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.
So I was rooting around in my electronic files and found this. I’m still pecking away at the Black Home Owners of 1940 in Truxton Circle, but 9th Street NW is more Logan Circle, than our triangular section of Shaw. So, no surprise. Carter G. Woodson, noted African American historian was a home owner, tax payer on Square 365.
That’s all. Visit his house if you’re bored. Make the National Park Service’s investment in the place worth it. They are open Sunday, Thursday and Saturday.
Once upon a time in DC parts of the city experienced gentrification. Homeowners who had lived in the city through the crack years, the control board, or got in before the house prices went to crazy town began to experience unpleasant surprises year after year. Say their home that they may have bought for $75K was being assessed at $100K one year, then about $300K the next when the owners did not do any improvements to their home. I remember neighbors who bought their home for something around $200K , later got an assessment of $500K. Of course, people freaked the hell out, because their property taxes kept jumping up and up, near 50%. Some going from several hundred one year to several thousand dollars a few years later. If you’re a lower or low middle income homeowner, this is a very good reason to freak the hell out.
A tool to stop the freaking out and accusations that the city was trying to push out long time homeowners with high property taxes was the 10% cap. A DC homeowner’s taxes cannot go higher than 10% each year, regardless of how much the city thinks their house is worth.
So the DC Policy Center is saying the 10% cap is wrong and possibly racist. It seems to defy logic. They attacked the homestead deduction and failed to show how these things directly related to racism.
There also is some misleading language. In DC there is a homestead deduction, in some other places such a thing is called a homestead exemption, usually it’s a discount off the full tax bill for resident homeowners. Exemption does not mean no taxes are paid, the report seems to hint that it is in not being clear. Another word, “elude” or “eludes”, which according the the dictionary means, “evade or escape from (a danger, enemy, or pursuer), typically in a skillful or cunning way; (of an idea or fact) fail to be grasped or remembered by (someone); (of an achievement, or something desired or pursued) fail to be attained by (someone).”. The claim, “Home ownership and the wealth associated with it eludes communities of color, ” irritated me. I totally acknowledge home ownership is challenging, but DC is frickin’ filled with opportunities for those who are first time home owners that other places don’t have, so much that it is worth another post to go through them.
One morning on the radio, NPR was doing a story on a question about citizenship to be included on the 2020 census. I understand the worry, as there is the thought that census data was used to help round up Japanese residents and their American born children and put them in internment camps in the desert. My first thought hearing the story is, people could just lie. Digging down into the data for my on-going, long term neighborhood history project I’m noticing this.
People lie about their age. People lie about being married. Some people may be flexible in the racial group they identify with (Lucky C. Young I’m looking at you), which could be interpreted by some as lying about their race.
I’m trying to clean up data for a the Truxton Circle neighborhood history project where I look at the US census for every resident of my neighborhood. In this clean up attempt, I’m encountering lies and things that look like untruths. Take for example my attempt to hunt down Spencer Heywood. According to the 1940 census Spencer Heywood, a 50 year old self employed barber from Georgia who lived at 1649 3rd St in DC with his wife Ethel Heywood, a 37 year old government maid from Arkansas. According to the census he was a home owner. Outside of the 1940 Census, I can’t find any other record of the man. Now Ethel on the other hand….. In 1930 the residents of 1649 3rd St were 41 year old rail road worker Saunders Thomas, and his 30 year old wife Ethel, who owned their home. According to property records, Ethel shows up as the owner in 1924. No mention of a husband. In later records, Ethel and Sanders appear as owners. But in a 1972, when the Redevelopment Land Agency buys her house to (I assume) bulldoze it, the record stated that Ethel Louise Heywood (formerly Ethel Louise Thomas) was the unmarried widow of Saunder Frank Thomas, who died in 1934. Soooooooo, who was that guy at her house in 1940?
