Okay, let’s do a Shaw Church for this series of churches in the 1957 Church Survey. A survey that has never been done since, because a later “survey” done in the 1970s or 80s was very uninformative compared to this one. My last church was Metropolitan AME, and before that Eckington Presbyterian, so I figured I bring the posts back to the part of the Northwest Urban Renewal Area that later became Shaw.
Mt. Gilead still stands at 1625 13th St NW. According to their history website, their church building was bought at auction from Trinity Baptist Church in 1932. The church (people) itself was a mission group of about 75 people who started this church. As far as I can tell from their site, it is still an African American church.
Okay, not in Shaw, and I was thinking of another Metropolitan church, probably Baptist that used to be on R Street. Well since it’s in the 1957 Church Survey, may as well get this posting over with. I’m using the DC government’s PropertyQuest site to located existing churches and the 2004 photographs I don’t want to take.
Okay so Metropolitan AME is in the Downtown area is sandwiched, as you can see from the photo, between two office buildings. In 1957 the lot value was $74,448, now it’s $17,137,180.
Metropolitan in 1957 was a fairly large African American church with about 1200 members, of which only 450 showed up on any given Sunday. A huge chunk of the membership were professionals, white collar workers, and skilled labor. In the survey, they didn’t give any numbers for the geographic disbursement of their membership, but said a number lived in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area.
Yeah, this one isn’t in Shaw but it is Truxton Circle adjacent.
Eckington Presbyterian was an all white church that disbanded in the mid 1960s rather than integrate. It’s listed address of North Capitol and Florida Avenues don’t really help with figuring out where exactly the church sat. Thankfully the survey says it sat on Square 3516 on lots 116, 117 & 800. Unfortunately, those lots seem to no longer exist, so I’m going to say it is where the NY Pizza place stands. That’s my best guess.
In the survey it does not mention the racial make up but from other sources, it was a white church. It was also mainly white collar families who lived elsewhere in DC. Only 4% of the 290 members lived in the urban renewal area.
So I’m going to go into the well that is the October 1957 Northwest Urban Renewal Area Church Survey to look at churches that may or may not still exist in Shaw.
Lincoln Memorial Congregational is one of those churches that fit into the may and may not exist limbo because the church is no longer functioning and held its last service in 2018. In the September 30, 2018 Washington Post article regarding the church’s shuttering, about a dozen parishioners would show up on any given Sunday. The stated reason for the reduced numbers was the demographic changes in the neighborhood and problems with parking. When you look at what was going on with the church in 1957, neighborhood demographics didn’t matter as much as the parking.
The Northwest Urban Renewal Area was bigger than the boundaries of Shaw, and encompassed most of Shaw, and only a quarter of the 725 members lived in the urban renewal area. According to the 1957 survey, a majority lived in other parts of DC. A notation says those congregants outside of the urban renewal area lived in upper Northwest, Kenilworth and Brookland. Half of the working parishioners were white collar workers, I’ll guess members of the Black middle class who probably had cars and drove/ car-pooled to church. Those other parts of DC are too far to walk to church in one’s Sunday best.
DC schools aren’t of much interest to folks without kids. They are of interest to people who like their neighbors who have kids. Because if the neighborhood schools suck and if they don’t get into the charter they want, then there is a strong possibility that family is moving. I have seen it with my own eyes.
Back in the 00s, as soon as a couple found out they were pregnant a moving van followed. There were a few who stuck around, a hardy bunch who sent their children to charter schools, but there were many others who left. I can think of a few couples who left before their kid was born, those who left before their kid formed complex sentences, and those whose luck ran out (or figured it would) when the 2nd or 3rd kid didn’t get into their sibling’s charter. These families voted with their feet.
Last night I attended one of many meetings that has occurred and will occur about middle school options for Shaw families. The “elephant in the room” as one parent described it was the currently empty Shaw Junior High School at 925 Rhode Island Ave NW. The meeting organizers focused on the Cardozo Feeder Pattern, see elementary schools in Shaw (Seaton, Garrison, Cleveland, etc) feed into Cardozo Middle School which is the same site as Cardozo High School. The percentage of kids who actually move on to Cardozo from Shaw elementary schools is crazy low. Like 12% low when the city average is 40-some odd percent. Parents are obviously voting with their feet and saying ‘Hell no’ to Cardozo.
