Black Businesses of 1968 Shaw: Delaney’s Pool Room

Okay the only reason why I know this was a black owned business is because of the survey the government conducted right after the April 1968 riots. They asked business and property owners in the riot corridors about their race and those who bothered responding, self reported their race. Or not.

Anyway, John Delaney owned a pool room at 1720 7th Street NW, where a post riot building currently sits. He did not suffer any fire damage. Instead he got a lot of broken glass and some things were stolen. It is unknown if he put “Soul Brother” on his shop to keep it from getting torched.

Delaney’s Pool Room Post Riot Survey by Mm Inshaw on Scribd

I don’t know if I’ll make this a series, like the 1957 Church Surveys, but who knows. My reason for posting this is to show that history is messy. The present is messy. There is no clean narrative where you can say, there were no black businesses in the Shaw ghetto. There were. There were plenty of black owned businesses, and some of them got hit by rioters. Some closed shop, and some, like Delaney thought Shaw was a perfectly fine neighborhood to do business.

Black Home Owners of 1940: Let’s clean up some data

Disclaimer: This has been sitting in drafts for a year. I forgot what was wrong with it. I’m gonna roll the dice and publish it.

 

So I have a goal to create a big ole spreadsheet of all the residents for all the censuses. Buuuuuut I need to clean up the data. The problem with the Census is sometimes I swear some of the enumerators were raging alcoholics who couldn’t find a job doing anything else. The census data is not pure, nor perfect. Sometimes a person’s only appearance is in the census, but sometimes they’ll appear elsewhere. They’ll be men who had to sign up for the draft, or business people or others who appear in city directories, and for owners after 1921 they’ll be in the Recorder of Deeds website.

So I’m going to look at homeowners who’s square or address has a question mark. These people are Clarence Washington of 126 FL Ave NW, Raymond Montgomery of 121 , Rudolph Blake of 137, Joseph Gibson of 136 Bates St NW, Florence Glover of 109 Q St NW, Jerome S. Jenkyns of 1641, John Lattimer of 1464, Roscoe Patrick, and Laura Ford of 1684 3rd St NW.

I located Clarence Washington on Square 551 lot 172. Now the problem is, that lot no longer exists. The Florida Avenue park sits there. It looks like he’s at 126 FL Ave NW, where previously he might have been at 124. It was unclear. Looking at the records, he obtained his property on September 14, 1935 with a 6% loan from National Savings and Trust Company. He appears to have been single at the time of purchase. He and his wife Clara (listed in the 1940 census) sold the house in April 1948.

Raymond Montgomery had purchased a fair amount of property, well at least someone with that name did so. Just looking at square 552 he owned lot 152, and in the current year that lot’s address is 123 P St NW. So not 121 Bates St NW as I had him in my data. Then a widower in February 1938 he bought the property. According to a October 1965 deed selling the house to a Lucille Baskin, Raymond died February 4, 1959 leaving his wife Estella a widow.

Rudolph S. Blake is another popular name for a property holder. Once again just focusing on Truxton Circle I can pin him down to Sq. 552 lot 159 (137 P St NW) starting in 1925 with his wife Ida B. She sells the property in 1948 after Rudolph as died.

Joseph and wife Novella Gibson are a problem. They are associated with property on squares 551 and 552. The documents for 551 appear to be an outlier as it is concerning a party wall between 213 and 215 Q St NW (Sq 551 lots 7 & 8). I believe they probably lived on square 552 on lot 206, currently 136 Bates St NW. February 1926 Joseph and wife “Navalla” obtain 136 Bates with a $2,250 loan at 6% APR with monthly payments of $30. The Gibsons sell in 1965 to Barney and Henrietta Weitz.

It appears widow Florence O. Glover buys 109 Q St NW, which no longer exists, in 1925. By the sale of the property to the DL & W company in 1957, it seems she is dead. A Florence Glover is deceased as mentioned in the deed, but her daughter was also named Florence Glover, so there is confusion there. And there are more than half a dozen Glovers mentioned on the document. Please don’t leave property to more than 2 unmarried (sans spouses) relatives, it’s really confusing.

Jerome and Ellena Jenkyns bought their home 1629 3rd St NW in 1922, if the records are correct. Once again this is another property that no longer exists. The property was sold in 1972 to the Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA) by the heirs. The document listed Jerome dying around about May 24, 1965 and Ellena dying around May 8, 1948.

 

 

Black Home Owners of 1930-1934: Sq 551 Ethel Thomas

I kinda stopped looking at black homeowners when I hit a problem I’ll call the widow Ethel. Ethel Thomas (nee Heywood) was a widow after 1934 when her husband Sanders Thomas passed away. In the 1940 census she was shacked up with some guy she, or someone, told the census was her husband. But there is no record (I could find) that she remarried.

Recently some images of records came available and they really don’t clear up the tale of Ethel, since it occurs around about the time of her husband’s death. I strongly doubt that I will find out who was her mystery man.

Landowner list of Sq 551Square 551, which is bounded by 3rd, Q, 1st, Florida Avenue and R Streets NW, is quite big. Since Destructo-kid has become mobile, very mobile, I’ve had zero time to get back to data clean up. But every so often some new data pops up, and it is just a question of can I do something with it.

If I were free to get around to looking at the owners, I’d look at 1900. That period saw an explosion of growth and building in Truxton Circle, so I could look and see who were the builders building for by looking at the 1902-1903 owners. Then if possible, compare with the census.

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

So a guy died in my house….. in 1882

Private Tom Lawler was a cop. An Irish cop. One Saturday November evening in 1882 he went into work at the Sixth Precinct. But as his shift went on he started complaining of chills and was sent home around 10PM. A doctor was called but an hour later he died.

He probably died in the vicinity of where we sleep now.

Does this freak me out? No.

It’s been 137 frickin years for one. Two, I have the ashes of a dead woman on my bookcase, and I’d really like her not to be there gathering more dust. Nobody wants their mother in law hovering over them. But I digress.

Here is what I know about this former resident. He was captured in the 1880 Census as Thomas Lawlor, then aged 50. He lived with his wife Ellen, then 30 and their two children Mary (19) and Daniel (12). Mary and Danny were 2 of the 4 kids I know of. They were the only white people on that side of square 509E, if Irish immigrants in the 19th century count as such. Prior to living near 4th and Q NW they lived at K & New Jersey Avenue. When he was appointed as a law man in 1867, a letter of recommendation mentioned he had a large family and that he was a good man. His application said that he didn’t drink. Here I shrug, maybe. Because later in his personnel file (early DC cops have personnel files) he was in a home on North Capitol between P and O Sts (Yay, Truxton Circle) where a grocery was kept (whatever that means) when he wasn’t supposed to be there. This also happened in November, 1880. November was not a good month for Tommy the Cop.

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