1957 Church Survey: Grace Reformed

I know I haven’t posted one of these in a while. But for those of you joining us, this is from a survey of the Northwest Urban Renewal Area, which later got broken up into Downtown and Shaw, from 1957. It is like an awesome census of the churches in the area, from the steeple churches that one thinks of when thinking about what a church looks like, to storefront and house churches. There hasn’t been another survey like this since.

Anyway. This time up it is Grace Reformed Church, at 1405 15th St NW. It was a white church in 1957, and the current occupants Christ Reformed Church appears to be a predominately white congregation. In 1957, very few of the members lived in the NW Urban Renewal Area, a majority lived in other parts of NW DC and another chunk lived in the burbs. They were mainly white collar, dare I guess, middle class worshipers.

CS 60 Grace Reformed by Mm Inshaw on Scribd

Twelve Years Later…. at Big Bear

Big Bear Cafe April 27, 2007

Today, because it’s Friday and because we came up with lame excuses not to go to work, the Help and I are having a day date. We decided to start it off by having breakfast at Big Bear. It was great. I had french toast and a pot of English Breakfast tea as we sat inside with the Washington Post and the ambiance of the place.

I observed a family, where the father saw two separate friends/ acquaintances. He chatted with one, who came over and joked with the man’s elementary aged kids who were out of school for a thing.

Outside there were people. Some sat alone, tapping away at their laptops. Others gathered with a friend or two. And there were two workers fixing the paving thingamabobs.

About twelve years ago I stood in almost the exact space I was sitting at with my spouse. Big Bear in April 2007 was a possibility. I have a couple of pictures from an open house they held back then. The owners invited neighbors in to take a look at the place and nosh. Then, it was just going to be a coffee shop.

While I sat, I was comparing the feel of the place, then and now. Now it has a rhythm and a rep. It has a certain neighborhood vibe. I noticed parents, besides the one I mentioned earlier, with their kids on the way to school, pop in for a coffee. It just felt comfortable. It wasn’t full of promise or possible failure. It was, what it was.

The physical building and space has also changed. The patio is like part of the building, where people can sit (and battle bugs) under a canopy of grape vines behind walls of plants. The walls have art and shelves of booze (they make a good Old Fashioned) that weren’t there before. Oh, and there is a very tiny functional kitchen. The kitchen was very tiny in 2007, but not as functional.

Truxton Circle Property Owners, 1933

Okay the pages for Squares 507 to 510 East are crap. But the pages for Squares 519-521, 550-555, 614-618 and 668-670 (the NE Truxton) are readable.

What is it?

The National Archives has images of some of their stuff in their catalog. So I pulled out parts that pertained to Truxton Circle, here (for a better image of sq. 507-510E), and here. This is just more evidence for the history of Truxton Circle. If I (or someone else, hint, hint) decide to cross reference this list of property owners with a city directory or the 1930 Census, we could see who were landlords and who were homeowners. All sorts of questions could crop up from the data.

Anyway, here’s the pdf.

Truxton Circle 1933 Property Owners by Mm Inshaw on Scribd


 

Same old house, new and improved and expensive

A minor irritation I have with some essays on gentrification and housing is a complete failure to acknowledge investment and disinvestment in physical structures.

This is an August 2004 PropertyQuest picture of 1504 3rd Street NW. I have an earlier one from 2003.150X3rdSt.jpg

Anyway, it sold in August for $765,000. According to the data on Redfin, it sold in 1991 for $76,750. Between 2001-2006 this shell of a house kept getting listed and delisted. I’m not going to do any in-depth research to determine if it changed hands in that period, but in December 2006 it sold for $250,000. Then in 2007 it sold for about $450K, by this time it had definitely been renovated. This year it came back on the market and sold in the mid $700K range.

When someone takes this house and other houses in the neighborhood and just sees prices, what are they thinking? Do they think the rise in price is just arbitrary and an effort to keep lower-income households priced out?

What I witnessed was investment coming into the neighborhood. That house in 2003-2004 was a shell, unfit for human habitation. That was a result of disinvestment when it wasn’t worth it for the owner to maintain the structure.  Shaw had experienced a lot of disinvestment. After the riots in 1968, many businesses didn’t return. Some residents and landlords just abandoned the neighborhood because it wasn’t worth the money to them to fix the damage.

To take a shell from being unfit to being desirable takes capital, investment. Someone paid to buy cabinetry, flooring, windows, paint, drywall, electrical wires, PVC pipes, HVAC system, framing, appliances, and a roof. Plus the labor to install these things. Having renovated my house and another property, I can say this is not cheap. At the very least $100K went into making the house livable.