At one point in the meeting we broke out into discussion groups. Upon hearing this the Help rolled his eyes and was glad he stayed home. One of the questions for the group was how could parents commit to placing their kids to the Cardozo feeder program. Short answer- yeah that’s not happening. We came up with improving programing, separating the middle school population from the high school population and making the high school better. However earlier in the meeting a woman mentioned that they’ve been talking with the Cardozo principal for 6 years about programing, and she asked can we just say the Cardozo solution is a failure?
My impression of the meeting was that it was local government theatre. These meetings allow the Mayor, the decider, to check off a box to say she let the community be heard. My spidey sense tells me she’s just going to ignore neighborhood parents’ wishes. Parents’ choices will be playing the DC school lottery for a better DCPS school or a charter or voting with their feet out to the ‘burbs.
So I saw Chapman Stables was in there and there are supposed to be 11 affordable unit of the 100 plus units. Six units are at 31%-50% AMI and 5 units at 61%-80% AMI.
But then I wondered. Wait. Condos have condo fees. These fees can start off reasonable and then if something happens creep or jump up. Then I wondered what do these affordable units look like? Are they segregated from the other units, like some apartment buildings?
So I went a looking at the DC property sales database to look at what sold below the $300K advertized basement price. This is public information, but I’m not going to use names or unit numbers. I found 5 units, they are not all on the same level, and they are not all studios. The first was sold on October 9th for $237,400 is a corner two bedroom unit. I noticed several of these affordable units share a wall with some common space things, like stairwells. Three units were sold for $114,600 in 2018. Two of those are one bedrooms and one is a studio. The one bedrooms share a wall with a common space thing and the studio is well, a studio. And lastly a one bedroom unit sold for $214,300.00 on October 16, 2018, and it only shares walls with other units.
The monthly condo fee for a one bedroom is $362. The fee for a typical studio is less than $300, and for a two bedroom in the $600 range. Remember kids, the condo fee is in addition to the mortgage and real estate taxes. I don’t know if the buyers of the affordable units get to pay a reduced fee or must pay the same rate as the market rate buyers, because everyone must contribute to the maintenance, trash, and all that other good stuff.
Also, let’s look at the categories of 31% to 50% AMI and 61% to 80% AMI. This is more about the buyer of the unit than the unit. Six units are for 31-50% AMI. According to the Department of Housing and Community Development’s chart that’s an income ceiling of $41,000 for a single person and $46,900 for a household of two. On the off chance the two bedroom was available for this category, a household of four’s limit is $58,600. There is nothing for the 51-60% AMI group. Five units were set aside for the 61-80% AMI group and the ceilings are $65,650, $75,000, $84,400 and $93,750 for households of one, two, three and four persons.
There is another condo in Truxton that is not yet completed, which has just 2 affordable units for 61-80% AMI, and that is Compass’ Five Points Flats. I have no clue as to what the condo fees for this thing will be.
It is easy for me to imagine single teachers, non-profit workers, civil servants, or savvy retirees, being able to fit into these income categories AND keep up with the HOA/condo fees. What I cannot see is how people who are in those AMI groups find out the availability and price of these units. As I see with Chapman Stables, they did manage to find those units.
I thought I had a photo of this church, but I don’t and I don’t feel like snatching one off of Google Street view, but plug in 501 P St NW and you can see the building that is there. Or you can go to the church’s Facebook page and see photos of the church there.
So I’m trying something new here. Putting the PDFs on Scribd, so I can share this. So let’s go over the church’s info shall we?
It reported having 175 members with 85 showing up for regular worship service. For those of you unfamiliar with church attendance, not everyone shows up every week. You’ve got once a week, once a month, and once everyso often members. Depending on the church, some people can remain on membership rolls long after they’ve moved to another church or stopped attending all together. Also some people attend and don’t become members. So there is that.
There is another section about membership, that’s the juicy part, if the info is there. It is a black church. That’s sort of in the name, AME, African Methodist Episcopal church, but they identify as “negro” church. Unfortunately, they don’t describe the geographic disbursement of the membership, so I don’t know if this is a neighborhood or commuter church. However, later in the report, at the end, they mention the location is central to it’s membership, which hints that it may be more of a local commuter church. I add ‘local’ as in not in the neighborhood, but having people commute by foot or bus from nearby neighborhoods. This is the 50s, people would send their kids to walk to school miles away, in the snow, uphill, both ways. The occupational distribution is also interesting, as the church reports membership being 50% white collar and 40% unskilled labor.
