Fun with ProQuest:1825 T Street NW

Yes, this is a couple of blocks west of 16th Street, so definately not in Shaw. But I came across a Washington Post article* when looking for Northwest slum housing with no electricity. 1825 T Street was built as negro housing, replacing 5 frame houses that once sat on that spot. It was part of a plan to clear (tear down) slum housing from 16th to Conneticut Avenue. Currently they are condos, and appear to have been condos since the 80s. I thought it was interesting, so thus, I post.

*”Apartments To Replace Slum Area.” by Robert P. Jordan. The Washington Post (1877-1954) [Washington, D.C.] 9 Jul 1950,R1. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The Washington Post (1877 – 1992). ProQuest.

1950s School Map


JrHigh1956Borders
Originally uploaded by In Shaw

I also have the High School map and I can’t help but notice that 16th Street is a common dividing line.
This is from “Corning Sets Integrated School Zone Boundaries,” by Marie Smith, Washington Post, July 2, 1954 p. 1, 25-26. It is the proposed school boundaries for schools that were to integrate. Wanna guess what big demographic change occurs east of 16th?
Also I want to mention that when I present stuff from the past, occasionally called ‘history’, I will try to cite it so you dear reader can find the information yourself. History is subject to interpretation, and I bring my own biases. Un-cited, history is subject to being made up.

Sort of Retelling/rewriting History

I’m trudging through Monique M. Taylor’s Harlem: Between heaven and hell which looks at the role of the black middle class and gentrification in Harlem. Harlem, has a special place in AfrAmerican and American cultural history, so there is that attractive and laudable past that attracts middle and upper middle class blacks.
In the first chapter Taylor writes how Harlem came into being via a real estate bust. Speculators bought up properties in Harlem around the turn of the 20th century because the Manhattan subway or street car (I’m not clear which) was coming up to Harlem and well, you know. Too many houses constructed, too high of a price, and then the bubble popped. Sound familiar? In this economic crisis ” many landlords were willing to rent properties to blacks. … Others shrewdly took advantage of white prejudice. The hope was that by placing blacks into certain properties, neighboring whites would vacate their properties and free them up at extremely low prices.”[1] Around the mid to late 1910s Harlem became a majority black neighborhood. Then by 1920 notable and influential black organizations had established or relocated themselves in Harlem. Over time the positives that Harlem is known for flourished.
However, while there was this great Harlem Renaissance taking place, the glory outshone the negative side of Harlem. The unemployment, the crowded living conditions, the poverty and segregation. The famous Cotton Club was for white patrons only. The realities of the negatives resulted in large homes being carved up into smaller units to crowd poor people into and when the glitter of Harlem’s shine started getting dull a depressing ghetto began to show underneath.
The background is needed to understand the black middle class who come to or returned to Harlem to ‘restore it to it’s former glory.’ As I was reading the stories of the black mid class (let’s say buppies for short) fixing up properties I noticed something. They are making the buildings reflect their pre-black neighborhood past, while lauding the Harlem Renaissance period. You mix your time periods long enough they meld into one, so that it is easy to imagine people like us (buppies) living in the grand houses and participating in the Renaissance. No one in the book, so far, has confused the periods, but the thinking seems to skate very close to it.
The book is very interesting in addressing class. But class seems to be too clunky and static a term. Taylor does show in one example how the relationship between buppies and poor blacks goes from we are all one to those sorry so-and-sos. Maybe more about that later.

[1]Taylor, Monique M. Harlem: Between heaven and hell. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis, 2002. p. 5

DC Archives Holdings, pt 2

See Part 1, and I take no responsibility for the accuracy of this catalog.
Mayor’s Office (and predecessor, the Board of Commissioners)
Minutes, Including orders, of the Commissioners. 1953-67
Records relating to executive session meetings of the Board of Commissioners(“Confidential Memorandum”), 1957-1966. (6 cu ft)
Photographic prints and negatives, slides, and other visual records from the Office of Communications and its successors, ca. 1946-1990. (22 cu ft)
General Correspondence of Mayor Walter E. Washington, 1967-1969. (18 cu ft)
Speeches of Mayor Marion Barry, 1979-1990. (12 cu ft)
Office files of Mayor Marion Barry, ca 1985-1990 (bulk) (2.74 cu ft)
Subject files of the Mayor’s Press Secretary, ca 1989-90. (4 cu ft)
Records of he 1978 & 1982 Mayoral Transition Committees; records of cabinet meetings, 1979-82; and “Pre-Policy” meetings, 1984-85; and Policy Discussion Group meetings, 1982. (9 cu ft)
Subject files of Mayor Walter Washington,, 1967-69 (ulk), 1961-70 (inclusive) (18 cu ft)
Subject files of Deputy Mayor Thomas Fletcher, 1967-69 (bulk), 1961-70. (inclusive). (17 cu ft)
“Chron files” Reading Files. Mayor’s Correspondence Unit, 1979-85. (8 cu ft)
Letters Received, Board of Commissioners, ca. 1908-28. 18 cu ft. [Estrays from the Letters Received in RG 351 in the National Archives]