Now, I’m just guessing here. She may have been shacked up with some guy named Spencer. Was that the US Federal government business if she did? She was incorrect about her age being 30 years old in 1930 but only 37 in 1940. One of those ages is wrong, but what is it to the government?
This is not a call for people to lie about their citizenship status or any other field on the census. No, please don’t do that. Leaving it blank is a perfectly good answer. Just recognizing that people do and will put in incorrect information in the US Census. And not just the census, other documents I use, like city directories, land records and newspaper articles probably contain misstatements, fictions, and errors. It’s frustrating when you are trying to hunt down someone in the record. I do understand reasons for misstatements for things where the respondent isn’t getting anything of value in return, because some questions are intrusive and probably none of my business, but I really want to know what someone made in 1940 and how much education they had.
I’m reminded of a professor’s whose name I’ve forgotten who wanted me to be more critical of primary documents. Most of the time, 99% of the time, I trust the primary documents. But as I encounter these things with conflicting information, or lies, depending on my mood at the time, my general faith in the documents goes from 99% to 75%. The professor wanted me to take into account the biases of the document creators, and how I shouldn’t just give the benefit of the doubt.
This is an edited reprint of a post published elsewhere.
Anyone want to help me, or maybe yourself, if you are into this sort of history? Here are two problems I’ve discovered with the Ancestry.com indexing, which is what I’ve used and depended on for the Truxton Circle history project I’ve been working on. Two problems are, names and streets. I hope that DC residents with an Ancestry.com account will correct the addresses. You can correct problems even with a free account.
Bad Indexing- Names
Back in a previous post Black Homeowners of 1940: College Educated Women Part 1, the case of Clementine Plummer highlighted to a bad indexing. Someone, via Ancestry, said her name was Christine Plummer. Seriously?! My indexers, my cousin and a former colleague Karen, helped index the 1940 census for me, so my records are from the days when the 1940 census first came out. This change to Christine is some later change, because I and the indexers used Ancestry’s earlier index. See line 59, from page 10B, does that look like a Christine? Maybe? Look closer. It’s Clementine.
Bad Indexing- Addresses
I’ve also discovered bad addresses. I’ve found P Street as D Street, and Frista Street, for First street. Some pages it will be fine, and on other pages it’s just wrong. I’ve gone back and changed the street to the correct one, based on my knowledge of what streets exist in Truxton Circle, and if you live here too you know them too. But I just changed them for the heads of household.
If you use Ancestry.com you may already know how to do these suggested corrections. So please just take a look in Truxton Circle, if you want to know which pages to look at just contact me at mari at inshaw.com
There are dozens of churches that existed in general Shaw area in the 1950s that are no longer around. Some church congregations moved, some churches are closed by their denomination, there are a variety of reasons. The Lincoln Memorial Congregational Temple at 11th and R St NW, 2-3 blocks from the Shaw metro R Street exit had its last service this weekend.
The Washington Post made mention of gentrification in its article about the church’s last days. There isn’t a direct blaming of gentrification, but there is a lot of hinting. The church attempted to reach out to neighbors, added some programing but couldn’t get the membership numbers up after the Rev. Benjamin E. Lewis retired. Yes, parking pressures didn’t help. But looking back at the 1957 Church Survey (PDF), Lincoln UCC church members mostly lived outside of the Shaw neighborhood.
The Church Survey from October 1957 looked at steeple, storefront and residential houses of worship from a block over from U St, Florida Ave, 14th St NW, Mass Ave and 2nd St NE. Lincoln UCC was one and in 1957, 74% of parishioners lived outside of the map in Brookland and Kenilworth. Those 25% who did live in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area were reported to be elderly members, who should be more than dead right now. Don’t blame the demographic changes on the church’s decline.
When doing neighborhood history, I encounter many quaint fictions. Most of them are harmless. There is the belief that residents are home owners. And there’s the idea that church congregants lived in walking distance. Some do, many don’t. Bible Way Church, which stopped the I-395 from destroying Shaw and going all the way through, only had 30% of its members in the Urban Renewal area. Mt. Sinai who will host tonight’s BACA meeting, had 96% of its members scattered elsewhere in the city. The upper and middle class Blacks who supported and were a part of these churches did not all live in the slum that was Shaw.
