This is going to be a quick one, and I don’t have a picture.
First Rising Mt. Zion, just looking at the 1957 survey answers appears to have been a more working-class Black church, where many of the members lived in the urban renewal area. With the previous surveys for other Black churches in Shaw, I was seeing a more middle-class group and began forming a theory behind it, and then this shows up in the rotation and blows that theory to heck.
Well, this survey and the church’s own history. The 1957 survey has Rev. Ernest Gibson as the head pastor, and when we drop down to his tenure as the shepherd of the flock their history has this to say.
Rev. Ernest R. Gibson, Sr. was called as the second pastor of First Rising on January 14, 1952 and began his tenure of service on February 3, 1952. He came to First Rising with his wife, Mrs. Etta C. Gibson, and three children, Ernest, Jr., Delores and Mark. During Rev. Gibson’s tenure, payments on the property at 1215 8th Street, NW were completed in 1952. In December 1954, the red brick church on the corner of 6th and N Streets, NW was purchased; the second trust of the church was paid off on October 22, 1966, and the mortgage burning ceremony was held on Sunday, May 21, 1967.
So in 1957, they were kinda new to the block. Their previous location of 1215 8th Street NW is currently somewhere inside the Convention Center. They moved around a little bit since their founding in 1939.
Okay, back to the demographics of the church. It was an African American church with a large unskilled manual labor workforce membership (62%). The professionals (5%) and white collar (15%) parishioners were a smaller percentage. Considering the economics of the neighborhood in 1957, it would make sense that the church would draw its working class membership from the surrounding area.
So there was that story about the Go-Go music being blasted at 7th and Florida. And more stories about Go-Go and the changing neighborhood, as if neighborhoods don’t change. Neighborhoods, cities, cultures change. There used to be jazz in Shaw. Good jazz, as in the kind you can dance to. But that kind of jazz is not something you’ll find listed at the Howard Theater, the only reason to go to the Dunbar Theater is to bank with Wells Fargo, and Bohemian Caverns is dark.
The jazz I like is gone and it probably won’t come back to Shaw.
I can’t blame gentrification. I can’t even blame the riots. What is to blame is what comes to all forms of popular and even niche genres, tastes and audiences change. What has befallen the jazz I like (I’m ignoring that other stuff that calls itself jazz) could easily fall upon Go-Go. The audience that grew up with it gets older, younger audiences are more into something else. The artists change, they may want to pursue or try new things. The market changes, as people stop buying CDs and CD players and Spotify/Pandora-rify their music. Also, I’ve been told Go-Go is best experienced live. For me, the artists changed and started creating undancable, unsingable jazz that decoupled itself from popular music, and younger audiences were getting into Rock-n-Roll.
So, for now, there is a phone store that sells Go-Go CDs on the side and blasts Go-Go music outside. Considering record stores do more closing than opening, I’m going to guess the money is in being a phone store. It’s unreasonable to expect the neighborhood to support one genre of music. If the neighborhood’s history of musical support is anything to go by, the best one can hope for is having a few buildings, maybe a street named after artists, and half-aszed attempts by city bureaucrats at music appreciation. Businesses are going to do what they need to do to stay in business. Customers are going to buy what they want to buy, in the format they want to purchase. And all of that will bring the end of Go-Go, not a neighbor who wants the music turned down.
Okay, let’s get back to the boring church surveys….well they can be exciting when you take them in as a whole looking at the changes of the neighborhood. They also chip away at an idea that some churches have been here since the dawn of time. Just as there is this myth that certain people have been in the neighborhood since a vague forever. People move around. We are aware of it, but sometimes we don’t apply this knowledge. Churches, they also move around, let’s take the church at 44 Q Street NW in Truxton Circle.
According to the survey, this was previously the chapel for St. Agnes, a Roman Catholic church I believe. I think there was a graveyard where Eckington is, that was associated with St. Agnes. At some point in time, maybe 1949, the Catholics moved on and the Baptists moved in.
Corinthian Baptist Church is a church constantly on the move. According to the survey they were founded in 1919 at 4th and New York Ave. From 1920-23 they moved south to 4th and K. Then in 1923 they moved north to 4th and Q, possibly where the Fourth Street Seventh Day Adventists sit, but I’d have to research that further. Then in 1932, they moved a block over to where Mt. Sinai sits at 1615 3rd St NW. I gather they moved to 44 Q St NW in 1949. When the survey was done, they were already thinking about moving to 5th and I St NW, and they did. I found a Facebook page with some great 80s photos of church members at the 502 I Street NW location in Chinatown. Currently, the Chinese Community Church is in that location. As of April 14, 2019, Corinthian Baptist Church (the same one I think, not 100% sure) is in Lanham, MD. I don’t know when Ebenezer Baptist replaced the itchy-footed Corinthian Baptists, but that is the church that currently sits on that spot.
