Old Draft–Problem houses

I’m looking at my drafts folder and wondering why I didn’t publish this. This was supposed to be published on 1/28/2009. The link I had no longer works, so I removed it.

Here’s the dilemma. On one hand you don’t want to seem unfair and blame all of your neighborhood woes on one person, or one family or household. On the other hand, when the city drives up in the form or police, fire/EMT, or an array of social services with sharp teeth and you instantly and correctly know where they’re going, you’ve got a problem house.
I thought of that when reading Blagden Alley’s post on 1258 10th St, regarding an address with a history of problems. I also thought, as the problem houses become fewer, we may do, as people do when something unpleasant goes to the past from the immediate present. We romanticize the past and the people. We get more sympathetic towards the residents and overlook the transgressions, such as the crack dealing. Mainly because it is tucked safely well into the past, unable to terrorize, threaten or destroy our tomorrows.

Bates Street- Get to Poppin’

I’m thinking about doing a history of the set of houses that have a unique style in the Truxton Circle area. These would be the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company houses that are mostly on Bates St NW. I want to do the same level of depth of research as I do the Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle series.

But I know a negative side of doing such research and sharing it. I did not intend to provide information for the Wardman Flats to become a historic landmark. So there is the slight chance that what I put out there could be used by someone to attempt to make a historic district or landmark.

It’s not like there aren’t other bits of history about the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company and Bates Street about. The House History Man authored a post about 9 years ago on this subject. And there is a book The History and Development of the Housing Movement in the City of Washington, D.C. published by the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, available at the Smithsonian site, Google Books, and other sites on the web.

So with a few years warning, I say to you owners of former Washington Sanitary Improvement Company homes, get to poppin’. Throw on your pop ups, your pop backs. Install ye vinyl windows while ye may. Change the friggin fronts.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: William H. Rose- 7 Hanover St NW

Normally, I pick the name of a Black home owner from the 1920 census who lived in Truxton Circle, and try to track their life in this DC neighborhood. Sometimes, if there is something interesting, I’ll look at what happened after they moved and where they went.

William H. Rose was a professional driver with many years of experience. In 1900 he lived at 113 Pierce St NW with Annie, working as a coachman, for a government insane asylum. In 1910, he and Annie had moved to 7 Hanover and he was working as a driver. According to the 1911 city directory he was a coachman.


photo of property

He probably died around 1927, as his will was probated (is that a word?) that year. According to the will, his wife Annie had died, leaving him a widower. The will was signed in April 1924, he directed that the 7 Hanover St home be sold and monies to be distributed to people and institutions. His brothers Abraham G. Rose, living in Richmond, brother George S. Rose were supposed to get $500 each. His sister in law Julia E? Scott, was to inherit $400 from the sale, and nephew William Robinson $300.  Should any of those person should have died before him, then money would have been directed to Mount Carmel Baptist Church, where he was a member to create a fund. According to land records, Frank K. Boggin was the executor of his will and sold the home in September of 1927 to Mabel and William Robinson, who then lost the house in 1936.

His will stated that he owned lots in the Takoma neighborhood and Douglas Park, VA .  The his brothers, Abraham and George would get one lot each in Virginia. His sister in law was to remain in the house, where she was living on 22 Spring Place, which no longer exists.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: William Davis- 1605 NJ Ave NW

Today’s Black home owner from the 1920 census who lived in Truxton Circle is William E. Davis Jr of 1605 NJ Ave NW.  DC native William E. Davis was the son of William A. Davis, and later the husband of Annie M. Henderson, it is with these two people, and his sister Nannie Bellows, I am hoping that I have the right William Davis out of the couple of dozen William Davis living in DC at the time.

Because his name was so common, it is hard to piece together a history and be sure it is him. But here is what I think I know.

