Lessons Learned from Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle- Don’t leave property to a bunch of people

Okay, I have a pet peeve and I want to get it off my chest. So I have been documenting the property transactions of African American home owners from the 1920 census who lived in this Washington, DC neighborhood of Truxton Circle. Do I understand the records I’m looking at? Not 100% but I can tell there is some problem when the home owner I am tracking leaves their home to more than one person.

I have a sense of what the owner might have been thinking if they left a will. Maybe they wanted to treat all their children equally. Maybe they wanted to leave something to all the people in their lives who meant something and the only thing of great value they had was their home. That’s sweet. But the problem is all their adult children don’t want to live together in the same house they grew up in.

What I see in the land records are papers where all the heirs have to sign off to let one family member have the property. Or all the heirs, and their spouses, sell the property.

Now let me dig and find something useful from my graduate education. I learned why pre-industrial and industrial England was more prosperous than France and it was because of primogeniture. Primogeniture was when the first born (usually male heir) get the main land, properties, and business interest of the deceased. Second plus sons and daughters were lucky to get an allowance, small plots of land or what have you, but not the main prize. This meant the farm was not broken up. Whereas in France, they broke up the farms and the lands into smaller portions, which meant they were less productive.

So back to Truxton Circle. One could theoretically divide a house if it were a two unit structure. So far I have not seen that.

What I have seen with other property owners of Truxton Circle, are requests to allow wives/widows to remain in the home until their death while the named heir holds the title.

In conclusion, the inheriting parties sell the property or transfer it to one of the heirs, who later sells the property.  So one may as well direct the sale of the property and have the proceeds divvied up equally by the heirs and save everyone the headache.

Because of another TC related side project the generational wealth that TC property gives is not in the property itself. It may be more the idea of having property and being a homeowner. My parents are still alive so I’m not getting their old ramshackle house any time soon. But they provided an example of the idea of owning one’s own home.

Examples of several heirs- Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Annie Brown 69 N St NW

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Wallace J. Broadas- 1607 New Jersey Ave NW

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Malinda Powell- 71 N St NW

Old Drafts- Assuming class & income

This is a post that for some reason I did not publish. If I did it would have been published on 7/29/2008.


Old BeggarI’m writing this post to acknowledge that when I observe my neighbors and fellow citizens, talking about their wealth or lack thereof is at best a guessing game. I hesitate to talk about the ‘suspected’ homeless guys who hang out all year, near where I work, because I don’t know if they are homeless. They don’t have a shopping cart of stuff and they appear cleaner than some of the ragged tourists who march around. It’s just that they hang out in the same spot day after day, winter, spring. summer, and fall, during work hours and occasionally one guy will whip out a cup with some change and shake it. There are all sorts of signs that strongly signal that they are homeless, but to my knowledge few to none have self identified themselves as such. So when I question and analyze my presumptions, I’ll say I’m about 80% sure. Because honestly, taking in their ages 1/2 of them, and they are doing what my retired uncle is doing, sitting around and staying out of Aunt M.’s way. They could be the same.
There are things about our neighbors that point in this, that and the other direction as to which is their economic class. Because we are not privy to that which, frankly is none of our business, our guesses about whether someone is a member of the underclass, the overwhelmed middle class, or wealthy is just that, a guess. Unless they tell us.
I guess this comes from some people watching I was doing.

Old Draft–Problem houses

I’m looking at my drafts folder and wondering why I didn’t publish this. This was supposed to be published on 1/28/2009. The link I had no longer works, so I removed it.


Here’s the dilemma. On one hand you don’t want to seem unfair and blame all of your neighborhood woes on one person, or one family or household. On the other hand, when the city drives up in the form or police, fire/EMT, or an array of social services with sharp teeth and you instantly and correctly know where they’re going, you’ve got a problem house.
I thought of that when reading Blagden Alley’s post on 1258 10th St, regarding an address with a history of problems. I also thought, as the problem houses become fewer, we may do, as people do when something unpleasant goes to the past from the immediate present. We romanticize the past and the people. We get more sympathetic towards the residents and overlook the transgressions, such as the crack dealing. Mainly because it is tucked safely well into the past, unable to terrorize, threaten or destroy our tomorrows.

Shaw Schools- A sort of review PARCC scores

The 2019-2020 academic year was…… so it’s kind of pointless to look back at that year. Which leaves me with the 2018-2019, the last normal year. Besides, the PARCC scores posted by OSSE end with the 2018-2019. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that kids’ grasp of math and English language arts did not improve with distance learning.