For the time Corinthian Baptist was in Truxton Circle, it drew a number of congregants from the community. They estimated about 33.5% of their members lived in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area (parts later to become the Shaw School Urban Renewal Area), and 66% lived in other parts of the city. I will dare to say this was a middle class, white collar African-American church, as they claimed a large percentage (no numbers given) were government workers. Also, 4-5% of the roughly 800 members were professionals.
Okay, I need to regularly post this topic. Because DC is a city that attracts people from elsewhere, the nuances of the city’s history get lost over time with each new fresh face.
There is a piece in the Washington Post, a “Where we live” real estate article about Truxton Circle. There is a line that refers to other neighborhoods, Bloomingdale and Shaw. I’m only going to nit pix here and state, once again, Truxton Circle is in Shaw. I thought I mentioned it to the writer to reached out to me for contacts, when I warned her about the group of residents who hate the name ‘Truxton Circle’.
Look at this map above. Let’s point out a few of the neighbhorhoods covered by this circa 1968 map of the Shaw School Urban Renewal Area. U Street
Let’s start in the north with the top of the map where we have the area currently known as U Street. Formally this was the city’s Black Broadway. What are the boundaries? Beats me. Let’s say U St and Florida Ave NW.
Truxton Circle (most)
Coming over the east in a clockwise direction, we have the NW section of Truxton Circle. There is a NE section that I ignore most of the time. That north east section is not part of the original Shaw neighborhood.
Mt. Vernon Square (part)
Funny thing, there are parts of Mt. Vernon Square, or at least the Mt. Vernon Square Historic District (map, PDF) in Truxton Circle. And there are parts of Mt. Vernon Sq. outside of Shaw. This is in the southeastern part of Shaw and bordering Shaw. There is an overlapping. Don’t freak out, it’s okay.
Now this is the section that these days gets touted as the current boundaries of Shaw, although I don’t know who redrew them. Mid-city contains within it, the small historic districts of Blagden Alley and Naylor Court. It also has the most awesome restaurants.
Finishing our loop around Shaw is Logan Circle to the west. According to the Logan Circle Community Association the boundaries are: “S Street to the north, K Street to the south, 9th Street to the east, and 16th Street to the west.”
Back in the aughts, I was looking for an Episcopal Church (St. A &A) but I had the address all wrong. I knew it was somewhere near or along Massachusetts Avenue but I was lost. I was running out of time, and so I saw Luther Place and thought ‘Episcopal/ Lutheran…. close enough’, and joined them for service.
Looking at the 1957 Church Survey for Luther Place, the congregational makeup is fairly similar to the small crowd of people I encountered when I wandered in sometime between 2000-08, mostly white. It was a very small group and it was so long ago. The 1957 crowd mostly (67%) lived in other parts of the city and good quarter living in the ‘burbs. I’m sensing a trend of 1957 Shaw churches being commuter churches.
I went to St. Luke’s once or twice when I was church shopping. Although it doesn’t say so on the 1957 Church Survey for the Northwest Urban Renewal area, the ethnic makeup was primarily African American. Maybe it was a little more mixed in 1957, but circa 2001-2002, for the visit(s) I made, it was an African American congregation.
Regarding the number of parishioners who lived in the urban renewal area, the survey says that a number used to live in the area but in a period of 10-15 years many began moving out. Actually, they don’t give any numbers. How many people lived in the urban renewal area….. “a few.” How many in the rest of DC? A “large majority.” How many out in the burbs? Well, there we get something numerical, “few (8 families).” They had parking for 44 cars, so let’s call it a commuter church.
Let’s also call it a retiree church. Though professionals (17%) and white collar workers (29%) had significant numbers, I couldn’t help but notice the 22% of the congregants being retirees. So far it doesn’t look like the other churches I’ve featured had so many retirees.
So back in 1957 Mt. Sinai was a “storefront” church, so its listing was in the rear of the survey. Now it isn’t a storefront, especially when one thinks of a commercial property. Now it, or the newest part, looks obviously like a church. A church that believes in stairs. I have no idea when the older section was built, which also has a classic church look. Maybe the survey was mistaken.
So Mt. Sinai Baptist at 1615 3rd Street NW was a commuter church. It still is a commuter church. Almost all of the congregants, 96% to be exact, lived outside of the Northwest Urban Renewal Area. Despite being a commuter church, it has been an asset to the Truxton Circle community. It is the location where the Bates Area Civic Association meets as well as the location of other community meetings. The church has been very open to working with community members.