Looking at the 1957 Northwest Church Survey, Scripture Cathedral did not exist. It would have been at 9th and O Streets Northwest. But the only thing on that block was a storefront church called Christ’s United Baptist Church at 1329 9th St NW, now an outreach center. So historically, in my opinion, this means it can’t claim a rich history with the neighborhood. And I don’t feel like researching it to see if this was a post riot church. Looking at the website for Scripture Cathedral, currently in PG County, they don’t provide a useful history, or details.
The usual narrative would be Black church replaced by rich (let’s just assume) white condo owners, and then we are supposed to feel bad about losing people who park poorly in the neighborhood. Instead let’s go with ‘yay, new neighbors who may be overpaying for their home.’ Seriously, people still get shot a block or so away on 7th Street, and they can come home from the Mt. Vernon metro assaulted by the smell of K2 in the air.
Looking at the whole volume of the October 1957 Northwest Church Survey, there are plenty of churches that no longer exist. Churches that may have left because they ended their normal church lifecycle. Churches that picked up and moved before and after the riots, and before and after ‘gentrification.’ Neighborhoods change.
When I read studies about housing, housing stock and affordable housing, as it applies to areas like Shaw, I can’t help feeling there is a very wrong assumption flowing through them all. I encountered, that feeling when talking to a renter on my street who would love to buy, but was unaware of what some of us did to make affordable homes livable, and once they became livable, unaffordable to people like him. A house that was affordable in Shaw in the 80s or 90s is probably not the same house that stands today.
In the 1940s-50s Shaw was described as a slum. A slum was defined in some writings as an area where a significant number of houses lacked indoor plumbing or interior toilets, thus slummy Shaw. I want you, dear reader, to think about that. Living somewhere, when you have to go, you’ve got to go….. outside. But now there are laws and regulations so when you rent a place, you get that fancy pants indoor bathroom with hot water.
But there are other housing deficiencies that houses in the 90s and early 00s suffered from because of the history of disinvestment in the neighborhood. Disinvestment meaning, landlords and homeowners had no incentive to maintain properties, beyond necessity, with little to no equity gained. Not updating kitchens, or electrical wiring, or plumbing, resulting in cramped little kitchens, wiring that would fry your electronics, and leaky pipes.
Then came the renovations and the gentrification. Some were crappy and cosmetic, like my house when I bought it, and some actually fixed long neglected problems or updated systems. Even crappy renovations cost money and those costs are pushed onto the end user, the home buyer or the renter. Yes, there are places where there has been no, to little reinvestment, and the prices act as if there were.
So next time you read a report that assumes the equity gained due to gentrification is unearned, question if the house that was affordable in year X is of the same quality, with the same features, when it is unaffordable in year Y.
A copy of the National Capital Planning Commission’s October 1957 Church Survey that I copied part of is sitting on DDot’s website. But it is a partial copy of the whole report. One of my bad habits, not citing where I got the document, has bitten me in the butt, and I never got around to copying the whole thing. Until now.
Thanks to interlibrary loans, I have been able to get my hands on a copy from a college library several states away. I don’t know why I couldn’t find a copy of this book locally.
The Church Survey has data on 108 63 churches that were in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area. The powers that be decided to shrink the urban renewal area down, and out of it, we get the Shaw School Urban Renewal Area, that became known simply as Shaw.
The survey looked at all kinds of religious houses, from steeple churches, storefront churches to house churches. There are several churches mentioned in the 1957 survey that no longer exist. I notice this as I copy each page. A lot can happen in 62 years. There are others where the church changed hands or names. The quality of the surveys vary from church to church. Some entries give great demographic information about the church, parishioners, staff, and programing. Most entries give the address of the pastor, size of membership, a short list of types of programs, and publicly available information. The sparse entries are just publicly available land information and maybe whatever could be observed from the outside.
So far my plan is to copy the whole book, splice in what I previously copied and, since it was a government document, put it on-line.