So when I heard that the former First Lady Barbara Bush had died a couple of days ago, I thought. I have some photos of her, in Shaw.
I have a big stack of photos my aunt took in either 1991 or 1992 (I’ve been too lazy to bother to get the dates) of a funeral. The deceased then was Rev. Henry C. Gregory III, who I gather was the pastor for Shiloh Baptist Church at 9th and P Streets in Shaw. Rev. Gregory was apparently important enough to get the then President, the Mayor, and some other important looking people I cannot identify to come to his funeral. It doesn’t help that the photographer didn’t care to go through the photos to identify people. So below are the pictures. If you can tell me who is in them, beyond the dead guy and the Bushes, that would be helpful.
So when I was doing the Truxton Circle neighborhood history and using the census to track every resident (see TruxtonCircle.org ) I noticed almost every Chinese person, usually guys, who identified as Chinese (so not that one Chinese guy who was white) were listed as being in the laundry business. Almost everyone. I am hoping Chinese residents in the 1950 census do something else besides cleaning clothes.
Anyway. So it was no big surprise to find a Chinese launderer who was a victim of the 1968 riots. Shaw Foo Chin was the owner of Bill’s Laundry and Dry Cleaning at 1718 14th Street NW in Logan Circle or U Street and experienced damage and theft on April 5th and 6th. It was a small business employing just himself and his wife. He owned the building as well.
He experienced extensive damage and theft. He lost a sign, had broken glasss and people stole his customers clothes. About half of his business came from the immediate neighborhood, so it may be a fair guess that rioters were not only taking from Mr. Chin, they were also taking from their neighbors.
Mr. Chin seems fairly resilient, like the past few businessmen I’ve reviewed here. His insurance didn’t change, his business was still open in June, and he wrote: It is not much damage to my property, so I plan to repair it as much as I can. He did however request financial assistance.
So mommy (me) decided she wanted some vermouth and pintxos and so we (me and the baby) sat out on the patio of ANXO. While I was there I noticed the owner of the commercial property across the street and another man talking in front. The other man had a clipboard. It’s probably nothing.
I did see a mention a while back on PoPville about this, but we’ve been on this ride before and it goes nowhere. Many, many years back, way before ANXO, two ladies wanted to turn the building into a wine bar. However, according to them, the landlord was difficult. It has been vacant for years, but well kept.
I also noticed a kitty in the upstairs window. Kitty in the window means the upstairs is occupied. At least occupied by a black and white kitty cat, so I need to take it off my vacant list on my other blog.
Really, probably nothing will change. If it does, I’ll be pleasantly (hopefully) surprised.
My ire burns and seethes every time I see a car with Maryland tags drop off a kid in front of a DC charter school. If Maryland parents like DC charters so damned much they should fight for tons of them in Maryland. It’s not just schools, it’s other services that DC taxpayers support and Maryland citizens, who have the privilege of a vote in both houses of Congress, something DC voters lack. It does not help that many DC government workers live in the suburbs, it may have them forgetting about boundaries. In some cases, boundaries don’t or can’t matter, like foster care* and libraries**. I’m not against co-operation between the Districts and the burbs, but like WMATA, the costs need to be shared.
Or/and suburban areas need to step up. Where they can’t do it themselves, they need to partner with the District or other suburban where it makes sense. But Maryland or Virginia residents using DC agencies as if they were DC residents is wrong. The suburbs have something to offer DC, there are welding classes out there, but not here. We can all help each other out, but each government needs to be accountable to and responsible for their own citizens.
*There are many DC kids with Maryland foster families.
**Some systems allow for people who work in the area to apply for cards and privileges.
The building that is 1618 7th St NW is so nondescript it just blends into the non-cool side of the 1600 block of 7th. Now the cool end is where the Dacha beer garden sits. 1618 has a rolltop gate that I’ve never seen unrolled. It seems shuttered or not open to me.
Anyway, Carl R. Webb was the manager and owner of Personality Studio and Gift Shop at 1618 7th Street NW, near the corner of 7th and Rhode Island Avenue. Mr. Webb was a Black man over the age of 50 who owned the building and the business that had been there prior to the 1940s. He ran it with a family member, possibly his wife.