In 1908 William E. Davis married Annie M. Henderson at St. Augustine’s rectory. In the 1910 census he and Annie lived with his father William A. Davis home owner of 1605 New Jersey Avenue NW, along with his sister Nannie Bellows, his niece Pauline Bellows. The younger William was working as a coffee roaster. Moving on to the 1920 census, William Sr. is assumed dead and William Jr is the head and owner of 1605 NJ Ave NW, living with wife Annie, sister Nannie Bellows and his niece Pauline. He moved from coffee roasting to being a houseman for a hotel. And then he seems to disappear from the record.

So let us turn to the land records which are available after 1921. Sadly they don’t provide much insight about William Davis. The earliest record is from 1937 trust where Nannie Bellows borrows $1800 through the Northern Liberty Building Association. This is followed by a release for a debt taken on in January 1917 by William Davis (the senior), William Davis, Annie Davis, and Nannie Bellows. This is followed by a March 1949 deed labeled as a trust, which informs us that Nannie Bellows was deceased and Pauline borrows $500 from trustees. There was a release for this debt the following year and we are alerted to another property under Pauline’s control, 654 E St SE.

There are many more trusts and releases, but I will focus on the last two transactions involving Pauline Bellows, the sole owner of 1605 NJ Ave NW, borrowed $700 at 6% interest from trustees on February 4, 1958. A year later in March 1959, a trustees deed was issued to Cora Mae Pope, because Pauline had defaulted on her loan and lost the house.

I don’t know what happened with Pauline. I looked her up in Ancestry and discovered she made a social security claim in 1966. Her father’s name was Thaddeus Bellows. Like the other family members, she faded into obscurity.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Ida Becher- 1625 4th St NW-Dead End

Normally, I pick the name of a Black home owner from the 1920 census who lived in Truxton Circle, and try to track their life in this DC neighborhood. This assumes the person at the house when the census enumerator came by was telling the truth or gave correct information. In this case I can’t confirm ownership or even if Ida Becher existed.

photo of property

The land records for 1625 4th St NW start in 1938 and the owners are Edwin H. Silver and Ida Phelps Silver. I checked the 1933-1934 General Assessment, and it still had the Silvers were the owners. Then I checked the 1902-1903 General Assessment, and William Ruppert was the owner.

The city directory for 1921 has JW Stauback as the resident there. I’m not going to hunt the other city directories. I’m going to call this a dead end and a day.

The Roads Taken and the Houses Not Bought

This is also a personal blog so I’m going to step away from the neighborhood history and talk about houses.

Last year we sold our lovely home on 4th St in Truxton Circle with the plan to buy something in a certain corner of Prince George’s County Maryland. We moved a few doors down on 4th St and rented from former neighbors while we looked at houses. Today and yesterday, I had to run a few errands, and I passed by 4 houses we looked at but did not buy.

The House On the Busy Road- I had to pick up something the Help did not get from the store and on my way back, I passed by the first house we looked at. This was before we were actually serious. Before we got a realtor. Any realtor. As I walked by the house, I noticed a woman enjoying the side porch we did not buy. I wasn’t sure if it was the exact house. The wildly painted stairs had been repainted something more neutral and the house looked like neighboring homes. We agreed that being on a busy road was not right for us.

When we looked at it Destructo-kid was still solidly in diapers. I remember this because he had a blowout. And cut our viewing short so we could change him in the back of the car. We had parked the car near the home of people we knew, but they didn’t seem to be home at the time. Where we were looking had a lot of people we knew, which is why we picked the area we chose to buy. Destructo is mostly potty trained now.

The Divorce House- I’m calling this the divorce house because our Realtor was told the seller was getting or had gotten divorced. It was a wonderful house, with a nice screened in side porch, nice big backyard, finished basement, bathrooms on 3 of the 4 levels, almost everything we wanted…. except the price. We inquired if it would be worth putting an offer. Even before their open house, they already had a few all cash offers at their asking price.

