Black Home Owners of 1940: Annie Newsome

In my last post I started with Annie Newsome and could not find much on her so I moved on to Dr. Arthur McKinney.  There was another resource I could have tapped, but didn’t think it would have anything for me, the Recorder of Deeds. Because the Northwest Cooperative sits on the square where Ms. Newsome’s house sat, I was unsure the city would have those records. Well lo and behold, once I figured out the lot number, it was easy to find the Newsome house records.

In the 1940 census Ms. Newsome claimed to be a widowed woman of 53. Prior to that, in the 1930 census she claimed to be a married woman, who had been married for 24 years. Well according to the image below, she may have lied about that.

First page of deed transferring property to Annie Newsome, a Black woman

She bought the house as an unmarried woman in April 1925, from widow Francesca Garaci. So 5 years later for the 1930 census she’s been “married” for 25 years. I believed that she lied to the census taker, as she had two married families living in her home as lodgers, and probably did not want to lose respect in their eyes.

She also probably lied about her age. In the 1940 census she was 53 years old. In 1930, she reported being 47 years old. I’m not particularly good at math, but if she was correct in 1930, she should have been 57 years old, not 53. If she was telling the truth in 1940, then she should have been 43 in 1930.

Big deal you might say. Well, when trying to find someone in the records, the misinformation of birthyear and marital status can send a person barking up the wrong tree. Women, and I write this as a woman, can be difficult, especially when we move around, change our name because of marriage or divorce or remarriage, and lie about our ages. I’ve changed my name, moved around and got married. I’m vague about my age now. Enough about me, back to Ms. Newsome.

Annie Newsome, owned the house at 1616 First Street NW from 1925 to about 1943 when she sold it to the Embassy Dairy. Embassy Dairy was her “neighbor” of sorts on 1st St NW and it appeared they were expanding. From 1943 to 1950 Embassy Dairy Inc bought out her neighbors. That same year, Ms. Newsome’s next door neighbor Ophelia Hurd at 1618 1st St NW, sold her home to the dairy. She was listed as a widowed woman in both the 1930 and 1940 census. She probably bought her home prior to 1921, which is how far back the Recorder of Deeds resource goes.

Redlining, African American Home ownership and the TC

Distribution of Negro Population by Census, 1930If anyone can find or recreate the Washington DC redline map, that would be helpful, because no one seems to have it. There is a project to map restrictive racial covenants, but those seem to be a small amount of DC housing, rather than the majority. The image here is the distribution of African Americans or Negroes, in DC in 1930, so probably close enough to a redline map.

Considering the map, Truxton Circle or as it was known then, Census tract 46, was more than half AfAm. If it wasn’t a redlined area, it may have been yellow, “Definitely Declining.” The area that became Shaw, ranged from 35% to over 75% black, which may have been too many black people for the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) map makers.

Using data from my TruxtonCircle.org project, I just took a look at the 1930 and 1940 census data*. In 1930, of the heads of households, there were 1109 renters in the TC and 310 home owners. Of those who owned 237 were black. In 1940, there were 1442 renters, 269 home owners, and of those owners, 218 were black. So most people in the TC were renters and African American home owners were a majority of a minority of people.

So who were these Negro home owners? A lot were a variety of government workers (federal and DC schools), service workers (chauffeurs, Pullman workers, waiters) and professionals (doctors, ministers, lawyers) . I’d say the black middle class and prudent working class folks. The same people who’d engage in black flight in the 1970s and 1980s.

 

*I’m still cleaning up the data.

Baltimore City level of Historic Districts- When you have too many

DC has too many historic districts (HD) and just recently got one more as Bloomingdale fell to this sad fate of HD collecting. So about 1 in 5 DC properties is some historic something or another. DC is on its way to becoming like our sister city Baltimore where some historic districts are respected and others, kinda ignored, making the designation meaningless. Maybe it needs to be made meaningless.

mAP OF bALTIMORE cITY hISTORIC dISTRICTSSo I own a small rental in Baltimore which happens to be in a historic district and the neighborhood is listed with the National Register of Historic Places. Historic districts in Baltimore are a different animal than the HDs in DC from what I observed. When I had a local charm city architect over, I mentioned the vinyl window I had in my house and the other vinyl windows I saw in the neighborhood. He said, “Yeah, they’re not supposed to do that but….” and he shrugged and we moved on to other topics.

