%. Looking at this table, and going on my memory,  the DC government employees who could qualify are school custodians, teacher’s aides, and some DC Public Library staff. The city doesn’t pay our librarians enough.

Slugg: Prayer and Therapy

From Slugg: A Boy’s Life in the Age of Mass Incarceration “Together, prayer and therapy can heal, but there’s not nearly enough of either happening in the hood, and they aren’t being done together.”

Slugg is @MrTonyLewisJr in the Hanover area of Truxton Circle who wrote a book about Hanover Street and his father, Tony Lewis Sr., a notable drug dealer. I highly recommend the book as it is a very good read and Mr. Lewis makes some excellent points, and this is one of them, that people need therapy.

Yes, prayer and therapy, but because of the occasional diversity of my readership, I’m going to set aside prayer in a box marked “Meditation” and let readers ponder that on their own as a DIY project. But therapy, everyone can use therapy and yes, it is missing or not sought fully when it is sorely needed. I’ve heard someone else say there are too many undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues in the Black community. Lewis is very frank about his mother’s struggles with mental health and how it did and still weighs on him and his family.

Children growing up witnessing, involved in and being victims of violence are traumatized and take that trauma with them into adulthood. Lewis mentions how he got help, but a childhood friend of his, who saw and experienced the same things in that little corner of Truxton Circle, did not. Because his friend did not get and hasn’t sought professional help, his friend remains in pain. That pain begets more violence which winds up traumatizing others who also are not likely to seek help, and it’s a horrible cycle.

Lewis mentions we need to change the culture. The problem is cultural. It’s not just in the Black community (but really bad in the Black community) but throughout America. IMHO too many Americans are making their mental health a DIY project, self-medicating and self-diagnosing. Remember that box we set aside? The one marked “Meditation”, that’s DIY.

Part of the problem may be cost, but a lot may be stigma. So to help remove a little bit of the stigma, I’m going to briefly mention my latest adventure in getting counseling and professional help. When the Help had to become his mother’s conservator because his sister squandered their mother’s retirement funds (whole ‘nother blog), it created a big strain on our marriage. So much so we put our adoption plans on hold and slept in separate rooms. We got counseling from a pastor and separately saw psychotherapists. It helped to talk things out with several 3rd parties. We got to a better place, brought the Help’s mom to the DC area, and restarted the adoption. Currently our marriage is better, my mother in law’s ashes are sitting on our bookcase, and we are the parents of Destruct-O-baby. I’ll credit lots of prayer and therapy.

 

Edited- Diagnosed to undiagnosed, and twitter link.

Adoption- Human

Baby in portable bassinet
Baby in portable bassinet

I was going to wait until November, National Adoption month, to write about our adoption experience. But a retweet of something I saw with a long string of comments that do not reflect nor resemble our experience  prompted me to post this.

We’ve recently finalized the adoption of our son. It was a closed adoption per the birthmother’s wishes. And even though it is closed, we still need to write letters and send 5-6 photos of Destruct-O-baby every 3-4 months for the next couple of years. We were interviewed by a birthmother who wanted an open adoption, however, she didn’t choose us. But if she did there would have been more in person visits or more letters, depending on what she wanted.

The adoption itself did not cost $20-$30K. Rounding up less than $10K went to the agency for all the administrative and facilitation stuff. Less than $2K went to our lawyer, and I have no idea how much we spent to take the CPR classes, get the background checks, renovate the house for the inspections and home study. Those higher prices are international adoption prices. Destruct-O-baby is from the land of Mary (which means he’ll drive in the bike lane & speed through yellow and red lights).

Adoption has changed over the years. My sister in law (the one who drained her mother’s retirement fund in a year) was adopted from Korea. According to the Help, his parents were told to show up to the airport and they were handed a 2 year old, who became his sister. They did not have to take the classes. They were a school teacher and factory worker, so I’ll guess it wasn’t that expensive. We had to read books, write essays, take classes for several weeks and go through a lot more stuff before we could even get on a waiting list.

What helped us a lot, was the network of other parents we knew (mostly but not exclusively, from the Help’s church) who also went through the same agency. It was great when trying to figure out what to do, there was someone I could email or call. These include families who engage in fostering, foster to adopt, and respite care, separate from the infant adoption.

