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- https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3851bm.gct00135a/?sp=41

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?

Renovation #2- Unsexy and unseen

So the things you get to brag about when you have a big renovation are things you can point to and see. I did that. The cool things you can see are the exposed brick wall, the clawfoot tub, the updated bathrooms, and the improved layout. What you couldn’t see or wouldn’t notice were the more appropriate sized radiators, insulation, updated wiring and plumbing, and central air.

Prior to the 2007 renovation the radiators in some areas were above or right at the bottom of the window. This was noticeable when putting in the window AC units. The iron pipes that feed the 2nd floor radiators were behind unsightly (and dangerous) false walls on the first floor. The iron was replaced with copper and those pipes were neatly tucked behind the wall. Some of the old radiators were reused, and others were replaced with more appropriate sized radiators. All that cost money, but it was a small change that I felt made a world of difference.

Insulation is another thing you don’t see but made a world of difference. There was no insulation in the wall when they were opened up during the demolition. I got insulation in the exterior walls. I asked for insulation along the party wall that wasn’t exposed. And I even put some insulation between the 1st and 2nd floors. Later this and the improvements with the radiators helped keep the house toasty warm, especially the master bedroom.

The Spacepak system I put in actually came in 2008. As I mentioned in the previous post, I ran out of money. So the AC was tabled until the next year when I saved up enough for it. The vents had already been installed, I just needed the mechanical parts. I chose this system because I didn’t like the boxy look that came with most AC systems.

There were some other updates and things not in the house. The Ethernet wired system was messed up with renovation #3. I’m not sure what happened but something in the basement was cut or damaged. Wi-fi kind of made the system unnecessary. The 1st floor bathroom is larger than need be because I was going to put a shower in it. That never happened. There are pipes to feed water to a shower in the wall, but not a drain. We wound up just using the space as a pantry area. The new layout made the rear bedroom cramped. That was corrected in renovation #4. But in changing the layout it lost a closet. A closet was planned for renovation #4 but I wanted flexibility and figured a wardrobe would work just as well, so it never got its closet back.

Renovation #1- Kitchen

I’m taking a look back at the renovations 1618 4th St NW has had over the years since it is up for sale and on the market. I bought the house in 2001 and the kitchen was not working for me. It had a foot of counter space and the corner was taken up by one of those little stacked washer dryer units.Kitchen01Yes, 1 foot. You see that little bit of space near the sink? That was all the counter space I had. I couldn’t put a little table between it and the stove if I ever wanted to open the under counter drawer and cabinet.

Through swing dance friends I met my contractor, David. David was the GC for all the renovations going forward. I had talked to his references and they all liked him, he was communicative but artistic. Artistic is a problem when you want to keep costs down.

I documented my renovation with several LiveJournal blog posts, which I can’t find. But I still have the Flickr pictures. And I could find only one InShaw blog post mentioning the kitchen renovation.

It seems almost pointless to really mention the kitchen renovation because so much was undone by a later renovation. Renovation #4 for some reason killed the heated floor. Man I loved that floor. Reno #4 also changed the layout, the entry, the insulation and the ceiling height. The microwave had to be replaced in Renovation #2. The stove got replaced when David said he was taking one out of another kitchen renovation. The Bosch dishwasher was a renovation #3 or #4 thing. New ceiling lights were also from reno #4. The cabinets, the Corian countertops (more forgiving than granite) and sink and the most of the tiles on the floor remain.

An old bill says this kitchen redo in 2003 cost a little under $8000. I vaguely remember taking out a second loan to cover the cost, and something tells me it was more than $8K, as I had bought the tile and the lights and a few other things. It may have been around $14K with everything involved with add ons and what not.

When I finished my bright shiny I turned around and looked at the rest of my house. And that had me planning for the big renovation #2.

 

 

Paint it Black

I like having an orange (okay more creamsicle) house. In instructions to delivery people, because Google and other map things are screwing it up, is that if you aren’t delivering to an orange house, you have the wrong house. It isn’t like there are a lot of orange houses. But we’re getting the house ready for sale, so the orange has to go.

But something happened. As you can see from the upper (or featured) image it got painted black. This is not a color known to make houses sell like hotcakes, unless the market is full of Goths.

There was some miscommunication.

I’m sure this will get corrected and house painters have to give a wall a few coats of paint. So this one coat should be fine. I hope.

