Recently in Shaw History Category

Where is Shaw?

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Historically it is here:


or here


or here


I'll acknowledge times change. Truxton Circle is making it's own history and getting cut off from the rest of Shaw by the ward system, but wards came with Home Rule and Home Rule is a good thing.

When histories meet

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For well over a year the Help and I have been working on his church's archive. We've done most of the heavy work. Right now we're waiting for certain preservation supplies to get ordered. Anyway, in the meantime, we're getting known as the people doing the church archive.  This weekend before Sunday school, while we were waiting in the atrium for coffee and tea to appear, an older member handed us a 1929 church directory. I did the membership part of the archive, so I took quick a look at it just a scan of one of the pages.

Page from 1929 Church Dir

Upon the page I flipped to was a resident of Truxton Circle. You'll have to click on the image to get a close up, but my eye landed on Miss Nina Lapham of 21A Bates St NW. I got all excited, speaking with a high pitched voice, which bounced around the atrium and probably woke up the dogs in the neighborhood. It is not like I hadn't looked at the directories before for possible Truxton residents. The Help's church started in 1912 in NW Washington, DC, before heading out to PG County in the 50s-60s (I also did facilities but I couldn't give you dates of the different moves off the top of my head). In those early years, when the church was at Randolph St. and New Hampshire Ave NW, most members lived in the District. When flipping through those directories it seemed most members live in upper NW. On this page, not too far from the TC lived a Mr. & Mrs. Guy Hoyme at 42 Q St. NE.

Once we are done with the Help's chruch, I want to move on to mine. I know for a fact that my favorite Truxton resident of the past, George Glorius, worshipped at Immaculate Conception at 8th and N. I know he and other members of the family are in those church records somewhere.

This is historically significant?

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This is old news but this sign bugged me. These townhouses were once owned by Dr. E. L. Haynes, as part of her investment portflio.

1509-1511 4th St NW, Washington DC Sign

In 1946 she sold it to Baker's Dozen, Inc. And apparently it was some youth center. Was it a youth center worthy of a little plaque or any mention?

Slum Housing No Mo', maybe

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Loose roofing material
on red house

Just for fun in ProQuest I looked up three words for the Historical Washington Post, "Shaw" "Rat" and "Baby". I remembered there was an article about our historic neighborhood where a rat bit a baby's face. But that might have been pre-urban renewal and I should have used the terms "2d Precinct" or "second precinct" for the baby biting rat.
From "Shaw: The City's Worst Slum"* Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973), March 24, 1968, p A25.:

Ceilings sag ominously. Loose wall plaster is held up only by brittle wallpaper. Where the wallpaper has given way, powdery plaster falls intermittently from holes in walls and ceilings.
Rats climb up through holes in the floors. Water drips from rusted pipes and leaks in the roofs. Some basements are filled with months-old stagnant water.

Later a woman says her daughter had been bitten by rats several times. The rest of the article is paints a dreary landscape of litter and dirt patched yards, poorly maintained buildings regardless if they are occupied or not. I found a toddler eating rat in "No. 2 Leads City in: Washington's Wickedest, The Second Precinct... Vice and Violence Outlined on an Aerial View of the Entire City," by S.L. Fishbein, Washington Post (1923-1954), March 14, 1954, p. M10:

The family tried to combat the rats by wedging pop bottles in the corner rat holes but the rats kept checking new holes around the bottles. Flat irons on the holes in the middle of the floor were more effective. One recent Saturday night, a rat bit one of the 19-month old children on both feet while she was asleep upstairs. Since then the landlord has had the rat holes covered with sheet metal.

These were the bad old days when Shaw was affordable. In "Slum Landlords Buy up Shaw Houses: Slum Landlords Quietly Buying Up Shaw Area Properties" by Leonard Downie, Jr. Washington Post, Times Herald, Mar 24, 1968 p. A1, the reporter noted that 3 of every 4 houses in Shaw were owned by absentee landlords. The article names names, one being a familiar last name of a family who in the present day has contributed to neighborhood. The problem with the landlords is that they didn't maintain their properties. Heat wouldn't work, buildings were bad at keeping out the elements and if the tenants threatened to call the city inspector, the landlord would tell them to move.

