The Lost Alleys of Shaw- and some other places

I’ve got a whole bunch of photocopies of DC alley related history, circa 1930-1940ish. All of it disorganized, which is my fault. Anyway, armed with my pre-20th century map of Shaw east of 9th St, with all the block squares numbered, I will search for alleys long gone.
Sq. 447- Freeman Place (N, O, 6th, 7th Sts NW)
Sq. 448- Madison Alley (M, N, 6th, 7th Sts NW)- Mt Vernon Sq
Sq. 449- Congress Court (L, M, 6th, 7th Sts NW)- Mt Vernon Sq
Sq. 512- Kings Court (N, O, 4th & 5th Sts NW)
Sq. 514- Browns Court (M, NY Ave, 4th & 5th Sts NW)- Mt Vernon Sq.

On a photocopied list titled “Alleys to be studied for demolition since 1934” a few things pop out.[]-are mine
Sq. 1189 [Georgetown];Copper Shop Alley; House No. 3136 (31, Wis, Water, South NW)
Sq. 1205 [Georgetown]; Bank Street; House No. 1218-20 (33,34,M, Prospect NW)
Sq. 513 [MVSQ]; Ridge St. Court; House No. 440&438 (4,5,M,N NW)
Sq. 419 [Shaw]; Wynns Ct.; House No. 1711, 1709, & 1707 (7,8,R,S NW)
Sq. 367 [MVSQ]; Nailors Alley; House No. 1324-1326 1/2 (9,10,N,O NW)
Sq. 340 [?]; Durrs Court; House No. 1248 (10,11,M,N NW)
Sq. 302 [Shaw?]; Davis Court; House No. 2-5 (11,12,W, Fla)
Sq. 276 [Shaw]; Quaker Court; House No. 1210 (12,13,R, S NW)
Sq. 205 [Shaw]; Waverly Terrace; House No. 1922-26 (14,15,T,U NW)

Why my block is cool

I am just now chilling out having been at a neighbor’s party for the past 3 hours. A lot of my other neighbors were there, and their kids. The toddlers used their cuteness to get picked up and held by random adults. The 3 to 7 year olds ran in bubble blowing screaming packs. The grown ups drank, ate and conversed. New neighbors were introduced (three new households moved on to our block in the last month). A good time was had by all.
Besides the odd party, a number of us do come together over various things. Just this morning the homeowners of the two houses on the end of the block were cleaning up trash from the sidewalks and gutters. We give advice, exchange information, share garden plants, and lend a hand as well as tools. There are parents who get the kids together. And being so physically close to each other, because our houses are only 12 to 18 feet wide and attached, we are constantly interacting with each other.
Most neighbors, provided they haven’t been completely shunned, do get a wave and a nod. And that makes the block pleasant. But what I think makes it cool are these deeper relationships that go beyond exchanging pleasantries. Yesterday I sat in my neighbor’s backyard, joining them for dinner, talking about anything from Justice Souter, LEED building, to what exactly is growing in that pot?
I thought of the party that was to come and the previous evening’s dinner when I read this morning’s Post’s “From Nod and Wave to Know and Share: How to Spark A Neighborly Connection. It got me thinking about my introduction to the block. It began with two of my neighbors serving as the block’s welcome wagon who encouraged me to go the BACA meetings. I met some neighborhood people there. Several people moved in around about the same time I did, so the general curiosity of asking about work being done (our houses were fixer uppers, some more than others) led to introductions. Oh, and the blog helped too. As well as puttering around in the front yard, having roommates who made connections, and seeing familiar faces in places other than the immediate neighborhood (Hey, don’t you live a few houses down from me?). And it builds, neighbors who you already know introduce you to other neighbors, breaking the ice and giving you a chance to find common interests.
Also, as noted in the article, there are people who are more private. Then there are those whose lifestyles are such getting to know the neighbors is hard. Or worse someone could get stuck in the middle of a bunch of private, superbusy, or reclusive neighbors.
I was chatting with one of the new people at the party, and he was telling me how he’d asked his Realtor about bars and restaurants in the area to get a sense of the place. Well we don’t have any bars and the nicest place to sit down is a coffee shop in the next neighborhood over. But what we do have, few real estate agents would know about and if they did know, they probably couldn’t tell you legally.
If you’re a friendly sort of person, couple, or family with really young kids and you want want to settle down on my block, and happen to have between $400-$500K to spend on a townhouse, email me. We have an opening, and I can tell you as much as I can that your Realtor can’t.

MAR Location Fun

The DC Goverment has given us a lovely toy, weeeee! The District of Columbia Master Adress Repository has a cool feature… pictures. I plugged in 424 Q Street NW, which is up for sale but has no picture. So in addition to the location information, there is a tiny thumbnail photo of the house in question. Click on the tumbnail and there is a larger pix. The one for 424 Q St NW has a guy hanging out in the front…. nice.
Hat tip to Imgoph of Bloomingdale (for now).

