The Roads Taken and the Houses Not Bought

This is also a personal blog so I’m going to step away from the neighborhood history and talk about houses.

Last year we sold our lovely home on 4th St in Truxton Circle with the plan to buy something in a certain corner of Prince George’s County Maryland. We moved a few doors down on 4th St and rented from former neighbors while we looked at houses. Today and yesterday, I had to run a few errands, and I passed by 4 houses we looked at but did not buy.

The House On the Busy Road- I had to pick up something the Help did not get from the store and on my way back, I passed by the first house we looked at. This was before we were actually serious. Before we got a realtor. Any realtor. As I walked by the house, I noticed a woman enjoying the side porch we did not buy. I wasn’t sure if it was the exact house. The wildly painted stairs had been repainted something more neutral and the house looked like neighboring homes. We agreed that being on a busy road was not right for us.

When we looked at it Destructo-kid was still solidly in diapers. I remember this because he had a blowout. And cut our viewing short so we could change him in the back of the car. We had parked the car near the home of people we knew, but they didn’t seem to be home at the time. Where we were looking had a lot of people we knew, which is why we picked the area we chose to buy. Destructo is mostly potty trained now.

The Divorce House- I’m calling this the divorce house because our Realtor was told the seller was getting or had gotten divorced. It was a wonderful house, with a nice screened in side porch, nice big backyard, finished basement, bathrooms on 3 of the 4 levels, almost everything we wanted…. except the price. We inquired if it would be worth putting an offer. Even before their open house, they already had a few all cash offers at their asking price.

I was passing by the Divorce House to deliver some misdirected mail. The new owners made some similar exterior adjustments that we made with the house we eventually bought. I also noticed some backyard kid stuff. That side porch, which was actually a sunroom, would have been nice. There were a few things I did not like about the house, but that’s a non-issue.

The House on the Corner- Another errand had me on my bike passing the House on the Corner (HotC) that I liked. I really liked the house…. the yard… what yard? The problem I noticed with a lot of houses on corners were that most of the yard was in the front. The point of leaving our lovely townhome on 4th St was to get a yard. With grass. This was scraggly grass, weeds and tree roots in the front and a path from the garage to the house in the back.

I really liked that house. It had a side porch, we really wanted a porch. The second floor had connected rooms. When we looked at the house, without Destructo. I had fun running in a complete circle from one connected room to the next. The converted attic space had reading nooks in front of the Amity windows. The Divorced House had a similar set up, but the connection was closed off and the attic stairs were poorly placed.

Lastly, the Slopey House- We looked. We decided it was too small and we could not to a dang thing about the super sloped back yard. The backyard of this home was the big no that had us passing on it.

Back from another errand, I biked by slowly. Slowly because I was going uphill, being lazy, and using the electronic assist. I could still see the yard remained sloped with a big dip in the center. I could also see the new owners removed a lot of the greenery the previous owner seemed proud of. How sloped you’re wondering? In parts 45 degrees.

I’m enjoying my perch from my upstairs office in the house we are calling home. The house has a number of old house quirks that probably would have been avoided with the Divorce House. We are working on reclaiming more of the yard from the previous owner’s projects.

When I pass the houses we looked at and failed to win the bid on, I think about what could have been. But I also realize we could have missed out on what we have. We didn’t get radiators but we did get the porch we wanted. There are things we didn’t get but in time, I can turn this house into another project.

Perpetual Building Association

This is just a bit of information to expose that I know nothing.

I’ve started including information about the lenders in the Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle series. The problem is I have no idea sometimes of what I am looking at. I know I am going to have to go back over some of my posts and correct the misstatements about loans of $19K-20K. That was a misreading on my part.

One of the several lenders is the Perpetual Building Association. They loaned funds to Julia Dobbins, the Brungers, John Robinson and others.  I tried looking up information about this organization or lender and most of what comes up are sites about the Perpetual Building Association Building in Silver Spring, MD. I did find something that was a little bit more about the entity that was also about the building. I have no opinion about the building. I don’t have even enough information to have an opinion about them as a lender.