I was passing by the Divorce House to deliver some misdirected mail. The new owners made some similar exterior adjustments that we made with the house we eventually bought. I also noticed some backyard kid stuff. That side porch, which was actually a sunroom, would have been nice. There were a few things I did not like about the house, but that’s a non-issue.

The House on the Corner- Another errand had me on my bike passing the House on the Corner (HotC) that I liked. I really liked the house…. the yard… what yard? The problem I noticed with a lot of houses on corners were that most of the yard was in the front. The point of leaving our lovely townhome on 4th St was to get a yard. With grass. This was scraggly grass, weeds and tree roots in the front and a path from the garage to the house in the back.

I really liked that house. It had a side porch, we really wanted a porch. The second floor had connected rooms. When we looked at the house, without Destructo. I had fun running in a complete circle from one connected room to the next. The converted attic space had reading nooks in front of the Amity windows. The Divorced House had a similar set up, but the connection was closed off and the attic stairs were poorly placed.

Lastly, the Slopey House- We looked. We decided it was too small and we could not to a dang thing about the super sloped back yard. The backyard of this home was the big no that had us passing on it.

Back from another errand, I biked by slowly. Slowly because I was going uphill, being lazy, and using the electronic assist. I could still see the yard remained sloped with a big dip in the center. I could also see the new owners removed a lot of the greenery the previous owner seemed proud of. How sloped you’re wondering? In parts 45 degrees.

I’m enjoying my perch from my upstairs office in the house we are calling home. The house has a number of old house quirks that probably would have been avoided with the Divorce House. We are working on reclaiming more of the yard from the previous owner’s projects.

When I pass the houses we looked at and failed to win the bid on, I think about what could have been. But I also realize we could have missed out on what we have. We didn’t get radiators but we did get the porch we wanted. There are things we didn’t get but in time, I can turn this house into another project.

Shaw Schools- A sort of review PARCC scores

The 2019-2020 academic year was…… so it’s kind of pointless to look back at that year. Which leaves me with the 2018-2019, the last normal year. Besides, the PARCC scores posted by OSSE end with the 2018-2019. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that kids’ grasp of math and English language arts did not improve with distance learning.

Let’s get this over with:

From Shaw School Review: Dunbar High School:PARCC by Race

PARCC Scores 2018-19, % meeting & exceeding expectations
Black White Hispanic Asian
ELA 2018-19 16.5% N/A n<10 N/A
Math 2018-19 .5% N/A n<10 n<10
Males ELA 13.4% N/A n<10 N/A
Males Math .9% N/A n<10 n<10

Continue reading Shaw Schools- A sort of review PARCC scores

1957 Church Survey: Mount Carmel Baptist- Churches not in Shaw

Mt. Carmel Baptist Church was part of the 1957 Church Survey for a urban renewal area that got broken into other parts, such as Downtown and Shaw. To learn more about the 1957 Church Survey read my previous posts, The Uniqueness of the 1957 Church Survey and Church Survey Northwest Urban Renewal Area October 1957. I am publishing this because I have a Black Home Owner of Truxton Circle coming up and he attended this church.

Quick rundown. It was and still is an African American church. It was a fairly large church with over 3,000 members able to support a full time minister, assistant minister, sexton, assistant sexton and social worker.

CS 6 Mt Carmel Baptist by Mm Inshaw


Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Mary Armistead -1223 NJ Ave NW

This is part of a long series of posts about African Americans who were home owners in the Truxton Circle neighborhood.

In the 1920 census Mary Armistead is listed as a doctor. According to the census she lived at 1223 New Jersey Ave NW with her cousin Mary E. Griffin, a widowed teacher, Sarah Tolliver, another widowed cousin, and boarders, the Martin family and Ester AB Popel.

photo of property

There aren’t a lot of land records for this property. The first record is a release from 1923, listing Mary E. Armistead and her cousin Mary E. Griffin as joint tenants. The release was for an August 1917 debt with a trustee. The next record is a 1951 trust. From the document we are told Mary E. Griffin was deceased (and we can assume so is the unnamed Mary E. Armistead) and Mabel A. Griffin Lewis was the owner. Ms. Griffin-Lewis borrowed $3000 from the National Savings and Trust Company. Griffin-Lewis died and her executor Beulah J Murphy sold the property in 1978.