There are three parts of the adoption triangle, the birth families, the adopting families, and the adoptee. I can only speak about my part. Because of the agency’s national scope and functions other than domestic infant adoption they’ve attracted some vitriol, and it’s hard not to take some of those nasty comments personally.

Condo, Condo, Cahn-do

Tell me what they will build there?
Tell me
Condo, Condo, Con-do!
Things cropping up everywhere,
Open house just tell me when.
-to the tune of Quando, Quando, Quando

Gray Condo on NJ Ave NW
So I have a bias against condos. Just for myself, not other people. If you have stayed in the same 1 mile or 1/2 mile area for 10 years, and are renting, you might want to consider buying a condo…. unless you can afford an actual house, where you own the bricks or board and the dirt beneath.

Unfortunately, condos are the most “affordable” things that are livable around here. Probably not these condos, considering Compass is involved. The Chapman Stables have some studio and 1 bedroom units in the $300K range. Yes, not including the condo fee, you’re paying a little over $2K, provided you put down a decent down payment for 1 room. No parking space. I think Chapman has 1 studio left for $333K. Should the owner of this fine unit ever decide to rent out their unit, because they fell in love, added another human to their life and needed more space, they would probably need to charge nearly $3K a month to break even (condo fee, property management, business license, etc).

I’m not too distressed by the idea that large houses are being broken up into smaller condos. Many of the Truxton houses, the Wardman Flats, and the Bates Street houses were created as 2 unit flats. The value went down and some of them were turned into 1 unit homes. Now developers are turning them back into 2 unit properties. What goes up can go down. This neighborhood pretty much ignored the 2008 housing crash, but I can imagine something that would make those new 1 million dollar condos and houses near worthless. Not anytime soon, and hopefully, not in my lifetime, but a lot can happen in 100 or 50 years.

The Problem is People- Renters and Airbnb

RooftopsI like Airbnb. We’ve used the service to temporarily relocate when our house was being renovated. My spouse used it to be as close to his mother’s elderly boarding house when visiting her in California. We’ve stayed in people’s second bedrooms in NYC. We’ve also hosted Airbnb guests in the room that now belongs to Destruct-O-baby and I’m allowing a tenant for a one bedroom house in Baltimore to be an Airbnb host. So, I’ve had good experiences because it has allowed us to see how other people live. And when the situation requires it, we stay in a hotel.

I’m still feeling frustrated after last night’s BACA meeting where the staff member from Councilman McDuffie’s office touched upon it. The complaints of noise and trash regarding bad Airbnb guests reminded me of the complaints residents made about Section 8 (or suspected Section 8) renters. The problem isn’t length of stay, it’s the people.

When I first moved into the TC neighborhood, Section 8 was shorthand for bad neighbors. Section 8, which goes by different names depending on location, is subsidized housing. In THEORY, renters would be on their best behavior because they could lose their subsidy if they had drug dealing in the home, or were a nuisance. Yeah, that didn’t work. For one you couldn’t find out if a house was a Section 8 house because of privacy. With noise, everyone who has ever called the cops on their neighbors about a blasting stereo or thumping noise, knows how that plays out. Now there were other houses I suspected of being Section 8 where the occupants were quiet and clean. So the problem wasn’t the Section 8 program so much as it was the people in the Section 8 houses and the poor enforcement.

Later the economics of things made it so there were more owners, so the subsidized renters became limited to the co-ops and other apartment buildings. Then those owners moved and rented out their homes to young adults who were oblivious to certain ways of doing things, like trash day, and how to get bulk pick up. These mishaps are not just for renters, sometimes owners and other people who are hard to categorize will leave trash, make noise, and be irresponsible.

There are other problems with the proposed Airbnb legislation before the city council. The concerns about noise and trash remind me of the complaints about Section 8 renters about 15+ years ago. The good thing about Airbnb renters, at least they go away and you’re not stuck with bad neighbors for years on end.

Lincoln Congregational Temple Closes- Don’t blame gentrification

Churches close.

typesof1957churchesThere are dozens of churches that existed in general Shaw area in the 1950s that are no longer around. Some church congregations moved, some churches are closed by their denomination, there are a variety of reasons. The Lincoln Memorial Congregational Temple at 11th and R St NW, 2-3 blocks from the Shaw metro R Street exit had its last service this weekend.