A black house is kind of cool, but not temperature wise. Black absorbs heat and as edgy and cool as I might think this would be (and a fun shock to the Realtor) the air conditioner wouldn’t appreciate it. I’ve seen other black houses in Truxton Circle, okay one. I wonder if those houses were painted black due to some miscommunication.

The Spacepak System- After a long hiatus

View-of-ceiling-with-ventSo back in 2007 I got a Spacepak system for my house when I had it renovated down to the bricks and beams. And sometime around 2016? it died. Blah-blah something about leaking coolant, which was expensive (the kind we needed) and the whole thing, we were told, needed to be replaced. I did not understand what that meant. What I did understand was the $12K estimate. That’s too dang much. To be fair, $3,000 of that was for a permit and rental of a crane to put part of the unit on the roof.

So we decided that for that price, it would be cheaper to buy portable a/c units and that was okay. But bringing up units up and down every year is a PITA. That and we knew we’d be departing and wanted to get the house ready for sale or rent, so this winter we got a new Spacepak. This meant a new outside unit on the roof, which the workmen managed to get up there with ropes and ladders, and another interior unit that was squeezed into our crawlspace. The tubes and what not remained.

So lately the weather warmed up enough to justify turning it on. This week was warm enough to test it. Normally, it’s kept at 80F in the day (normally, we are not home) and around 77F in the evening. Not much of a stretch. So when it was sitting at 77F I decided to try to get it down to 72F. I should note that our house’s walls are well insulated. The back has the foam insulation and the front has the pink stuff. It took a while but the thermostat did make it to 72F.

A noticeable difference from the system of the past and now is that it is quieter and the air doesn’t flow as hard. The crawlspace unit is right above our bed, so I noticed that difference when it turns on. The air flow is not as hard because when I overheat, standing under a vent isn’t as satisfying as it once was. Meh.

The replacement cost $9K, when rounding up. This was just for air conditioning. We have a radiator heating system that I luuuuv, bathrobes that have been sitting on a hot radiator is a special luxury you have to experience.  Part of me likes having two separate systems so when one goes kaput the other is fine.

Black Homeowners of 3rd Street – 1940 No covenants

It has been a while since I looked at the Black Homeowners of Truxton Circle. I stopped because I got stuck on a mystery and I’m just going to have to let it go. I will never know who the mystery man was and that’s okay. I’m going back to the Black homeowners because of on-line conversations with Richard Layman and things I’ve been reading about redlining and restrictive covenants.

Old City, DC Police districts

In my own research, I have not seen any restrictive covenants. I believe it is a thing that would be found outside of the L’Enfant planned city and in Washington County, those areas north of Florida Avenue. Mt. Pleasant, Trinidad, and Bloomingdale are the creations of developers who could put in those restrictions. So if you lived in Old City, the likelihood that your fee simple house (apt buildings could be a different thing) had a racial restriction would be low.

When looking at the property records, I have tried to make heads or tails out of them, but they are beyond me for now. I’ll see person X seem to transfer to person Y , then years later Z shows up with X. With E.L. Haynes who owned my house and several other properties in Truxton Circle and DC, she was able to borrow money for her rental properties. The financial details are in her papers at Catholic U’s archive and not so much with the Recorder of Deeds. Anywho, Black people managed to borrow money from somewhere to purchase real estate. Banks practicing redlining weren’t the only game in town.

Below is a table with data from the 1940 census, I’ve had to cut a lot out so it could fit, but know they are all for 3rd Street, they are all owners and African American.

House # Surname First name Age Marital Status School Occupation Industry Income
1311 King Cornelius 59 M H-4 Casterman US Printing Office $1,859
1335 Brown Hillary I 40 M 7 Janitor Apt house $936
1337 Turner Anna 37 M H-1 Waitress Tea room $320
1413 Taylor Emma 46 M H-3  $-
1415 Mudd Harry 60 M 8 Machinists helper Railroad Terminal  $1,900
1429 Aiken James W 48 M H-4 Waiter Hotel  $520
1430 Neal Victoria V 69 W H-4  $-
1431 Anderson Ada 79 W 6  $-
1538 Fitch Lula 45 M H-2
1542 Green William M 40 M H-1 Laborer Gov’t Printing Office $1,320
1544 Williams Augustus A 56 M C-5 Dentist Private Practice $2,000
1546 Brooks Walter A 54 M C-3
1548 Chisley Sadee 62 W 6
1550 Blackwell James 45 M 0 Cement Finisher Cement Contractor $960
1554 Taylor Walter J 65 M 8
1617 Contee Grant 63 M 0 Preacher Ministry  $-
1626 Cobbs Ferrel 45 M H-1 Messenger Interior Dept  $1,260
1628 Coleman Edward 60 M 8 Messenger Veterans’ Bureau  $1,500
1629 Jenkyns Jerome S 61 M C-8 Machinist U.S. Government  $2,245
1630 Marsell William 50 M 8 Custodian Bureau – Standards  $1,140
1649 Heywood Spencer 50 M C-1 Barber Barber Shop  $900
1634 Ford Laura 54 S 4  $-