I am old enough to remember there was some savings and loan crisis 30 some odd years ago, but I’m not sure if the S&Ls and building associations were the same thing.

If anyone has more info about the Perpetual Building Association as an organization, please comment.

George Basiliko Keeps Showing Up in My Truxton Circle Property Searches Pt 2

When we last left I was looking at an Evening Star article in 1959 about George B. Basiliko’s plans to rehabilitate several Truxton Circle homes. The thing that caught my eye was that these homes were the subject of a post-Home Rule later rehabilitation project that was to take place in the Marion Barry years.

I decided to expand my research to the Washington Post and the Post calls Basiliko a slum lord. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to 1959 and what the Evening Star said.

The October 3, 1959 article, Basiliko, with the help of of the Perpetual Building Association was supposed to rehabilitate 125 units. Several of those units in Truxton Circle. His target areas were specifically the 100 block of O St NW, the 100-200 blocks of Q and Bates Streets NW, the 200 block of P St and outside of the TC but in Shaw the 400 block of Warner. Despite the press, he did Jack.

The more I got into the Washington Post and Evening Star, I don’t know if disgusted or overwhelmed would describe it. Because it opened up a Pandora’s box relating to greater Shaw’s slum history. He profited off it. His target renters were African Americans. When he was found guilty of 8,000 housing violations, Basiliko and the city hashed out a deal. The Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA) bought many of his Shaw properties. And as far as I could tell he avoided jail time.

The Truxton Circle houses he sold to RLA were 47 row houses on Bates Street, 8 on P St, 9 on Q, and 8 on 3rd. He also sold one house on French Street and 33 properties on the block bounded by 8th, 9th, S and T Streets, in Shaw. It appears the money RLA used came from HUD.

One of those P street houses was probably 229 P St NW. It was featured in an article about the 8,000 housing violations. There were holes in the ceiling and the walls. There was defective wiring, plumbing, rotted stairs and missing doorknobs.

The RLA paid Basiliko $1.1 million in 1970 for 106 Shaw properties. What RLA did or didn’t do, is another story for another time.


Hot Take- Redlining not as bad as urban renewal

So as I write one boring Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle post after another, I noticed that these residents were borrowing money from individuals and institutions. These weren’t government sponsored loans, to my knowledge. Redlining, in the original sense (as I acknowledge the word has been expanded to other injustices), was the New Deal agency Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) discriminatory attitude towards minority areas regarding loans. But loans to African Americans in Truxton Circle were being made. Not a lot, but money was borrowed.

Because I am looking at people from the 1920 census and the online land records start around 1921/1922 I am not seeing a lot of people borrowing money to obtain their homes. They already own it by the time I’m looking at them. I might see it, or hints of people taking out a mortgage to purchase a home when the 1920s home owners sell and there is documentation regarding the next owner borrowing money. Or I see releases when owners settle their debts with one or more lenders. Or they take out mortgages or loans on their property or their children do. I might see people taking out mortgages to purchase when I eventually get to the 1930s home owners.

The rate of home ownership is low. But that tends to be the case of urban areas compared to suburban ones. I have to go past a lot of renters in the main TC census spreadsheet I use, before I find my home owners.

These owners aren’t necessarily upper class or white collar. There were several waiters as home owners. Another occupation was messengers or express men. There was one laborer, but he was being far too modest as he owned a coal yard and several properties. Another was a policeman.

Dr. Euphemia Lofton Haynes, the first Black American woman to earn a PhD in mathematics, owned several properties in Truxton Circle and other parts of the District. I’ve been through her papers at Catholic University and she was able to borrow money for her properties. The federally backed loans were not the only game in town.