Despite experiencing extensive glass breakage and theft of merchandise over two days, Mr. Webb seems pretty positive about going forward. He didn’t seem to lose insurance, some like other owners. He did ponder changing the name and enlarging the store. He claimed he could enlarge it because he has “the know how.” I don’t know if he ever did, I’d have to look that up in the 1970 directory. Considering his age, I’m a tiny bit doubtful, but I do applaud his attitude regarding the whole thing.
So there isn’t anything at 703 R St NW now. You plug it into Google maps and you get the intersection of R and 7th Streets NW. I’m guessing that 703 is over where the CaBi bikeshare sits. Before that it was a parking lot.
Apparently, Ellis Transfer, a moving company owned by Henry Ellis was the business at 703 R St NW prior to the riots. Mr. Ellis was a local African American man who lived around the corner on the 1600 block of 6th St NW. His post-riot conclusion could be summed up as ‘not that bad’.
Well what he actually wrote was: “Business as I have done pretty good here, but business is slow now and I have had to go to work elsewhere, my wife is keeping things going here.” Including himself and his wife he went from 8 employees to six due to business slowing down. The damage he experienced was extensive glass breakage and some minor fire damage on the roof. Unlike say a retail store, a moving business isn’t that dependent on foot traffic, so I won’t say the riot had a major impact on his business. But the building isn’t there, so something happened between 1968 and whenever the Shaw metro station got put in.
Mr. Ellis had no plans of shutting down his business or relocating. Was he a victim of the riots? Yes, as broken glass and a slightly damaged roof is unpleasant. But he was resilient and his business was the kind that could weather that kind of storm.
It has been 50 years since the riots that destroyed several DC commercial corridors. And it has taken about 50 years for life and vibrancy to return to those corridors. However at the time, several of those places were already in a downward spiral. The heyday had passed. When the community is strong and disaster strikes, you rebuild. When it is weak, you leave.
Jessie McCain had a barbershop at 643 P St NW. During the riots it was completely destroyed. So what is there now? A parking lot. Next to it is a vacant lot, where Clark Construction has a couple of mobile office trailers that have been there for years. So in 50 years the only improvement has been clearing off the rubble.
Just after the riots officials sent out surveys to business owners to figure out the level of damage. The image above is from the survey Mr. McCain returned in September 1968. He was a 50 year old African American, and back in the 60s, 50 was old. Fifty year olds are a whole lot healthier and active these days, but back then they were well over the hill, probably not going to see 65. The destruction the riot brought Mr. McCain was the final straw. He wrote: “I am too old to be worryed [sic] any more. I just don’t want any more business.”
There were plenty more victims in Shaw for whom the riots were the final straw, and I’ll introduce you to them in the month of April.
Though I moved to Shaw in 2000, I have some memories of the neighborhood prior to that because my aunts attend Shiloh Baptist at 9th and P. As a teen and a twenty-something visiting from Florida, I would get dragged to the neighborhood.
The scars from the ’68 riots were unavoidable and looming 20 and 30 years after the fires. The boarded up vacant buildings that outnumbered the occupied spaces was the character of 7th and 9th Street. Depressing, sketchy and dirty were other characteristics of the area before it shifted into full gentrification mode. It has taken 50 years to heal, mostly. There are still vacant buildings and nothingness at the corner of 7th & Q, the Shiloh side of 9th St, and other spots, so not completely.
Ray Milefsky (RIP) before he passed was working on tracing what was damaged on the block where he lived during the riots. I found this and shared it with him.
From what I can tell 0 meant no damage and 3 meant severe damage. Anyway, Ray had a theory that the riots were like a kristallnacht, since a number of white businesses damaged were Jewish owned. So the Jews in Shaw were removed.
Recent events with the Ward 8 councilman making an off hand remark about Jews controlling the weather, is a fair reminder that the African-American/Jewish relationship hasn’t been perfect. There were complaints about these white owned businesses and post riot reports of damaged properties revealed that the business owners weren’t too keen on the neighborhood either. For many the riot was the last straw and for others not being able to get or renew their insurance prevented them from coming back.