Let’s get this over with:

From Shaw School Review: Dunbar High School:PARCC by Race

PARCC Scores 2018-19, % meeting & exceeding expectations
Black White Hispanic Asian
ELA 2018-19 16.5% N/A n<10 N/A
Math 2018-19 .5% N/A n<10 n<10
Males ELA 13.4% N/A n<10 N/A
Males Math .9% N/A n<10 n<10

Continue reading Shaw Schools- A sort of review PARCC scores

George Basiliko Odd Notes

I’m going to admit this is a super dull post. Feel free to skip it.

So I looked for information about this man including obituaries. Obits are very informative. They tell you about connections you might not have been aware of.

From Legacy.com

On Friday, April 27, 2007, of Washington, DC, preceded in death by his loving wife Sophia; loving daughter, Katherine and his long time companion, Helen Verstandig and his brothers, Nick, Gus, Harry, Gregory and John. Survivors include his son, William and William’s partner, Marcus and his nephew and right hand man, John Swagart. Surviving siblings include, Marche, Oscar, Eftehia, Achilles and his loving brother and best friend Arthur. Also surviving are loving friends, John Verstandig and Joan Lipnick. He leaves many nieces, nephews, and life long friends.

vs

Findagrave.com

Preceded in death by wife, Sophia Basiliko, in 1989, daughter, Katherine; his companion, Helen Verstandig; brothers, Nick, Gus, Harry, & John. Surviving are his son, William; nephew, John Swagart; siblings, Marche, Oscar, Eftehia, Aschilles, & Arthur. Interment followed funeral services conducted at the St. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, May 1, 2007.

Both inform us of Helen Verstandig, his late partner/companion, a relationship that does not usually make itself known in the usual genealogical resources. Legacy informs us that his son had a partner named Marcus, who is left off the FindaGrave site. Legacy said his brother Arthur was his best friend.  Legacy included non-family, friends John Vertandig (relative of Helen?) and Joan Lipnick. There was another paragraph about the funeral and the church with Legacy, which FindaGrave has in one single paragraph.

I want to point out John Swagart, who is the nephew, of so many nieces and nephews, who is singled out by both Legacy and FindaGrave. His name has shown up in the odd newspaper article or two with his uncle George Basiliko, so they have done business together.

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.

An Observation – Drug deal

It has been a while since I have observed a drug deal on my street. This is mainly because I have been worn ragged by a pre-schooler with limitless energy and given a chance, I will take a nap. Sleep is awesome, but I digress.

I was going to take a nap, but I still had to deal with laundry so I opened up the blinds. I observed a young man moving by my spouse’s car, so I watched him. He was going over to a maroon hoopdie with a sun worn hood. He entered the car. Sat down and after a few seconds, maybe one minute, the hoopdie’s driver handed him a plain paper bag.

Remember, I’m high up enough to see down into the car. This makes me think that security cameras high up have a certain advantage…. depending on what you’re looking for.

I should also mention, I was once on a federal grand jury. I learned a lot about drugs and drug dealing. Cars are one place of exchange.

After the young man got the bag, he exited the car and crossed the street to another car. I was able to look straight down into the car. I decided if it was a weapon, I would call 9-1-1. Too many children have been shot by idiots with guns who shouldn’t have guns. But the way he handled the bag made it appear that the contents were too light to be a gun. It was a package of something. If my binoculars weren’t in storage, I would be more sure. But if I had to take a guess, it was fake weed, like Scooby-snax.

Then someone covered up with a hat and a blue mask came up to chat with the driver. Hat and mask guy could have been a local, but I could not tell as he was well covered. He left and then the young man walked off somewhere.

The  the driver sat there in their normal blue car for a while and I got bored looking at him and laid down for a nap. Later, I got up and he was gone.

Something made me look out the window again, and I noticed the blue car with the young man and the driver. The car could not find a parking space, so it was double parked. Then the driver decided to park illegally. The young man who had been in the car before got out and went to his own blue car. When they both drove off, I noticed their Maryland tags.

Rando thoughts ending in a music video

So I decided to look to see if there were land records involving George Glorius or any members of the Glorius family for Sq. 520 in the Recorder of Deeds records.

Glorius brought up bupkis.  Mainly because he was on Sq. 519 and proof that I should look at a map and not go by memory. So I decided to just look for anyone between 1920-1921. And I got Catharina Appollonia Miller later Catharina A. Ruppert (1871-1944).

“Ruppert” that is a name that shows up a lot. A. Lot. in Shaw records about property.  I’ve met the current set of Rupperts who run in the art/history circles in the Shaw area. Lovely people. The Rupperts I encounter in the historical records, not so lovely.  This is because I am encountering a landlord in a slum area.