Planning Office
Project files, re. to building the Convention Center, 1965-84; and correspondence and other records, 1985-87. (ca 13 cu ft)

Police Department
“May Day Report, 1971. (1.5 cu ft)

DC Archives Holdings, pt 1

Why this isn’t on the DC Archives website, I don’t know. This is 15 years out of date, so I don’t vouch for the accuracy.

District of Columbia Archives
Holdings – Mar. 1993 [ca. 4719 cu. ft]

Auditor’s Office
DC Auditor. Printed Reports, 1980-, (3 cu. ft)

Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Dept of
Articles of Incorporation, 1870-1954 (40 cu ft) and related indexes (7 vols.)

Elections and Ethics, Board of
Board of Elections, “Voter Information Master” file. (1 reel of computer tape).

Emergency Preparedness Office (Civil Defense)
Records re. Demonstrations, Civil Disturbances adn Special Events, 1965; 1968-78. (25 cu ft)

Housing and Community Development, Dept of
Dept of Housing and Community Development. Redevelopment Land Agency Records, ca. 1965-1976. (11 cu ft)
Dept of Housing and Community Development. Redevelopment Land Agency. Shaw and H St. NE; 14th St.; Downtown; building survey forms, 1968-1972 (27 cu ft)
Dept of Housing and Community Development. Redevelopment Land Agency. Slides showing condition of houses in NE. (0.5 cu ft)
Dept. of Housing and Community Development. National Capital Housing Authority. Legal Division. Reading Files, 1943-54; 1964-71. Copies of NCHA minutes, 1954-68. Miscellaneous records. (6 cu ft)
Dept. of Housing and Community Development. Redevelopment Land Agency. Audiovisual materials re. to Washington, including films. slides, audio tapes, video tapes, ca 1976 (ca 12 cu ft)

Human Services
Dept of Human Services. Minutes of the Board of Health, 1822-78. (3 vols.)and Health Officer’s Scrapbook, 1920-25 (1 vol)
Dept of Human Services. Minutes and Other Records of the Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, 1978-79. (2 in)
Dept of Human Services. Records of he Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Teenage Pregnancy Prevention, 1984-1985 (.33 cu ft)
Dept Human Service. Public Health Commissioner. Disinterment Permits (Applications), 1937-48 (3 cu ft)

Law Revision Commission
Minutes, correspondence, recommendations, annual reports, adn other records, 1975-1991. (10 cu ft)

Parts 2 and 3 and whatever to follow when I feel like typing them up

July 28, 1933: Low Cost Housing & Slum Clearance

I really have little to add to what Shaw & Bloomingdale bloggers have to say about the various things going on, so I’m going to go to history and type up more of City Planner John Nolen’s report “Low Cost Housing and Slum Clearance Opportunities in Washington Under the Public Works Administration”. I previously typed up the section “Washington’s Problem”. The following is “Objectives of a Housing Program”:

Many reports on this subject by Mr. [John] Ihlder and others to this Commission have indicated that the following program should be followed.

1. Concentrate on the elimination of the alley slums.

2. Provide suitable housing for the alley population either by repair or reconstruction of existing vacant street dwellings, or by the building of entirely new housing. New housing might well be for not only the alley population but similar economic and social elements of a population not now adequately housed.

3.Through the rehabilitation of blighted areas, pressure would be relieved on better neighborhoods inducting the natural flow of capital by private initiative for other modern reconstruction as the inevitable result of the rehabilitation of the areas originally causing the shift in population.

It may be that the present situation and opportunities will make advisable some change in the order of this program; for example,- the population in the alleys has been increased by the depression whereas the street vacancies in the same neighborhoods have increased. This situation will make more difficult the acquisition of alley property at fair prices, as well as work a hardship on the unfortunate elements of the alley population. At the same time the widespread increase in street vacancies may mean a willingness on the part of owners to sell their property at reasonable prices. A housing development only incidentally involving inhabited alleys as the first step to be taken may thus well take advantage of natural economic conditions.