The riot transformed the neighborhood. Spots that once held stores or commercial properties later became apartments. There were other transformations, but I’m unsure to whom or what to give credit. The city and urban planners scaled back their grand plans to bulldoze the neighborhood, but earlier efforts by local leaders probably should receive credit for that, but the riot added something to that dynamic. It also weakened the neighborhood leaving it ripe for the redevelopment/ gentrification that came 30 years later after the neighborhood failed to rebuild and recover.
I’m cross posting this with DC Vacant Properties.
There is no point to using an updated photograph of the Langston School. It was rotting away 10 years ago when the picture was taken in 2007, it is still rotting away now and the way things are going, it may be another 10 years before the city actually brings this property back to the land of the living and legit.
This property is a vacant school in the DC government inventory. It was a school from 1902 til the mid-1990s. In 1997 it was a homeless shelter. By the time I moved here in the 00s, it was a vacant husk and only a homeless shelter when the homeless and others broke in. In 2013 it got on the National Register for Historic Places, so there is that. Around 2012 Langston was offered to charters, who have 1st dibs, and nobody wanted it. No charter wants it because it is an unmaintained structure with a rotted roof that is in need of a serious rehab work. Even Mundo Verde Charter School, across the street, which took over the still functioning Cook School building and built an addition, hasn’t seriously pursued it. Langston is too far gone as a building to be of any use to a school.
Another complication is in the Slater School, another building that shares a playground with Langston. It is A.R.E. ARE is a social service organization and a daycare and it looks like they are also getting in on the Pre-K thing too. Slater is a poorly maintained building, but the tenant ARE holds on tight to its location. I strongly suspect ARE has powerful friends that are protecting ARE to the detriment of the Langston building. I suspect this because for at least a decade now, when residents bring up the nuisance property that is Langston to city councilmen or the council staff or city staff who show up to the local meetings, they seem to have no idea it exists and fail to get back to residents with a satisfactory answer.
The civic association for the area BACA, has recently formed a committee to try to figure out what could be done with Langston.
This is DC Government property. It is the Government of the District of Columbia’s responsibility. Any demolition by neglect would be purely the fault of the local government. The DC government has failed the residents of the unit blocks of P and Bates. But then again, the DC government is a crappy property manager.
So my ANC Bradley A. Thomas is running for Kenyon McDuffie’s Ward 5 seat. I have mixed feelings, mainly because I don’t want to lose a good ANC. But if you don’t know anything about Bradley Thomas, here are three things that I think makes him a great guy.
1. He’s competent. That might not seem like a great thing, but when you’ve had or observed ANCs who weren’t, especially when you were trying to work on something that required a semi-functional ANC, it is a big deal. This is why I don’t want to lose him to the rest of the ward. At the last BACA meeting I did ask him what was meant by ‘affordable housing’ and he knew the government definition along with a general idea of what incomes fell into the target categories.
2. He’s honest or he doesn’t sell you B.S.- Yes, he will tell really bad dad jokes, but I noticed he won’t always tell you what you want to hear but what you need to hear in order to achieve the best possible goal. A great example of this was with the store at 3rd and P that wanted a liquor license and the neighbors up in arms against it. The store operators had a advisor/attorney so familiar with the ABRA license process, that a license was almost a given. The neighbors, included a faction that believed their mere opposition was enough to deny a license. Bradley, could have told those neighbors what they wanted to hear but he didn’t. He reminded resident’s how the system worked and aimed for the best case scenario given what residents (who weren’t going to hire their own lawyer & Bradley is a lawyer) were up against.
3. He has worked to make the neighborhood better for all residents. Really early on he was one of many people who helped make the reconstruction of the Florida Avenue Park reality. Before it was a park for homeless and drug dealers, not for children, regardless of the playground equipment. Now old-timers hold court in one section, basketball players are on the courts, parents and their children get the playground area, and the residents of the co-op don’t have to live with a criminal element under their windows. He has kept an eye out for opportunities, where the neighborhood could take advantage.
I probably should mention, Bradley nor anyone from his campaign didn’t pay me to write this. I’m just home with the flu and figured I should post something.