The congregation’s workforce make-up was a mix, 40% white collar and 55% unskilled manual.
I should write more, but I’m getting sleepy, so I’m going to bed.
Most days brick sidewalks around here are trip hazards.
In Winter they are a pain to shovel.
In Spring, like today, they present a minefield of puddles to be avoided in the rain. By the time I made it home, my socks were wet. I tried to walk around or jump over the mini-lakes between the 7-11 on Rhode Island and BKK on New Jersey Avenue, but it was no use as the wet crept up and got me. I should have just walked in the bike lanes.
I am thankful that the neighbors of today are not clamoring for brick sidewalks like they did in the aughts. “They look more historic,” I remember being told by one long time resident who liked the look of brick sidewalks. If I’ve remembered exactly who this neighbor was, she didn’t shovel her walk, so she was not experienced with one of the challenges of brick sidewalks. Besides these were the days when no one really took the rules about shoveling snow off the sidewalks seriously.
Thankfully, there are plenty of messed up sidewalks around Shaw to disabuse people of romantic notions of brick sidewalks. After a while a new brick sidewalk’s edges get looser and then all the bricks loosen. The ground shifts and then the walk is uneven with dips and bumps. On the plus side, they become deadly for e-scooter riders.
Yesterday during my commute home an old guy was panhandling on the train. He asked for change, I said I didn’t have any. I had my headphones in and was listening to a podcast, so I didn’t clearly hear whatever it was he first mumbled. But as people began filing out he said quite clearly, “I’m gonna spit in your face.” Thankfully, he didn’t and he got off the train at Gallery Place. Today it was a gang of teenagers on a crowded train during rush hour. I’ll say about 10 or so African American teens got on at Gallery Place loudly packing into one end of the train. One of them decided to throw ice, someone complained, and then they decided to push through to the other end of the train. They insulted an African American senior citizen as they pushed through. Once on the other end, they caused some commotion that at few in their party decided to film. The commotion was enough to get a few commuters, including myself, to flee the train when it pulled into Mt. Vernon Square. I reported the incident to @WMATA and MyMTPD and got back the same sort of answer I normally get when I report things.
Well, maybe I should walk or get back to biking to work instead? But the problem hasn’t been my commute in. My commute in is more positive/neutral than negative. My commute back is mostly okay but then I have 15 minutes of unpleasantness that pops up from time to time. In the afternoon I’m more likely to encounter rowdy school-kids, drunks, panhandlers, crazy people, trash, and bad smells. My work pays for my commute but sometimes free doesn’t seem worth it.
Afternoons like this make me reconsider getting a bike and cutting back on metro. I know ridership is down for various reasons, reasons being people have other options to using public transit. There are days when I could telework, but I’m not as productive at home. I could also try doing 10 hour flex-time days to limit how many times I have to come in. I’m too cheap to use Uber-pool on a regular basis. I’m still a fair weather biker, and becoming more hard-core would help me lose weight.
Anyway, there are people who are undermining public transit by adding misery to it. If the people who add to WMATA’s bottom line stop using the system, and decide to stay home, carpool, Uber, bike, walk, or drive their own personal vehicle, it’s going to take longer to get back to good.
Let’s take a break from the church histories and look towards the future and present. When I last pondered people voting with their feet it was in regards to DC parents.
I hope the politicians and the city government, in general, does not take its citizens for granted. It’s hard to put my finger on one thing, but I can’t shake this feeling that the city is taking its tax base for granted, like we don’t have the option of moving a couple of miles across the border to Maryland or Virginia. Yes, there are citizens who are stuck, I’m not talking about them. I speak of the professionals, the comfortably retired, the people with options.
When my spouse and I moved to the DC area in the mid 90s*, DC was just freaking depressing. The Downtown was dead after 5pm. It was kind of dead on the weekends too. These were also the days of the Control Board. The city was dealing with a crazy murder rate craptastic schools, the crack epidemic, and a lousy bond rating. These were the bad old days of bad city services when no one would bother answering the phone. The bad old days can return if we aren’t careful and that’s my concern. Maybe housing advocates will get their wish and DC will become affordable because of a slow exodus of the middle class.
Right now, compared to the 90s, DC is awesome. Let’s not take the awesome for granted because it can be less awesome in the future. There are some things DC has that the surrounding counties don’t. But there isn’t that much, except their own stubborn citizenry, that can keep those counties from doing some of the same great things DC government is doing and luring our neighbors away.