But then I kept going back to her middle name and then had to find the video of the singer with that name. Enjoy Apollonia (if you like Prince adjacent artists) or get traumatized by the 80s.

An observation about Property Owners of the TC

This is just an observation from doing this series on property owners, ladies buy land. In the 1920s and 1930s, ladies, are buying land, selling land and inheriting land. Single ladies, married ladies, gals. This is only notable because on occasion I will run across some bit of history about how unmarried women couldn’t get loans or married women needed their husbands permission or something else that equates to women couldn’t really own land.

Women were landholders. They may have inherited it or were the sole survivor in the marriage in a joint tenancy. They may have bought it using a savings and loan or funding from private backers. The private backers are interesting.   I will see something in the land records about Ms. So N. Soh borrowing money from two trustees but she’s supposed to pay another party. It happens. Today there are hard money lenders.

Looking back about 100 years ago, banks weren’t the only places to get money to purchase a property. It is completely plausible that a single woman with community connections and social capital could hit up those networks to find some widow with money to lend to her so she can set up her real estate empire renting to African Americans coming into DC as part of the Great Migration.

What do I want out of the property owner series? Well I want to get off of Square 551. The series has gotten me back into looking at people connected to Truxton Circle and I can see a way back to Black Homeowners of the TC.  With the skills I’ve picked up I might revisit those earlier posts and update them with more information. I might even pick up on some subtleties that are lost in grand narratives. Who knows? But what I do know is that I will learn more about the people who were a part of the Triangle known as Truxton Circle.

Shopping with Bank Robbers

Because Destructo-kid goes through 3 gallons of milk a week and because I was running out of greek yogurt, I went shopping at the Giant this morning. A day or so ago the CDC said that we should be wearing non-medical (save the medical grade ones for the medical people) facial masks. So every other person in the store was wearing some sort of thing over their face. There were bandanas, blue surgical masks, dust masks, plastic face shields, wrap around scarves, and homemade contraptions like the one I was wearing. It was like shopping with bank robbers.
Sign At Giant
Despite the mask, I was able to identify a neighbor in the bread aisle. He has very distinctive hair. I saw another neighbor who works at the Giant, he didn’t see me, and we’re more wave ‘hi’ from a distance neighbors, not chatty neighbors.
Single rolls of toilet paper
So there is some toilet paper at the Giant, limit 2 per customer. I bought two rolls.
Some paper towels
There were a decent amount of paper towels. Since we had a lot of microfiber cloths, we started using more of those to clean up non-gross stuff. If it is gross, like Destructo deciding to spit food back out, it gets a paper towel. So our usage is low enough, and our current stock of paper towels is enough for me to pass on that purchase.
Were is the brocoli
Seriously, what is it with the broccoli? Once again no fresh broccoli. There was frozen broccoli. Also in the freezer aisle more frozen strawberries and pineapple than you can shake a stick at. No frozen blueberries. No frozen cherries. Back in produce, there were limes, tomatoes, some onions, a few shallots, salad greens, bok choy, and if you want fresh garlic you have to buy them in packs.

Thankfully, there was 2% milk. Once they turn two, little ones need to get off the full fat milk and on to lower fat milk. For the past week or so, the 2% has been hard to find. And speaking of dairy, there was Greek yogurt, better yet, lowfat Greek yogurt, for now. I bought 2.

I’m going to end with a check on my COVID-19 privilege. I’m not going to shame people on-line for not wearing a mask. They are hard to find in stores and on-line. I have the privilege of still having a paying job and having had been paid on Friday. So I could afford to go on Etsy and purchase masks. I had the good fortune of having fabric scraps, a sewing kit, plenty of thread and ribbon to make a mask last night. We have a few used N95 (used and filled w/ our germs) laying about in the basement. Not everyone is as fortunate.

There are other privileges beyond masks. My spouse and I still are employed, and can maintain benefits. We can work from home (not as productive) and posses the tools and the internet access that allows for that. That work provides the finances that allows us to stock up so we don’t need to go shopping as much or lets us buy on-line. Despite some stresses of being stuck together, I have people I can hug and touch to get that human contact I crave.

So after counting my blessings or checking my privilege (yeah I know that means something different, just go with it), I’m not going to get on my high horse and write contemptuously of people without masks, riding on the bus, shopping, or the like. It’s not like the District of Columbia government distributed masks, gloves, and a weeks worth of rice and lentils to everyone and they’re just refusing to wear them. It’s not as if there are free food distribution centers or grocery stores in walking distance of everyone. I can be classist, and try to keep that -ism to myself, but the classism I’m observing from others during this time is getting a little over the top.