I highlighted 1649 3rd Street, because that was my hang up, but I’m letting go, letting go. Instead I need to figure out how to make a decent table. This doesn’t seem like a long list, but remember in urban areas, more people are renters.

The owners on 3rd Street NW are varied. There are government workers, widow women, skilled labor and an educated professional. The youngest is Anna Turner, a 37 year old waitress at 1337 3rd St NW. She lived with her son and a female lodger, a teacher, the eldest a 79 year old widow Ada Anderson.

Buy This House: 1616 4th St NW

So our longtime neighbors have moved and are selling their house. Since they bought the house they moved into (for more space w/ legit parking), they need to get their old one sold, pronto! So if you’re thinking about buying a house in the TC let me tell you about 1616 4th St NW by pointing out a few things. Also, there will be an artshow/ open house on Friday 12/6 at 5:30pm , where the current owner will be showcasing some of his art work.

Greenery in the city– The owners love growing things. They had plants inside and out. In the rear are several pine trees, that was so the owner could wake up and see green. In the front they grew tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, basil, and other edibles. They also have planted a Japanese maple, right now it isn’t looking too hot, but in the spring and fall it is lovely. Their small porch they had several small potted plants. There are exterior spigots in the front and back for easy watering.

Kids on the Block– There are kids on the block including my own. A lot of the daycare and pre-school set, mainly boys. When they are seen (they aren’t out hanging about) they are with their mommies and daddies in a stroller. We are in the boundary of Seaton Elementary School (Pre-K 3- 5th grade) which scores highly on Great Schools. There are several Seaton families on 4th St.  The Google group for parents is Bloomingdale Kids.

Awesome Commute?– Yes, depending on where you are going. On the other side of the block you can catch the G2 (LeDroit to Georgetown), and the 96 (Tenleytown).  A block or two away are the 90, G8 and G9 bus stops. A 10 minute walk for me is the Shaw-Howard metro station. It is between the Q and R street bike lanes and there are two Capital Bikeshare stations within a block (or two). I haven’t had to wait more than 6-8 minutes for an Uber. If you must drive, the entrance to I-395 is a few blocks down New Jersey Avenue. So plenty of options.

Walkable neighborhood– The Walkscore is 95. We walk almost everywhere. The Giant is about a 10-15 minute walk if you don’t want to catch the G2. ANXO, is so close you could walk home drunk, but please drink responsibly. Truxton Inn is close too but that requires crossing Florida Ave, so you still need your wits about you.

Great block– The 1600 block of 4th St is the best. Our unofficial block captain Brian keeps the sidewalks clean, along with help from other neighbors. If you move here introduce yourself to the blond giant from Chicago and get on the no drama block email list. It is a quiet street, except when a firetruck is roaring down New Jersey, but eventually you kind of ignore that.

1616 4th Street NW– Built circa 1872-1875 housing black laborers, it is modern and renovated. It has a few flourishes from the previous occupants, notably the interior windows in the front bedroom that allow for light to go down into stairwell. It is listed by Keller Williams Capital.

Who can buy this– Okay, let’s just address an elephant in the room. Yes, $750K is a lot of money. But a shell, a cursed shell mind you, several doors down sold for $625K in November. Most likely buyers would be a DINK, double income, no kids (yet) with professional jobs who sold their condo. Other possible buyers could be single adults who are getting assistance from family (grandma’s will, parent’s co-buying, divorce settlement, etc). A developer could buy it since we aren’t in a historic district and try something, but FAR and a near neighbor’s solar panels might limit that. Families on public assistance aren’t potential buyers. Even with a 20% down payment a 30 year mortgage with great credit is over $3,000 a month (including taxes & insurance). That is above what the voucher program allows in this neighborhood even if it were to be rented.

If you think you are going to be around DC for a while, I would encourage you to buy a condo (although I, myself, despise condos) because maybe you can upgrade later in life when you’ve become more established in your career. You can use the sale of that condo, plus savings, and you have to have savings, to buy something like 1616 4th St NW in the future.