Age of a neighborhood

Reading through the digest versions of the MVSQ listserv* I noticed an announcement by Alex Padro for an event today at the Historical Society. Yet in his introduction, “Come explore the changing streetscape of one of Washington’s oldest neighborhoods…” bugged me. How old is Shaw? With some other neighborhoods the age is a no brainer. LeDroit Park and Eckington were built by developers and you just track the date down to the developer. Georgetown, was a town, with a town government.
With Shaw, there were houses and people in the area prior to the Civil War. But so far in my own dabblings I haven’t seen any reference to the area as ‘Shaw’ until the mid 20th Century. And the earliest was at best the boundaries for Shaw Jr. High, never mind the elementary schools and the high schools. Trying to tie it down by civic/citizen associations haven’t been helpful. Back when the ECCA (East Central Civic Association), played a real role in city life, it’s boundaries were all over the the place. But regardless, it did include great parts of present day Shaw east of 7th, as well as the Sursum Corda area, and eastern Mt Vernon Sq., and it’s an early 20th Century thing.**
So, how old is this neighborhood? How is that age determined and what is it based on?

*Believe me you’ll find listservs more manageable and keep your sanity by getting some discussion lists in one daily email.
**”East Central Civic Group Seeks Vote :Improved Housing, Clean Block Drive Also on Program.” The Washington Post,p. 17. 12/7/1940.

2 thoughts on “Age of a neighborhood”

  1. mari: i really wanted to make it to this, but couldn’t.

    maybe they were referring to the age of houses, etc. i mean, the area has only been “shaw” for so long, but the corner of 9th and M, for example, has been occupied by something or another for well over a century, right? certainly longer than the vast majority of the city that was platted in the 20th century…just my guess at why that was worded the way it was.

  2. Possibly.

    The phrase just made me think back to when I was working at a small archive and got a call from a medical speciality teaching hospital. They wanted to make sure they could make the claim that they were the oldest [medical speciality] teaching hospital in the Midwest. blink. blink. blink. There were so many problems with that question, I don’t think we answered it.
    The claim of the oldest anything can be tricky, so I understand the phrase ‘one of the oldest’ gives a mu-mu’s worth of wiggle room.
    I wonder at what point did the neighborhood consider itself a neighborhood. So far “Northwest” seems to be the only consistant pre-WWII description for the area we now know as Shaw. Also not all parts of the Old City were filled out by 1900.

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