Slum Housing No Mo', maybe

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roofprob2
Loose roofing material
on red house

Just for fun in ProQuest I looked up three words for the Historical Washington Post, "Shaw" "Rat" and "Baby". I remembered there was an article about our historic neighborhood where a rat bit a baby's face. But that might have been pre-urban renewal and I should have used the terms "2d Precinct" or "second precinct" for the baby biting rat.
From "Shaw: The City's Worst Slum"* Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973), March 24, 1968, p A25.:

Ceilings sag ominously. Loose wall plaster is held up only by brittle wallpaper. Where the wallpaper has given way, powdery plaster falls intermittently from holes in walls and ceilings.
Rats climb up through holes in the floors. Water drips from rusted pipes and leaks in the roofs. Some basements are filled with months-old stagnant water.

Later a woman says her daughter had been bitten by rats several times. The rest of the article is paints a dreary landscape of litter and dirt patched yards, poorly maintained buildings regardless if they are occupied or not. I found a toddler eating rat in "No. 2 Leads City in: Washington's Wickedest, The Second Precinct... Vice and Violence Outlined on an Aerial View of the Entire City," by S.L. Fishbein, Washington Post (1923-1954), March 14, 1954, p. M10:


The family tried to combat the rats by wedging pop bottles in the corner rat holes but the rats kept checking new holes around the bottles. Flat irons on the holes in the middle of the floor were more effective. One recent Saturday night, a rat bit one of the 19-month old children on both feet while she was asleep upstairs. Since then the landlord has had the rat holes covered with sheet metal.


These were the bad old days when Shaw was affordable. In "Slum Landlords Buy up Shaw Houses: Slum Landlords Quietly Buying Up Shaw Area Properties" by Leonard Downie, Jr. Washington Post, Times Herald, Mar 24, 1968 p. A1, the reporter noted that 3 of every 4 houses in Shaw were owned by absentee landlords. The article names names, one being a familiar last name of a family who in the present day has contributed to neighborhood. The problem with the landlords is that they didn't maintain their properties. Heat wouldn't work, buildings were bad at keeping out the elements and if the tenants threatened to call the city inspector, the landlord would tell them to move.

Now Shaw is less of a slum. There are still rats, as I saw one near the new Giant the other day, but they no longer bite children in their sleep. Most deteriorating housing has been bought by people who renovate the properties. There is less affordable housing, and there is less slum housing. But then again there are the odd holdouts who let parts of their roof flap in the breeze.

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