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?

1957 Church Survey: Third Church of God

Okay I had to look at the old Shaw map to figure out if this was in Mount Vernon Square or Shaw or both. The answer is both. The Mount Vernon Square historical district overlaps with parts of Shaw.

Commercial Building Map
Map of Shaw for 1970 Commercial Buildings

The the other question was, “Is this the church on New Jersey Ave?”  Yup, 3rd Street, New Jersey Ave, same diff apparently. That little section between Morgan and New York Avenue, has northbound traffic going on New Jersey and southbound traffic on 3rd Street.

The Third Church of God appears to continue on as the Third Street Church of God. In the 1957 survey their address is listed as 1204 3rd Street NW. Looking at their history listed on their website they wrote: Continue reading 1957 Church Survey: Third Church of God

Twinning School of Truxton Circle

This is from the pile of stuff I have on my computer about DC History and while reviewing Church Survey uploads that hadn’t a lot of views, I noticed this one. I got this from the Sumner School Archives, a great resource and it is from DCPS Public School Buildings Past and Present, which appears to be an unpublished manuscript.

The Twinning School used to be a school at 3rd and O Streets NW. It was an 8 room school house built in 1883 and demolished sometime around the time Dunbar expanded. When it served as a school it was a segregated white school. It appears that it served as a school for white students until 1918. It became a school for African American students in 1925. In 1930 the Truxton Circle neighborhood was predominately African-American. It soon got absorbed by Armstrong on the other end of the block and became an auxiliary building. Now there is an empty field where it stood.

Twining School by Mm Inshaw

1957 Church Survey- New Hope Baptist

Some Church Survey posts are chock full of information, and some got nada. And that is New Hope Baptist Church.

CS 49 New Hope Baptist by Mm Inshaw


I looked up the address on Google and according to Streetview, the True Gospel Baptist Church is at that spot now. And just for my own records the SSL now is 0303-0052.  This page barely has any useful information, except the name of the then pastor Rev. Truman Dixon who lived on the premises at 1104 W Street NW.

1957 Church Survey: National City Christian- Random church not in Shaw

I know it has been a good long while since I’ve put out the church surveys, so here’s a quick refresher. So the city and other authorities conducted a survey of churches in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area, which was a precursor to the Shaw School Urban Renewal Area, which is just now known as Shaw. The thing is there was never a survey like this one ever conducted again. The survey included steeple churches, storefront churches and even little house churches. And the churches that did bother to answer most of the survey questions provide a wealth of demographic information.

Today’s church is National City Christian Church at Thomas and 14th Streets NW. It’s just outside the Shaw boundaries.

CS 61 National City Christian by Mm Inshaw

Looking at their survey response, in 1957 they were a large white middle class church with about 2000 members. Now looking at their website, they appear to be more multicultural as they have a 11AM Sunday worship service in Spanish.

It’s hard to say if they were a commuter church in 1957. About 40% lived in the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia, but half of the congregants lived somewhere in DC. Just not in the survey area, that was 10%. That makes sense as they were Downtown, and not a lot of people lived Downtown. Not did many of their congregants live in Shaw. But Dupont and the West End are sorta in walking distance.1957ChurchMap


Well that’s almost over- Still here, just different digs

SOLDOkay, one thing down, some other stuff to go.

Despite plans to blow this pop stand, I’m still here. We’re still here. Our block is so awesome, we’re renting a couple of doors away and will stick around until something better comes around. The usual thing is to go looking for a house, buy it and then sell your house. Having 2 mortgages wasn’t particularly appealing prospect. We’ve got a pretty cool arrangement with our former neighbors/ landlords. Our block has great people on it. I hope our buyer/ new neighbor will be great too.

I look forward to the feeling of being able to just pick up and go.

Anyway, we’re still here to enjoy the restaurants, the Bloomingdale Farmers Market and all the wonderful things DC still has to offer, despite the Covid. I know where we’d like to relocate to and have become acutely aware of what we’d lose when we move. Off the top of my head, quick and cheap Uber rides. Followed by bars with good food. Followed by restaurants with good food. Followed by an embarrassment of grocery store choices in walking distance. Yes, everything revolves around food.

Now that that part will be over in about 30 days. I can get back to figuring out where I am with Church Surveys and Black Homeowners of Truxton Circle and other random bits of Truxton/Shaw history.

Renovation #4- A new addition

What was renovation #4? I just wanted to add an addition over the top of my 1 story kitchen. Apparently that was too much to ask for. We needed an architect because, despite the fact we were not changing the footprint of the house, we needed one to deal with the fact we were almost 2% over FAR. So it was an addition and new windows.

So this was 2014 and we were planning to adopt. We wanted a little bit more space for a little one. So we contacted our contractor and he put us in contact with an architect. In this project architects do more than draw pictures and plans. This one went to DCRA with me to talk to whomever I needed to talk to so we’d be approved to build on top of the kitchen. Which seemed stupid to me, still does. But apparently my back yard wasn’t big enough.

A few houses up the block had expanded back, knocking down their rickety old 1 story kitchens and building up. We sort of wanted to do the same, but we couldn’t build as wide because of the basement entry. I figured that gave us some wiggle room. Wrong.