Neighborhood Character

Mr. Liberty
Originally uploaded by ellievanhoutte

Many of you have seen this man around Shaw and Bloomingdale, a fellow, whom I’ve heard his friends call “Hollywood.” And he is what I think of when someone says, ‘character of the neighborhood’ or ‘neighborhood character.’ Sort of like Jog-in-Place guy is a neighborhood character for Gallery Place.
But I know that’s not what people mean when they talk about neighborhood character. Usually they’re talking about the set and scenery, the buildings and landscape. The background where life plays itself out.
When I think of the character of Shaw, all of Shaw from Logan to Truxton, U Street to the parts that overlap with Mt. Vernon Sq. I think of its 20th century struggles that still haunt and color the present day. I’ll be happy when we can completely heal the physical and psychological scars of the 1968 riots and its aftermath. I also think of its wonderful, if not at times challenging, diversity.
What do you think describes the character of the Shaw neighborhood?

Bike Shop in Western Shaw/ Logan Circle

The Prince of Petworth has a post about a Bike Shop/Video Rental at 1320 14th St NW.
What I love about it is that it’s two businesses in one. In a world of Netflix, I’m not too sure how well a video store will do. But a bike shop, particularly one that isn’t too high end….. Let me explain. I have a crappy 3 speed bike that I bought off of Craigslist for about $140. It is part of a long string of no name used bikes that I buy that are ugly yet functional. I see no reason to have a top of the line bike to run errands on and leave on the street to get stolen. I used to get my bike fixed at Chain Reaction, but that non-profit bike shop closed. So when I went to the next nearest bike shop, I was told that they could not touch my bike because their insurance wouldn’t cover it. This forced me to try to fix my own bike. I did a so-so job and really I’m willing to pay someone to do it for me, but sometimes the bike shop in Adams Morgan is a bit far. So I have to check out the bike part of this store.

Leaving the keys & walking away

Lost keys
Originally uploaded by In Shaw

Please don’t do that. I’ve only heard two people actually say that out loud about their houses. Neither one of them live in the DC metro area. One was my mom, and this is a periodic threat, so I don’t take it that seriously. The other was some guy from the mid-west visiting, who got a little over his head.
When I was passing out fliers yesterday, I came across this scene of keys on the fence and thought of that phrase of leaving the keys and walking away. As far as I know these are some lost keys in front of a house that doesn’t look occupied.
From what little I know, walking away does not help, unless the house is actually worth more than what’s owed, because at some point the bank will come after you for the difference.


Local Shaw blogger Jimbo tells us to relax about the swine flu and you know, I’ll do my part too. I will change my ways and not be the Typhoid Mari I usually am, coming to work sick. At the slightest hint of illness, at least this Spring, I will stay home. I’ve got about 300 hours of sick leave built up, I guess I can use it.
So read Jim’s post, wash your hands, and cover your mouth when you cough.

Self-righteous tourists vandalize Logan Circle Bank

Originally uploaded by In Shaw

I thought it was a mistake when I read the Washington Post about the IMF protesters breaking windows at 14th and P of the PNC and Wachovia banks. Seriously, you have to get through Dupont to get here from the IMF offices. There are banks there. Should Trinidad be on high alert?
On my way back to church I went to take a look and lo and behold, plywood, bringing a little ghetto back to the hood. There was a security guard out in front of Wachovia and the ATM for Wachovia was working fine, as there was a short line. The sidewalks of the 1400 block of P Street were filled with diners. So besides the plywood it was a normal looking Sunday.

Supposedly the vandals had an ideological problem with banks. Something, blah, blah, about foreclosures. You wanna prevent foreclosures? Ban mortgages. Tell people if they don’t have 100% the money up front, they can’t buy a house.

Appreciation to those who came before

The Bladgen Alley blog Baanc Blog has posted a picture of 1258 10th Street NW back in the late 80s. It’s so depressing looking. Gawd, would you want to live across the street from that? Next door?
There were parts of the eastern parts and mid parts of Shaw that looked like that when I was house hunting in 2000. Somewhere off U Street was a place I called the house of the ugly people. The block of the ugly people was kinda run down too. Now. As 1258 10th Street is now, it has come a long way, being a bit beyond my economic level. But then again my own house is beyond my economic level, good thing I bought it when I did.
Looking at the roughly 20 year difference in the pictures just makes me thankful for all those who stuck it out, those who tried and held back the decay as long as they could before retreating to save their sanity, and especially those who tried to make the neighborhood better but lost their sanity/ patience/ money/ life in the process. I’m on my block because of my neighbors L&D and Miss B who came 15-20 years before me, who fought against the drug dealing, pleaded with the city for services, and on their own tried to make their and their neighbors’ home a little oasis. I’m thankful to the neighbors, no longer on the block, like Pam & John, who did their part, said ‘I’m done’ and retreated to the suburbs or other parts of the city to recover.