Baltimore has over 60 historic districts, DC has over 30. The Baltimore Sun supposed that 1 in 3 buildings was listed on the National Register. I have no idea how many of those include abandoned shells. Baltimore also has a local tax incentive to get homeowners on board, but the logic in how it applies confuse me. There are newish condos just outside the district’s boundaries that advertised the 10 year tax credit. Of course there is a lot in Baltimore where the logic of how they apply a lot of things confuse me.

I wonder if the trend to add more and more historic districts will create an environment where the original intents will be undermined because it brings in too many unwilling participants, thin supporters and stretch the resources of the enforcers. Maybe. We’ll see.

The problem with affordable housing on weaker neighborhoods

If you haven’t read Congress Heights on the Rise’s (CHotR) blog, please do. The author, Ms. Peele is telling some serious truths about the problem of affordable housing in her neighborhood. It is not the same problem of affordable housing experienced in NW, the problem is there is a little too much affordable housing and not enough market housing.

One of the post’s “Why investing ONLY in income-capped housing in Ward 8 is setting us up for failure,” can be summed up as affordable housing needs to be spread around more equally across all 8 wards and not concentrated East of the River (EotR). She points out that the majority of the available apartments for rent in her area are income capped, which means a single person making $51,000 cannot rent an apartment there, and forget about a married couple. Without those sort of renters, that middle class contingent, the urban amenities that make DC fun are in short supply in her neighborhood, and she has to drive elsewhere for fitness and food.

Continuing in another post “MORE OF THE SAME: 7 more income-capped housing projects planned for Ward 8,” she is obviously frustrated with the DC government’s (DHCD) housing policy of more income capped housing. This sort of policy keeps out the kind of residents who could support the businesses (and jobs) she wants and provide the kind of role models kids in the neighborhood need. The income limits keeps out nurses, police officers, teachers, and most other professionals. Many of the income limit apartment buildings are at 50% MFI/AMI (Median Family Income/ Area Median Income) so a single person cannot make more than $41,050. The starting salary for a DCPS teacher is supposed to be $55, 209, and the starting salary for a MPD police officer is $55,362. It would have to be at 80% MFI/AMI for a single income teacher or police officer. Logically, if you had a married couple (the cop married to a teacher) they would blow past the $46,900 50% MFI/ $76,000 80% MFI limits for a household of two, and three.

Aren’t we just repeating the mistakes of the past with new packaging? Concentrating poverty is destructive, cruel and wrong. We, as a city, have done it before with public housing and created environments of unemployment, crime, death and dysfunction.

This is what I’d like in explaining Affordable Housing

So I was bopping around the YouTubies as I normally do and decided after the question of what foods are great for baby led weaning, I decided to ask, what is affordable housing. I know what is affordable housing, well its technical definition for DC. But what does it mean in real life for tenants?

Although not for DC (New York City, different animal) I came across this from a fitness Youtuber Imani Shakir.

I love how she talks about her experience with the system and how it works there.  Just going by her video this is what I learned: You need an on-line housing profile; don’t apply for everything, just apply to the buildings where you qualify; Your chances are better if you pick a building in your area; You need to respond quickly and have accurate contact info; You may need letters from your current and former bosses in addition to pay stubs as some of your application documentation when asked. You might have less than 2 weeks to get those documents together; and the biggest take away, it may take years to get an affordable unit. In her case it was 3 years.

We normally hear about affordable housing from politicians, activists, and administrators, but almost never from recent applicants and recipients of affordable housing.

So Asbury Dwellings used to be a school

Three white guys posing in front of Shaw Jr High. Circa 1967-68.

 

Okay, if you are familiar with the corner of Rhode Island Avenue and 7th Street NW you are aware of Asbury Dwellings, senior citizens’ apartments.

Well before it was housing, it was a school. It was THE school the neighborhood was named after. Just like Adams Morgan was named after two schools there, with its own urban renewal project, Shaw was named after the Shaw Junior High School. Which was named after Col. Robert Gould Shaw. So the neighborhood being named after the Col. Shaw is sorta kinda true if you’re totally ignoring the urban renewal part of the neighborhood’s history.