As you may remember, renovation #1 was the kitchen. I had no intentions of changing that. But things happen when you’re renovating. I knew the alley facing wall was crap and bound to tumble into dust at any moment. That we planned on replacing. But when they were tearing down that wall, the wall facing the basement entry crumbled down too. Surprise! On the plus side, we gained 6 inches of length and width when the old brick walls were replaced by frame walls. yay.

Entrance before
Entrance under construction

Then there are things that fell under, “well since we’re doing this we may as well do this other thing.” That was the entrance to the kitchen from the main house. The entrance was wider at the top and getting things into the kitchen required lifting things up. While the walls were opened up, we figured, why not widen the entrance and even out the width. We also decided, why not new windows? And when the guys removed the plaster from the wall the were about to tear down to extend the bedroom, I saw the beautiful exposed brick and wanted to keep it. So I kept it. All that probably added $20K to the bill.

Speaking of the final bill, it was $65K, not counting the architect. If you add those services, along with other fees and costs, it was about $80K. No one seems to account for renovations and the costs of updating properties when looking at why housing in the neighborhood costs more than 5- 10-20 years ago. Sometimes, it is not the same house.

I’ve enjoyed my term as owner of the house. I think I did right by it by improving where I could. But due to limits there were some things I didn’t do. Typically those limits were financial. I never did any work with the idea of making up for it in the eventual sale of the house. It was all for my comfort and I hope that it will be comfortable for the next set of owners.

Renovation #3- Basement

I have a ton of photos of the basement renovation. About half of them are grainy and out of focus.

When I bought the house back in 2001, I had a finished basement. There was cheap Home Despot brown carpet there and the mechanicals of the ancient furnace and the hot water heater in a utility room. Then a few months later came the flood. Water flew from the exterior drain and breached the basement door. Water also seeped through the walls. I vaguely remember coming home to this and reviewing the damage with my insanely tall boyfriend. Insanely tall boyfriend did not want to bother with my problem, probably because the basement, was a short people basement.

The next day, or several days, I ripped out the carpet, and the baseboards and tossed them in the trash. And from 2001-2012, I had an UN-finished basement. Under the carpet and padding were cheap vinyl tiles and concrete. I used the space as a laundry area, untrustworthy storage, and an office. After renovation #2, I had ethernet cables and the wifi hub centered down there. And after this renovation the ethernet no longer worked and the phone signal was weak. Something got cut or damaged.

So for some reason, we decided to finish the basement, but with some improvements to deal with water. I didn’t trust the basement. So we got french drains. Later, after the renovation, I got a bigger sump pump pump. These helped deal with the water as we were the first basement. One winter, a neighbor up a few doors had a pipe burst while he was out of the country. Water rolled down and for days our sump pump kept going off. And off. And off. It had snowed or rained but I figured out it was a burst pipe and not water seeping through the ground. This last flood event, we fared pretty well. Just a tiny bit of water when others got flooded out.

So what changed from the finished basement of 2001 to the finished basement of 2012? Well, indoor/outdoor carpet for one. Secondly it was set up for storage. There is storage along the wall and we used it to store our seasonal clothing, tools, food, little used small kitchen appliances and craft items. This allowed us to keep the upper floors uncluttered. We also changed the layout and moved the sump pump. The laundry was moved from the center to the front of the house and the dryer could finally expel air and lint to the exterior.  Those interior boxes for dryers are okay in the short term, but not for the long term.

There were some things left undone with the basement renovation. I really wanted a window in the rear office. But we were running out of money. The renovation cost us over $40K. One of the unexpected costs was moving a gas pipe. There were some other things but I forget what they were.

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 #2- Down to the Bricks, part 1

Renovation #2 is the renovation I am most proud of. It is the renovation where I went down to the bricks and the joists. I replaced the floors, changed up some of the radiators, and completely changed the floorplan. Since it was such a big project, I’m dividing this into a couple of posts.

Let’s start with the permits. I was able to get the permit myself, with my own drawings. The poor Sikh gentleman at DCRA was patient with me, pointed out things I needed to correct and I think he really wished I had used an architect. But I sort of did. Ira, my architect neighbor, had given me a book on how to draw up plans and advice. This was 2007 so no Google Sketch-up, I hand drew the plans. So I got permit, and it cost me $1000. Just for the permit. All the permits are up on SCOUT, so anyone can look at them.

Then there was the money. I vaguely remember budgeting $87K for the project. It wound up costing around $100K. I had a sweet loan with Countrywide where the 30 year loan had a very low interest rate for the time because of the DC Housing Finance office. But for this project I refinanced with a bank and wound up with a higher rate. My mortgage went from $600 a month to over a thousand. It was worth it. I may explore in another post why I can dare to try  to sell a house I bought for $108K for $750K.

With any large project like this there were unfortunate discoveries made when all was demolished away. One scary thing were joists that at some point in the past had been hacked away to make room for plumbing. Or joists rotted from leaks in the bathroom. I had told our Realtor we didn’t mess with the joists, but looking back at construction photos, those were replaced. Another scary thing was the big hole in the load bearing wall, hidden by a false wall. Anyway, I fixed, or had things fixed and made decisions that made the costs creep up.

People would say old houses had good bones. Because of unhappy discoveries the contractor found hidden behind the walls and ceilings, that saying I found to be an annoying lie. You don’t know until you go down to the bricks and joists. The bones are now fine.