The Washington Post made mention of gentrification in its article about the church’s last days. There isn’t a direct blaming of gentrification, but there is a lot of hinting. The church attempted to reach out to neighbors, added some programing but couldn’t get the membership numbers up after the Rev. Benjamin E. Lewis retired. Yes, parking pressures didn’t help. But looking back at the 1957 Church Survey (PDF), Lincoln UCC church members mostly lived outside of the Shaw neighborhood.

1957ChurchMapThe Church Survey from October 1957 looked at steeple, storefront and residential houses of worship from a block over from U St, Florida Ave, 14th St NW, Mass Ave and 2nd St NE. Lincoln UCC was one and in 1957, 74% of parishioners lived outside of the map in Brookland and Kenilworth. Those 25%  who did live in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area were reported to be elderly members, who should be more than dead right now. Don’t blame the demographic changes on the church’s decline.

When doing neighborhood history, I encounter many quaint fictions. Most of them are harmless. There is the belief that residents are home owners. And there’s the idea that church congregants lived in walking distance. Some do, many don’t.  Bible Way Church, which stopped the I-395 from destroying Shaw and going all the way through, only had 30% of its members in the Urban Renewal area. Mt. Sinai who will host tonight’s BACA meeting, had 96% of its members scattered elsewhere in the city. The upper and middle class Blacks who supported and were a part of these churches did not all live in the slum that was Shaw.

Slugg- A book Truxton Circle should read

I was only halfway through the book when I thought, everyone in Truxton Circle, at least those in the Hanover Area, should read. It’s a book those who are buying the Chapman Stables Condos should consider reading, so they can appreciate (maybe) what was there before.

I didn’t suggest Slugg: A boy’s life in the age of incarceration by Truxton resident Tony Lewis Jr. because the last book our book group made was not in audio or e-book format. So I wasn’t at the last gathering, but whoever from our Truxton Circle reading group made a good choice.

It gives a history of the unit block of Hanover Street NW in the southern region of Truxton Circle in the 1980s and 1990s. The whole neighborhood has transformed since those decades and the Hanover area is still transforming. If you think the area is rough, because of S.O.M.E. and other things over there, Mr. Lewis tells his story of the violence witnessed and maybe some of the ‘why’ that violence was there.

It is a very easy read. I read the first chapter quickly and saved the rest of the book for a time when I could sit. I have an energetic 1 year old. I finished the rest of the book in one day and there are a lot of points I’d like to explore more in other blog posts.

Black Home Owners of 1940: Heywood/ Thomas- Updated & Corrected

UPDATE #2- Okay the Haywood/ Heywood confusion was on me and my note taking. So it was Heywood as in Hey! Wood. She also sold the property in 1972 not 1975 as reported earlier. The other confusion is I noticed the date of her husband and it is reflected in the amended post.

I was working on a longer post when I came to a hiccup. People. People are complicated.

So I have a person in the 1940 census named Spencer Heywood, a black man born in Georgia possibly in 1890. He’s a barber. He owns his own shop according to what his wife Ethel Heywood reported to the census. Problem is, I can’t find Spencer Heywood outside of the 1940 DC census. The other problem is the Sanborn map says his house 1649 3rd Street NW does not exist, city directories says it does. If it did exist, it doesn’t exist anymore because there is a Northwest Co-op on that spot.

Sometime the indexing is crazy, maybe his name was misspelled in this or another census. I checked the 1940 census and that area was covered by someone who wrote in clear block letters. Then I checked the property records using that his name. Nada for that time period.

I moved on to the wife, maybe if I can find her, I might be able to locate him. Oh, I found her, but I did not find Spencer anywhere. Ethel appears in the land records for Square 551 (where Mt. Sinai, Florida Park and the Co-op sit) with two names between 1924 and 1972. Ethel Louise Heywood exists in the records between 1950 and 1972, Ethel Louise Thomas is named as the owner of lot H, later lot 0909, between 1924 and 1950. The April 1950 deed links Ethel Heywood and Thomas together naming her as the widow of Sanders Frank Thomas. Another deed from 1944 also calls her the widow of Sanders Thomas. She’s the main owner, but Mr. Thomas is only mentioned again in 1933 and 1937. The earliest record makes no mention of a husband, she acts as a singular entity regarding the business of the property.