So behind the three white guys with rolled up posters, is the school and you may be able to make out the word “High School”. It now reads “Asbury Dwellings”. If you don’t feel like bringing up a Google street view of the place here’s a link to a Library of Congress photo of the current building. When you really look at it, it is a beautiful building.

210 P St NW-open house

210 P St NW Open HouseSo my neighbor, the former architect current artist, IT invited me to join him for an open house in the Truxton Circle neighborhood, 210 P St NW. These are the Clover Court Condos, and the start near a million dollars. There were 2 of the 4 units staged, with one being open and un-staged.

Let me start with the bad and get that out of the way. The price is in the square footage, though some of that seems wasted in some ways. IT was not in agreement with some of the layout decisions. I found a few things not up to par for the price tag. And we both spotted things that didn’t make sense for the way people might occupy the space. One of the toilets in unit #4 is is a very tight alcove where it is very likely someone is going to constantly hit the towel rack. And the alcove is super tight, no linebackers in the can here. The basement wells for unit #1 do let in lots of light but the view and space is lacking. I suggested a mural or plants. The problem with plants in that and the balcony and the roof deck is where is a water source?

210 P St NW Open HouseUnits 3 and 4 have roof deck access. IT has told me on previous occasions that roof decks need things or else they will mainly go unused. You need water and electrical outlets and it helps to have some shelter. There is a tiny room at the top of the stairs, pictured right. It needs an electrical outlet for a fridge. We did not notice any water spigots on the roof. At the price point, one might expect these things on the rooftop space.

Okay the good stuff.

210 P St NW Open HouseIt’s got a turret. You do not need to get rid of the turret (hear that 319 R St NW?!). Just clad that puppy with some metal and build a roof deck around it. We wandered into unit #3 and noticed that there is nothing on the inside to point to the turret up above. IT had looked for some glass to see if it was being used as a light source. Nope.

Oh, you probably want to know what is the good stuff for a buyer. Well as I said there is lots of space inside. Unit #1 has 1,921 square feet, unit #3 2,245 square feet, and unit #4 a whopping 2,331 square feet. There was so much space I got disoriented and lost in the units. The price is in the wealth of space. You want fancy stuff like an outdoor kitchen, or water spigots, you’re gonna have to put that in yourself.210 P St NW Open House

For unit #4, there is definitely a million dollar plus view. The top of the Washington Monument is visible and unobstructed. IT said you could have a 4th of July fireworks viewing party and charge admission. Seriously, any of you folks with private decks with a view of the monument in the TC or Mid-City Shaw wanna charge me to see the fireworks email me. Just tell me if I need to bring my own water.

Can DC be sued for gentrification?

So the District of Columbia is getting sued for gentrification.

Because of Kelo v City of New London, this probably won’t go very far.

For those who don’t remember or know, Kelo v New London was an eminent domain case where the City of New London, CT took the private property, the homes, of residents of an area of town

This is an image from Little Pink House, a movie.

so a developer could build a headquarters for the Pfizer Corporation. Ms. Susette Kelo and others sued the city, sued to protect the homes they owned, from the city taking them away and displacing them. Long story short, Ms. Kelo lost and her home was torn down. There is a movie about it out now and it will be at the E Street Theater June 1-7, and tickets go on sale on May 30.

So just as a man can legally divorce his wife and remarry a younger model, a city can take away your home and give/sell the land to a richer, more economically attractive entity. If that is so, then the District of Columbia can take properties it owns or has an interest in, or doesn’t own at all through eminent domain and give/sell them to more economically attractive entities. Unless there is something on DC’s books actually saying it can’t, but the city can undo its own rules. So I don’t think this lawsuit has a chance.

I’ve noticed there is this mindset that the city has an obligation to care for its poor over that of other interests. In my book club, our next book How to Kill a City, has this same mindset. The author seems annoyed that Detroit or any other city would choose economic development over its poorest citizens.

City governments, like DC, have their own interests. Cities, do not like being broke.  They don’t like even looking broke. They like being gleaming shining examples of whatever is in fashion with local governments these days. However classics like low crime, lots of ‘good’ jobs, and great schools never go out of style and governments will aim for those goals over others.

Let’s Play Airbnb Bingo on My Block

R and 4th Townhomes
Random townhouses in Truxton

Full disclosure: I love Airbnb. I have used it when traveling and I have hosted. I have a property (not in DC) that is being used as an Airbnb.