Why Urban Renewal is Worse

I would describe redlining as getting bullied and urban renewal as getting bad plastic surgery. Getting bullied is bad and can lead to long term problems. The problem with bad plastic surgery, is you asked for it, paid for it, and it turns out making things worse. I used a proposed map as the featured image because it showed the plan to put a highway through most of Truxton Circle. It would have wiped out hundreds of buildings.

Once you tear down a 100 year old building there is no rebuilding it. All the homes that used to house the home owners on Square 551, are gone. They aren’t coming back. There’s a park and the Northwest Co op there. Those houses are gone. Forever.

You can see the marks left by urban renewal. They show up in modern architecture and in wide neighborhood splitting highways that did not exist as such 50-100 years ago.

In 1930 most of the Truxton Circle neighborhood was Black. It would be a reasonable assumption that the neighborhood was redlined. Fast forward 90 years and the neighborhood is fairly integrated. It has half the population, but it’s integrated. The legacy of redlining is in the hearts of some but the neighborhood itself appears to have moved on. Only three of about 18 blocks have been permanently changed by urban renewal or development.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Emma Ashton

Note- This was sitting in my draft folder. I don’t know why. It’s probably lacking some information, but I don’t know what.

Mrs. Ashton lived at 1405 1st St NW in Truxton Circle. She was not the only person to live at that address in 1920. I count about 14 people living there. It’s a modest house, so I’m not sure how one could crowd 5 households of that many people in that house.

Mrs. Emma Ashton, an African American widow of Ludwell Ashton had lived at 1405 1st St NW since 1900. In the 1900 Census she’s at 1405, living with her 75 year old widowed mother Adeline Brooks, who was the owner, her husband and their sons, Kellogg B. and Leonard A. Ashton. In 1920 the roles had changed, Emma was the head and the owner and her then 93 year old mother wasn’t.

Emma Ashton does not appear long in the Recorder of Deed’s records. There are several financial records for 1922, which aren’t particularly clear to me. She could have extended some loans, but I’m not sure. This period lasted between 1922 and 1924. It appears that she lost lot 11 (on Square 616) in 1934 and lot 816 in 1929.

Looking for an Emma Ashton for all of DC uncovered other property she owned in Truxton Circle, 302 Florida Ave NW (0519-0072) and 14?? 1st St NW (0553-0122). It appears she sold the property on 1st St in 1922 to Gertrude E. Holmes.

319 R St NW- Back On the Market $1.6 Million

So….. nevermind. There is an open house 3/14 from 1-3PM. Redemption may be at hand.

Below is the old post.

At the corner of 4th and R is 319 R St NW and it is a large landmark of a house. I noticed the “For Sale” sign was gone. So it looks like it did not sell. Which is sad because I had hoped someone could redeem the mess that had happened. But maybe $1.6 million was too much to ask in addition to redemption.

So for those of you just joining us and unfamiliar with the saga that was 319 R St NW, here’s a very quick story. When I arrived to Shaw 20 years ago, 319 was mission house for a Virginia Korean church where they fed homeless people and let them hang out. But after many years and the neighborhood got gentrified they sold the house to a developer. That developer wanted to throw on a 3rd story and lop off the corner turret. After some push back, they agreed to throw a dunce hat of a turret on. The house, and almost all the other houses on the block, was an actual Harry Wardman house. The developers’ desire to go the ugly route triggered a nuclear option of making the whole block a historic landmark. Which totally sucked for everyone else on the block. The developers sold the mess they made and someone else finished the renovations and dug out the basement. Then the house went on the market. And it sat on the market. Now it’s off the market.

Links to my previous posts about 319 R St NW:
I provided the gun but I didn’t shoot him: Historic Landmarking of Sq. 519
319 R St NW- There can be a way forward with a turret
319 R St NW- The Turret is Plan B
319 R St NW- Not hoping for the best, but the less ugly with a turret
319 R Street NW- a sign
319 R St NW
319 R Street the plan
Well we need more of this kind of missionary work

Figuring out the Recorder of Deeds Docs

I have admitted several times that I have trouble interpreting the property land records that I get from the Recorder of Deed’s database. It dawned on me to look at my own property records to get a sense of what is what.