Now Shaw is less of a slum. There are still rats, as I saw one near the new Giant the other day, but they no longer bite children in their sleep. Most deteriorating housing has been bought by people who renovate the properties. There is less affordable housing, and there is less slum housing. But then again there are the odd holdouts who let parts of their roof flap in the breeze.

Happy Friday- I got nothin' but history, 2005-2008

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This my friends was taken way, way, way back in 2005. This is the corner of Q and 9th St NW. To the right and in the background is Shiloh Baptist Church. Currently there sits a modern building with big glass windows, like a fishbowl.

I am trying to search my memory for what exactly happened between this and the present. I do remember a huge hole that Ray M. constantly complained about for years.

Library Protest Banner

This photo was taken back in 2006 of the old Shaw library. The sign says "Free Our Library". The trees hide the little slits of windows. But I do see that the escalators for the Shaw metro has the glass covering.

Outside  the Big Bear Cafe

This is from 2007. Big Bear was on the verge of opening. There is no farmer's market, yet. There is no outdoor seating, yet.


 This is 2008. The place is formerly Dan's carryout. Walking home I'd smell greasy fried fish. Now I smell really good Thai food.

 I'm going to stop at 2008. If you just moved here you don't know, or probably don't know what this neighborhood has gone through to get to its current state of hipness. If you live here now, you know what these places look like. I hope you appreciate the efforts previous residents to make it an attractive and vibrant place.

Oh I found something else in the 2008 file.

Ray's Art

The other side of 9th and Q St NW.

Decade in Review: Ancestors of Truxton Circle

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618-MLK-1924 A few weeks ago I got an email from a TC decendent. Not of Cmdr. Truxtun but of someone with an ancestor who lived in Truxton Circle and who found his relative and this blog via the wonderful thing that is Google. The blog post was the "History of Sq 618- mainly the Unit block of New York Ave", one of my attempts to do one block's history. The subject in this case was Mr. John Sullivan or John J. Sullivan a saloon keeper with a very large family on the unit block of New York Avenue, whose saloon sat at 1130 1st Street NW.

It hasn't been the first time someone has stumbled on this blog hunting for their great, great-great or great-great-great grandfathers or mothers. Sometimes they provide me with more information about their ancestors and other times, I have helped with their own genealogical research. I get a thrill when I can connect with these *decedents to another aspect of their ancestor's life, as a resident in a city, with connections beyond just family. They were people who had neighbors, and maybe customers in the area. What I get, and why I LOVE are tidbits about other aspects of a former resident's life and things that the census may have left out.

*The rest of this paragraph and what followed was lost to time and the interwebs.

Decade in Review- Boundaries of Shaw

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Shawbound.jpgInspired by the Washington Post article, "National Building Museum helps teens explore Shaw, a neighborhood in transition," that includes a perfect map of Shaw, I'm going to report my June 2008 post, "Shaw no boundaries":

What is and where is Shaw? I am somewhat doubtful if you asked someone on the street in 1900 where was the Shaw neighborhood they would know how to direct you, as Shaw as a neighborhood, an area with borders was not there then. "Shaw" became "Shaw" in the late 60s. Looking at the Washington Post from that time first it was the Shaw school district and then it just became "Shaw".
See the map and see the 1973 borders of Shaw. Note that Mt. Vernon Square is not included in its entirety. The eastern border is 15th St. NW, the northern border is roughly Florida Ave (formerly Boundary), east is North Capitol and M & N make up the southern side. This is the definition of Shaw I have clung to and it is confirmed occasionally in over 30 years of the odd Washington Post article when referring to different parts of the area as Shaw.
The key word is occasionally, because there was that odd article that defined Shaw as its middle being 9th and 6th St. Then last week I found on my doorstep the Fagon Community Guide: MidCity DC 2006. I found the maps on pages 22 & 23 of Shaw and U Street to be a bit off. For one, the Shaw map has annexed parts of Dupont and LeDroit, as anything past 16th is Dupont and that bordering Howard Hospital is LeDriot. And maybe it ate bits of Adams Morgan too as the boundary goes past Florida Ave and has part of Meridian Park... or is that more Mt. Pleasant?
Anyway as the blog says, I'm in Shaw. But wait you say, "Aren't you in Truxton Circle?" Yes, why yes I am. "But how can you be 'In Shaw'?" Elementary. Think of those Russian nested dolls. Truxton is in Shaw. As is Logan Circle. As is U Street. As is Blagden Alley. Shaw is a big neighborhood encompassing several other neighborhoods. We are bound together by the history of riots and revitalization and schools and hope.
If you want your very own copy of the above map, it is somewhere in the MLK's Washingtonia Div's vertical file.