So I was aware one of my neighbors was an Airbnb host. The neighbor is a good neighbor and the guests in this person’s home have been fairly quiet. Then later I noticed some new people in the house of the the evil landlady and introduced myself to find out who her new victims were. They said they were only going to be there for 3 months, and I quickly figured out it was an Airbnb. So I went online to try to find the listing of she who used to constantly rent to crackheads. In looking for her, I came across a couple of other Airbnb’s on my block.

In total I located 4 Airbnb’s on my street block; the one I already knew of, the one from the evil landlady, a neighbor renting out a not exactly separate basement, and a real estate investor.

I basically figured out whose house is whose by looking at every available whole house and private rooms in a 5 block and carefully looking at the photos. The easy ones showed the front of the house, I think that was 3 of the four, so not that hard. Then I looked at what could be seen from the window and tested my knowledge of my neighborhood. Sometimes a style of door helped. That’s when it became a game, a game of guess that house. Found several houses on 3rd Street, Bates, Florida and New Jersey.

I don’t believe most Airbnb guests are bad. There is a small irony that a long time renter who has an annoying habit of having insanely loud cell phone conversations outside (sometimes at 2 in the frickin morning) is sandwiched between two Airbnbs. I pity the guests.

I don’t fear Airbnb because I lived here when there were tons of Section 8s. Various jurisdictions want to limit the number of short term rentals, but they never did the same for Section 8s. There were good Section 8 renters on our block and there were horrendously bad anti-social fk-ups whose chaos spilled out and made life difficult for neighbors. I’m thinking of Drama Mamma, who was a horrible neighbor with a violent son. Comparatively, I like the Airbnb guests a bit better, so far.

Spacepak good and bad

Vent tubes for Space Pak system
Vent tubes for Space Pak system

So our central air died about 2 years ago.

We had it for almost 10 years when it died. The image to the right are the tubes our system, the Spacepak system, used to deliver cool air to the house. Prior to that I used big honking window units. The joy of central air is not having to lug heavy as sin units up the freaking stairs AND down the frigging stairs once a year.

But then we noticed the system wasn’t working that well. Called a well known plumbing/HVAC company to come out and they said the system was leaking coolant and whatever it was the whole system needed replacing because the kind of coolant the system used is being phased out. They brought out a second person to look at the system and got the sales pitch to replace the system, at $12K. To be fair about $3k of that was to hire a crane to replace the unit on the roof.

With that quote, and knowing that most AC systems have a life span of 10 years, that’s $1,200 a year (not including power, filters, and maintenance) for the privilege of central air. For that price I could get someone from Taskrabbit or something like it to come to my house and bring the various ac window units up and down for way less. Hell for that price, I could buy new ac units every friggin year and pay someone to lug them up and down. Also our house is small, and the bedrooms, kitchen and living/dining space is less than 800 sq feet (not counting baths and hall). We don’t need a super system. So not going to replace the system this year, not at that price. Besides, we replaced the roof last month, so that was our big capital project of 2018.

The Spacepak system, when it was running, I really loved it. There were no bulky vent structures and the vents in the ceiling kinda blended in. When the system was on, everywhere, except our bedroom was fairly quiet. Above our bedroom there was a lot of the mechanicals.  We never never had the system below 75F, I hate the cold. I continued to love the system until it died.

It did have it’s faults. The kitchen vent was above a cabinet and I don’t think any air really got in there. As a consequence, I avoided using the oven in the summer. I have my doubts we could have gotten the house ice cold with the system. It, like our heating system, took its sweet time getting to the temperature we set.

I don’t believe the people who quoted us were familiar with small duct high velocity systems, and the price tag was probably for a whole new bulky duct system. We did contact another company that did have some familiarity and after the technician came by they never got back in touch with us, and I didn’t follow up. So alas we are doing window units.

I am playing with the idea of scrapping the system for mini-splits. I have a tiny house (not on wheels, just a tiny townhome) that I put mini-splits in, one unit for each floor. It does heating and cooling. Since the house was ridiculously tiny, I used images of Honk Kong apartments as inspiration and noticed these mini-split systems all over the place. The major downside is appearance, but I’d want one in the kitchen just to deal with the fact that it is the hottest room in the house in summer.