For reasons, I’m going to change up some names but I will keep the dates. In 2001 I bought my house with a mortgage. In 2003 I took out a HELOC, or 2nd mortgage with Bank B. That was recorded in 2004. In 2006 the Bank B HELOC was paid off and it looks like I took on another HELOC for 100K for the major renovation with Bank A. In 2009, I refinanced, replacing Countrywide with Bank A and absorbing the HELOC I had with them into the new 30 year mortgage. When 2014 rolled around, we (now married to The Help) refinanced to a 7 yr ARM with some cash to pay for the 4th renovation. What I don’t see is the HELOC I took out that year in my name. Which might explain why the title company couldn’t find it either when we sold the house. Continue reading Figuring out the Recorder of Deeds Docs

Property Owners of Truxton Circle- – The Levitovs

So last time we looked at the Bundys, the African Americans who owned parts of Sq. 551 in Truxton Circle. So now I turn to the Levitovs, whose name appears on the image I was looking at several times.

Image not found
Source: Library of Congress-

Max & Rose Levitov appear twice (551-0846, 551-0855). Max Levitov (551-0854)appears once by himself.

The thing about Square 551, which is bounded by 1st, Q, 3rd, R and Florida Ave is that the houses that were once there, no longer exist. It is now Florida Avenue Park, the Northwest Co-op (not public housing), and the Mt. Sinai Baptist Church. The other thing about S. 551 is that it was a commercial block. There was a dairy over on 1st Street and the block had warehouses and whatnot. So keep that in mind as we look at the Levitovs.

Having had worked at the US Holocaust Museum and having Jewish friends, the names Max & Rose Levitov just jump out at me as being Jewish. And the 1930 Census came through. Max was a Russian whom immigrated to America in 1909 and spoke Hebrew. Continue reading Property Owners of Truxton Circle- – The Levitovs

Property owners of Truxton Circle– The Bundys

Just out of curiosity I’m going to revisit an image I used regarding an African American female homeowner. But she created a mental roadblock and I lost my rhythm.

Landowner list of Sq 551

This image is part of the 1933-34 property tax assessment page for part of Sq. 551, which is between R, 3rd, Q, 1st and Florida. Continue reading Property owners of Truxton Circle– The Bundys

Black Homeowners of Truxton Circle- The Garretts of 1408 3rd St NW

I’m gong to try a different angle since I am still discombobulated about someone who lied to the Census. This time I just decided to look at my big old Truxton Circle 1880-1940 database and pick one. Since the online records for the Recorder of Deeds starts in 1921, I figured starting with the 1920 Census was safe.

I picked John W. Garrett of 1408 3rd Street NW (SSL:W0553-0810) who was listed as a mulatto (African American)  Engineer and head of household. In 1920, Mr. Garrett was a 70 year old West Virginia native living with his 2 daughters Beatrice E. Garrett and Armetia M. Johnson and 7 year old granddaughter Marjorie Johnson. By the 1930 Census Mr. Garrett had died, Armeta/Armetia was listed as the head and her 1920 sister was now her partner? (head tilt) Both Beatrice and Armeta were dressmakers, probably self employed dressmakers. They could have been in business with each other. In 1940 the inhabitants of 1408 3rd are listed as renters, including Beatrice Jarrott, which sounds awfully like Beatrice Garrett. They could be the same person, but the ages don’t line up. She could have lied about her age, adding on 10 years in the 1940 census.

The Recorder of Deeds has Beatrice Garrett showing up in May 1951. I am not 100% sure how to read deeds and other property documents, so it appears to me that she and Marjorie Ellen Rand sold the property to Violet M. Barbour. Could Marjorie Rand be the same Garrett granddaughter listed in the 1920 census?