Since then I have loaded up a few other Shaw School Urban Renewal maps (not new to regular readers) here, here and here. Still haven't bothered the Wikipedia page.

A Program for Bates Street

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This is not another pre-WWII photo, this is from the 60s. 1960s.

Now I am sure I posted the publication by the District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA) before, but just in case, I'll put it out there for y'all again. In the late 60s the RLA put out "A Program for Bates Street" (PDF), which is currently located in the archives of George Washington University.

My own curiosity with the Great Society and the flurry of social programs that came out of that period, is how well those goals were achieved. So let's take a look at the program.

The program had 3 main objectives:

1. Introduce a greater amount of housing types and sizes designed to relieve the overcrowding in exisitng housing.

2. Use housing programs for both rental and owned "that will be most responsive to the economic profile of the residents of the Area, given the current costrainst of those programs."

3. Provide needed amenities such as open space for active and passive recreation, off street parking and "separate pedestrian and vehicular circulation systems."

I have to hit #3 first. What the hell is a pedestrian and vehicular circulation system? Sidewalks and roads? If they are sidewalks and roads then they should say sidewalks and roads!

Bates Streets, the unit to the 200 blocks seem pretty unchanged footprint-wise from the days when they were built, as with the rest of the targeted squares. As hinted in the program, Sq. 551 did get new housing, slightly different than the Bates Street and similar Q Street housing, providing that variety of housing types.  As far as overcrowding goes, I think there might have been more than they eye could have seen. I'm noticing with this 1st photograph there is a vacant house all boarded up. With pre-war censuses I can say there might be overcrowding in one  or two houses and the neighboring house only has one or two people. I don't doubt that many houses were overcrowded, but I wonder to the various causes of why. Anyway, the 1st objective was achieved with the removal of the alley dwellings on 551 and the building of the NW Co-op.

Manon Bates St68

The second objective, I have no idea what exactly the goal was supposed to be there. It is too vague to me. Maybe the authors were dancing around something. So I'm going to give that objective a no.

Lastly on the brochure, since Sq. 551 was part of the mix, I'm going to guess the open space amenity is the Florida Avenue Park. I also notice that it is an open space and not a green space. Now this is the park of the past, the park where passive recreation included drunks being passed out on play equipment. I realy appreciate the work of John H. and the Friends of the Park to make the place a better amenity than what the planners of the 60s could do. The Bates Area does have off street parking, I did not realize this was a pressing issue back then.

 Lastly on the whole thing, notice no bars. No bars on the windows. No bars on the doors. I have my theories, but I wonder if it is something that comes later when crime gets worse in the area.

It's not there no more, and that's okay

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This woman lived in an alley that no longer exists. Since the photograph was taken sometime between 1934-1941, there is a possiblity, that's she is long dead and isn't too concerned with housing.

The alley is Reeves Alley, sometimes Cookey Alley that was on square 551, where Mt. Sinai Baptist, the Northwest Cooperative and the Florida Avenue park sit. This is one of a couple of photos taken by the Alley Dwelling Authority to highlight the problems of alley residences and give the agency a good reason to tear down or convert alley homes. Looking at the aerial photo from the 1950s, it doesn't seem that these got the ax by the time the agency had changed its mission.

The block housing shared space with industrial/ commercial space. Either it came about pre-zoning or the city really wasn't interested in applying zoning rules here. There was the dairy and an auto repair shop, and several warehouse garage type buildings. I do not know off the top of my head when all this was swept away to make way for the Coop. But the Coop houses more people in better conditions than the alley did. Look back at the photograph of the woman at the door, it is possible that the housing was about 50 years old and it was getting into poor shape with the shutters . Of course there were worse looking alleys and the problem wasn't that they were in poor shape, the problem was they were hidden from street view. Today the problem would be getting 911 dispatchers to find it on their systems, getting fire/EMS into the alley, or calling a cab.