Well the house was already renovated by 2007, can I justify the $300K-$400K price hike between 2007 and 2019? I can’t tell if the rear deck was already there, but it was the neighborhood that changed in the period that made it more valuable. What happened between 2007 and now? Big Bear, a few blocks away opened up. Then the Bloomingdale Farmers Market about a year later. Nightly gunshots became less of a thing. There are a handful of sit down restaurants within walking distance, 3 that have had or have Michelin mentions. Two with 1 Michelin star within, biking…longer walking distance. Also, other houses in the neighborhood have been renovated and owners have a financial incentive to maintain their properties. But does that justify the price increase? How much is a safer (2019 TC is way safer than 2004 TC) neighborhood worth? How much is it worth to have places to take friends/dates that are a nice stroll back to your place? Schools have improved, and as a parent, it is worth a few thousand to have a plethora of Pre-K choices in walking distance.  As a homeowner, there is a disappointing difference between what you can refinance and what is a possible sales price. The improvements in the neighborhood have allowed us to refinance the house to fix it up, but the value to bank says the house is worth was much, much lower than what was selling around us. But all that is meaningless if all you care about is keeping the price of housing down.

1957 Church Survey: St. Augustine Catholic Church

I mentioned this one earlier this month, well its school, as it is one of 3 private schools in Shaw. Anywho, St. Augustine is at 1717 15th St NW, on the upper end of the neighborhood.

It was a big church with a chunk of the parishioners (50%) in the urban renewal survey area. I’m a convert to the church, but the sense I get is back then, when this survey was conducted, there were parish districts and you were supposed to go to the church for the district you lived in. Another interesting thing about the demographics is that it had a tiny white population, 3%, while the rest was Black. It is still a predominately African American Catholic Church.

Anyway, here’s the 1957 survey for St. Augustine:

CS 30 St Augustine by Mm Inshaw on Scribd

1957 Church Survey- Vermont Avenue Baptist

I should sneak a Shaw church in this run of random churches. Vermont Avenue Baptist is at 1630 Vermont Avenue NW.

In 1957 Vt Av was a HUGE church claiming 3,600 members. They had 3 Sunday services with over two thousand congregants showing up on any given Sunday. It was a predominately white collar Black church with 41% living in the urban renewal area. About half the membership lived in the rest of DC. So about 1000 people coming in on Sunday, where did they park?

CS 20 Vermont Ave Baptist by Mm Inshaw on Scribd

1957 Church Survey- Florida Avenue Baptist Church- Random Church not in Shaw

Not in Shaw but it is in LeDroit Park just in front of Shaw. Close.

Florida Avenue Baptist Church sits at 623 Florida Avenue NW. The 1957 Church Survey provides no useful information. See for yourself.

CS 48 Florida Avenue Baptist by Mm Inshaw on Scribd

1957 Church Survey: Southern Baptist Church- Random Church Not in Shaw

When you think Southern Baptist, what comes to mind? A Black church? Probably not, but that’s just what we have here. Southern Baptist Church at 134 L St NW. If memory serves me right, I believe there’s a bus in their parking lot that says “We Love Black People.” The church sits in NoMa so, not in Shaw.

Anyway there isn’t a lot of information in the 1957 survey, except they are a black church, they had a huge membership (1,300 souls), and the church was newish then.

CS 15 Southern Baptist by Mm Inshaw on Scribd

1957 Church Survey: Metropolitan AME- Random Church Not In Shaw

I’m not even going to search for a photo. But do a quick and dirty post for Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church at 1518 M St NW.  In 1957 it was a big church, with 1200 members in 1957, with about 400 showing up on any given Sunday. The professional majority were skilled laborers, followed by Professionals and white-collar members. It was and is, as far as I can tell, still a Black church. It does not give a breakdown but claimed many members lived in the Northwest Urban Renewal area under study at the time.

CS 53 Metropolitan AME by Mm Inshaw on Scribd

Church Survey 1957: St. Mary Mother of God – Random Church Not in Shaw

Okay, another random church not in Shaw but still around. St. Mary is in Fake Chinatown/ Gallery Place at 727 5th St NW. As far as data goes, this is almost useless. They can say 10% of the congregation was Black in 1957. I’d like to know if any of the congregation is Chinese. Because it would be nice to know how less fake Chinatown was in the 50s.

Anyway, here’s the survey.

CS-55-St Mary Mother of God… by on Scribd