-From part of a Report by John Nolen to the National Capital Planning Commission, July 28, 1933. Found in the appendix to the July 1933 minutes. National Archives and Records Administration, RG 328, A1-15.

With Lawyers and Money All Things are Possible

I’m going through zoning cases at the place they pay me and I noticed something funny. Well I notice a lot of odd, “huh?” stuff. For example, I’m trying to figure out what happened to the Salvation Army Headquarters that was supposed to be at the spot where 555 Massachusetts sits now. Around 1990 there was supposed to be a non-profit with shelter (Zoning Commission 90-8M/88-23C). But instead there is something else. Maybe not enough lawyers and money.
Another project was the 7th Street Penn Quarter area with the older facades and the modern high rise behind it. I have read/heard complaints about how the whole facade thing is bad and it’s bad for historic preservation. Well looking at the papers, the Historic Preservation people signed off on the project. Yes, there is a signature and everything. Were they browbeaten by the developer’s lawyers?
And there are other projects, other PUDs, where I’ll admit, I don’t have all the information. But I look at what the paperwork says, remember what the location looks like now and sometimes things don’t match up.

History lesson, and no this won’t be on the test

I have something. It is long and if you have time I’d like you to read it and give your thoughts. I’m leaving off the date and the source so I can ask you the following questions:
When do you think this was written? What year, what decade? Language will give a clue.
After reading the following passage, how do you see DC’s housing problem?

Washington’s Problem (select part of report sumbitted to govt body) by John Nolen (govt employee):

__________’s long study of the housing problem in Washington has revealed without question that the inhabited alleys are not only the most serious part of the situation but are, to a great extent, the cause of a general housing problem in the sections of the city in which they are most predominant. Moreover, relative to other cities in the United States, the inhabited alleys of Washington are as serious from a social, health and public welfare point of view as are some of the slums in the industrial centers.
The general importance of the inhabited alley situation to the city as a whole lies in the social and economic blight that envelops many alley dwelling area. These areas have so depreciated that both white and colored population area moving away to the better neighborhoods. Although in the old city of Washington all but one section declined in total population during the last decade, and all sections declined in white population an average of 20%, in more than half of the old city the colored population increased, so that many section heretofore predominantly white have changed in the short period of ten years to predominately colored. This encroachment, especially in the northwest direction in areas that have always been white, has resulted in part from the depreciation of the neighborhoods normally occupied by colored residents of the better economic class. This shift in population over such a short period of time seriously affects property values and the use of existing school facilities, and raises many other municipal problems. The increase in vacancies in the blighted areas has brought pressure for changing the zoning of residential area to commercial in sections of the city where there is already an ample supply of commercial area. Moreover, a normal proportionate share of improvements to private property during the last eight or ten years has failed to go into the reconstruction of the deteriorated residential portions of the old city. There has been a relatively insignificant increase in assessed values affecting the tax income of the municipality from these areas. All of these forces, operating apparently to an increasing degree, have left areas of stagnation and blight, many of which are favorably situated for housing the lowest income groups in a manner conducive to the public welfare and an adequate return on private capital. Such enterprises, aside from their local benefit, should have a city-wide effect in stabilizing the character and value of neighborhoods.

Make the ghetto go away, and work together

Of course, we all recognize that if we are ultimately to improve psychological and physical conditions for minorities there must be total elimination of ghettoes and the establishment of a truly integrated society. In the meantime, however, all those working for economic and social justice are forced to address themselves to interim programs which, while not totally changing the situation, will nevertheless bring about improvement in the lives of those forced to live in ghettoes. And so, whiel [sic] many of those steps may lead to limited integration, those which do not must clearly be seen as interim steps until the objective situation makes a more fundamental approach.

and later

… Labor, Housing and the Office of Economic Opportunity, ought to work with the people of Shaw in developing, coordinating and concentrating their various programs upon social and economic problems of this area.

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at a March 13, 1967 rally for Shaw

Not so much lunch break research

But as part of trying to answer a work-related question, I found myself looking at DC Building Permits on microfilm from 1892 to 1920something. Just a quick observation… the 19th century stuff is a lot of new buildings. But there are, and more so in the 1917 & up permits, permits for additions to pre-existing structures. In 1917 and thereabouts people where building kitchen additions, two story add-ons, new porches, steps, thus basically not leaving their homes in the pristine state the original builder had left.