So who the hell is Spencer? Could Sanders be Spencer?

In the 1930 census at 1649 3rd St NW, 30 year old nurse Ethel Thomas of Arkansas is living with her husband Sanders Thomas, a 41 year old waiter and DC native, with a lodger Ruth Sweeney, a 40 year old laundress. In 1940 the two residents of 1649 3rd St NW are Ethel Heywood of Arkansas, a maid for the federal government and her husband and head of household, Spencer Thomas Heywood, the barber from Georgia.

According to the 1972 paperwork, Sanders Thomas died in 1934, before the 1940 census, and Ethel did not remarry.

1972 Deed transferring Sq 551 lot 0909 to RLA

I don’t think Spencer and Sanders are the same guy. Okay, who the Hell is Spencer?

My spouse has a crazy theory. He thinks Ethel was upset, leaving Sanders she walked over to a dance club and ran into Spencer Heywood. They hatched a plan to bump off Sanders. Initially, he supposed she went to the Baker’s Dozen on 4th Street to dance her cares away, until I pointed out it didn’t open until 1944, after the 1940 census, and after Thomas’ death. Finally that damned plaque is good for something.

 

UPDATE- So it’s Heywood in the Census but Haywood in the record.

Black Home Owners of 1940: College Educated Women part 2

Please see Part 1 to read about 2 of the 5 women listed as college educated homeowners in Truxton Circle.

So in this post I’m going to try to find the story behind the remaining women; Miss. Eliza Matthews (60) of 1239 New Jersey Ave NW; Mrs. Blanch Lewis (60) of 1225 New Jersey Ave NW; and Mrs. Lucille Powell (46) of 69 Hanover Place NW.

Ms. Matthews bought 1239 NJ Ave NW in 1922 for what appears to be $9,000. I’ll have to admit, I’m not 100% sure about the various documents I’m looking at, but it looks as if this single black woman was able to get a loan to buy this house at 7% APR. And I can’t tell if she refinanced or got a second mortgage in 1932 from the Washington Loan and Trust Company (Riggs Bank?) for $4,000. In the Census record her name appears to be Elira Matthews, who at the time was living with her ‘sister’, also aged 60, Josephine Butts. Sometime around 1948 Ms. Matthews died and in a will Josephine E. Saunders (nee Thomas) became the owner of the property. Is this Josephine a different Josephine? Curious.

 

Blanch Lewis, or Blanche I. Lewis was listed as the owner in the 1940 Census, but when looking at other records it doesn’t look as if she really owned the place. In 1937 Edward Wellington Lewis buys 1225 NJ Ave NW from Czech or Serbian couple Ivan and Dorothy Mikalaski. Looking back at other earlier census records for a Blanche Lewis, I found her living in 1910 with her father Edward W. Lewis Sr. and sister Harriet. In 1940 she is still with her 55 year old sister Harriet who was working as a teacher. I’m guessing the Edward W. Lewis who really owned 1225 was a brother, as her father would have been extraordinarily old by 1937. To purchase the property, the loan Edward takes out with the Washington Loan and Trust Company is for $2,500. By 1954 EW Lewis is dead. His siblings William and Harriet E. Lewis are his only surviving relatives mentioned in the land records. It is possible Blanche was a widow and either married another Lewis or changed her surname back, but I think the Lewis sisters were probably spinsters.

Lastly, Mrs. Lucille Powell. I couldn’t find 69 Hanover on a map. I looked at the census page again. The last name isn’t clear, and page seems to be a mix of streets. The last two pages of this enumeration district appears to be a hodgepodge of different addresses. I decided to search for her by name, not location and found a record of a Lucille B. Powell, widow of James C. Powell on Square 617, lot 141 (71 N St NW) from 1944. Looking in a city directory for 1939, a Lucille Powell lived at 69 N Street NW.  Samuel M Powell lived at 71 N Street. Close enough. Regarding the property records, let’s just say it becomes confusing because it appears someone wanted to leave their property to 4+ family members and it just looks like a nightmare to figure out. Those family members include Mary B. Rhambeau (nee Powell), Gladys Powell Reid, Samuel M. Powell, Clara Willis (nee Reid), Miriam Reid Felder, and Lillian B. Branch. I quit. If I wanted to look up the history of a complicated family, I’d do my own.