I was only halfway through the book when I thought, everyone in Truxton Circle, at least those in the Hanover Area, should read. It’s a book those who are buying the Chapman Stables Condos should consider reading, so they can appreciate (maybe) what was there before.
It gives a history of the unit block of Hanover Street NW in the southern region of Truxton Circle in the 1980s and 1990s. The whole neighborhood has transformed since those decades and the Hanover area is still transforming. If you think the area is rough, because of S.O.M.E. and other things over there, Mr. Lewis tells his story of the violence witnessed and maybe some of the ‘why’ that violence was there.
It is a very easy read. I read the first chapter quickly and saved the rest of the book for a time when I could sit. I have an energetic 1 year old. I finished the rest of the book in one day and there are a lot of points I’d like to explore more in other blog posts.
UPDATE #2- Okay the Haywood/ Heywood confusion was on me and my note taking. So it was Heywood as in Hey! Wood. She also sold the property in 1972 not 1975 as reported earlier. The other confusion is I noticed the date of her husband and it is reflected in the amended post.
I was working on a longer post when I came to a hiccup. People. People are complicated.
So I have a person in the 1940 census named Spencer Heywood, a black man born in Georgia possibly in 1890. He’s a barber. He owns his own shop according to what his wife Ethel Heywood reported to the census. Problem is, I can’t find Spencer Heywood outside of the 1940 DC census. The other problem is the Sanborn map says his house 1649 3rd Street NW does not exist, city directories says it does. If it did exist, it doesn’t exist anymore because there is a Northwest Co-op on that spot.
Sometime the indexing is crazy, maybe his name was misspelled in this or another census. I checked the 1940 census and that area was covered by someone who wrote in clear block letters. Then I checked the property records using that his name. Nada for that time period.
I moved on to the wife, maybe if I can find her, I might be able to locate him. Oh, I found her, but I did not find Spencer anywhere. Ethel appears in the land records for Square 551 (where Mt. Sinai, Florida Park and the Co-op sit) with two names between 1924 and 1972. Ethel Louise Heywood exists in the records between 1950 and 1972, Ethel Louise Thomas is named as the owner of lot H, later lot 0909, between 1924 and 1950. The April 1950 deed links Ethel Heywood and Thomas together naming her as the widow of Sanders Frank Thomas. Another deed from 1944 also calls her the widow of Sanders Thomas. She’s the main owner, but Mr. Thomas is only mentioned again in 1933 and 1937. The earliest record makes no mention of a husband, she acts as a singular entity regarding the business of the property.
So who the hell is Spencer? Could Sanders be Spencer?
In the 1930 census at 1649 3rd St NW, 30 year old nurse Ethel Thomas of Arkansas is living with her husband Sanders Thomas, a 41 year old waiter and DC native, with a lodger Ruth Sweeney, a 40 year old laundress. In 1940 the two residents of 1649 3rd St NW are Ethel Heywood of Arkansas, a maid for the federal government and her husband and head of household, Spencer Thomas Heywood, the barber from Georgia.
According to the 1972 paperwork, Sanders Thomas died in 1934, before the 1940 census, and Ethel did not remarry.
I don’t think Spencer and Sanders are the same guy. Okay, who the Hell is Spencer?
My spouse has a crazy theory. He thinks Ethel was upset, leaving Sanders she walked over to a dance club and ran into Spencer Heywood. They hatched a plan to bump off Sanders. Initially, he supposed she went to the Baker’s Dozen on 4th Street to dance her cares away, until I pointed out it didn’t open until 1944, after the 1940 census, and after Thomas’ death. Finally that damned plaque is good for something.
UPDATE- So it’s Heywood in the Census but Haywood in the record.