Today we love alley dwellings, it where cool new eateries or shops open up. If by chance it is a residence, it is a singleton or a childless couple who have managed to 'do something' wonderful with the property, turning it into a hidden jewel. They are not occupied by families of poor Carolina laborers who rent from a landlord not particularly interested in keeping up his/her property. The situation with the poor family would have been around longer than the cool people. Long enough that the property would have gone down so poorly that it could have been unsavagable by the time the cool people showed up. In the meantime, Shaw residents needed better housing. Besides there were plenty of poorly maintained houses facing streets.

These are just the alley dwellings. The block, remember was more than that, garages and warehouses. They are not there no more. The dairy, with its milk trucks, which had a bad habit of hitting people, is gone. People changed how they got their milk and butter, the world changed. Cities change. Change is not all bad.


Truxton Circle- WP Bibliography

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August 19, 1993 notice of meetings

I decided to do a little ProQuest search of the term "Truxton Circle" in the Washinton Post that reflects the last 30 years of this 'problematic' name of the neighborhood. Limiting it to 30 years I've left out the time period of when it was a traffic circle and when the term was used to describe a post office of that name.

The first thing you see here is a neighborhood meeting announcement. I decided to include the one for the Shaw Project Area Committee to play it against the Shaw-Truxton Circle heading for a BACA meeting. Of course these are the old days of 1993, 20 years ago when it was called the Bates Area Civic Association. It met in what I'm going to guess is the basement of Mt. Sinai at 7:30. The next BACA meeting will be on March 4th, but at 7pm. Someone should thank Mt. Sinai for letting us take up their basement for so long.


The next thing I'd like to share is a ad for the DC Department of Housing and Community Development and their effort to create some affordable housing and rehab structures. There are two mentions in this 1989 announcement. The first is a 4 bedroom Bates St house for $80,000. That was a pretty good amount for the time period. The second, on Hanover, looks like a give away at $250 per unit. So I'm guessing that in 1989 it was in pretty bad shape.

The post- Home Rule District government has used Truxton Circle to describe the area. The DHCD ad clarifies a bit where. Other descriptions, articles, and ads from the DC government have the TC lumped in with Blooingdale, and Eckington.

The following is a list of the articles and advertisements (Other and Display Ad) mentioning Truxton Circle as a neighborhood descriptor. Lastly, the October 1991 article "Community Outcry Wins Reprieve for Lenny's." mentions a Truxton Circle Coalition, described as a "umbrella group for civic assocations in the area."

Wheeler, Linda. "Ward 5: A Mosaic of Neighborhoods." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 2. Jun 23 1994. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1996). Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

"Other 41 -- no Title." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 1. Jul 22 1993. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1996). Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

"Other 20 -- no Title." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 1. Jun 24 1993. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1996). Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

"Other 32 -- no Title." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 1. Jun 10 1993. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1996). Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

Elizabeth Wiener Special to The,Washington Post. "Community Outcry Wins Reprieve for Lenny's." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 1. Oct 31 1991. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1996). Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

"Display Ad 117 -- no Title." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 1. Dec 14 1989. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1996). Web. 27 Feb. 2013 .

"Display Ad 66 -- no Title." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 1. Dec 13 1989. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1996). Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

"Display Ad 52 -- no Title." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 1. Dec 10 1989. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1996). Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

"Display Ad 113 -- no Title." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 1. Dec 07 1989. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1996). Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

"Display Ad 28 -- no Title." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 1. Dec 06 1989. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1996). Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

"Display Ad 78 -- no Title." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 1. Dec 05 1989. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1996). Web. 27 Feb. 2013 .

"Display Ad 46 -- no Title." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 1. Dec 03 1989. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1996). Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

By Marcia Slacum Greene Washington Post,Staff Writer. "D.C. Cable Firm Unveils Wiring Schedule, Seeks More Concessions." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 2. Sep 04 1985. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1996). Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

By Sheilah O'Connor Special to the,Washington Post. "$5 Million Goes Begging." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 2. Oct 11 1984. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1996). Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

"Subsidy Program's Nuts and Bolts." The Washington Post (1974-Current file): 1. Aug 02 1984. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1996). Web. 27 Feb. 2013.