According to the 1919 city directory, Mary Armistead was a midwife and the widow of Howard M. Armistead (former Government Printing Office worker). According to FindaGrave her obit read as:

Evening Star
Washington, DC
30 Aug 1934

ARMISTEAD, MARY E. On Tuesday. August 28, 1934, at her residence, 1223 New Jersey ave, n.w.. MARY E. ARMISTEAD, widow of Howard M. Armistead, devoted sister of J. Randolph Minor and James L. Minor, cousin of Mary E Griffin. She is also survived by many other relatives and friends. Remains resting at the John T. Rhines funeral chapel. 3rd and Eye sts. s.w., until Thursday evening: thereafter at her late residence. Funeral Friday, August 31, at 1 pm. from Israel C M E. Church, New Jersey ave. and Morgan st..n.w. Interment Woodlawn Cemetery.

In the 1910 census she was working in the medical field in Obstetrics and living at 1320 Montello Ave NE (Sq. 4064 lot 0037) in a house she owned. So back to the land records to see what other properties she owned and I found 317 10th St SE (Sq. 0945 lot 0823/007) in the Eastern Market area.

If she used her maiden name as a middle initial she could be the same Mary M. Armistead who is listed as a registered midwife in the Report of the Health Officer By District of Columbia. Health Department · 1895 working out of 1343 K St SE.

Sorry this post is all over the place. I went down the wrong rabbit hole chasing this woman.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Rev. Alfred J. Tyler- 67 N St NW

Normally, I pick the name of a Black home owner from the 1920 census who lived in Truxton Circle, and try to track their life in this DC neighborhood. Why? Because I have picked Truxton Circle as a place to study and I’m going to study this ‘hood into the ground. This post looks at Alfred J. Tyler, who according to the 1920 census lived at 67 N St NW.

photo of property

Sometimes, I decide to do a Google or ProQuest search if I think the person may have been more than a normal citizen. Search and ye shall receive. Rev. Alfred J. Tyler is mentioned in Mount Horeb Baptist Church’s history:Reverends Alfred J. Tyler (1902-1903), Marzy V. Morris (1904), and J. T. Clark (1904–1916) served as the fifth, sixth, and seventh pastors of Mount Horeb. ” He also shows up in a church history for Mt. Airy Baptist Church: “On June 1, 1906, Rev. Alfred J. Tyler, formerly of the Bethlehem Baptist Church of
McKeesport, PA, was installed as Pastor. He found the church again in need of larger quarters and led the congregation in a building program. Groundbreaking for a new edifice occurred in September 1925, and “A Monument to Jesus” was erected. After 30 years of toil and preaching, Rev. A. J. Tyler went to his rest.

[Mari head tilts] I wonder if Mt. Airy knew of his very short stint with Mt. Horeb?

Little matter. The next paragraph reads: “On February 18, 1937, one of the sons of the former Pastor, Rev. Earl K. Tyler, was unanimously elected Pastor. This young preacher quickly brought new congregants into the church and good works continued. Rev. E. K. Tyler organized new clubs, sponsored a Sunday School of over 350 children, and formed a “Junior Church,” attesting to his love of young people. Rev. Tyler licensed and ordained various sons of the church who went on to extend the influence of Mount Airy Baptist
Church throughout the city. Rev. Earl K. Tyler was called to his reward on May 13, 1955, after a pastorate of approximately 19 years.

From the church histories we know Rev. Tyler was in DC in the early 1900s. In the 1900 census the Tyler family was living in Allegheny, PA, where Alfred was already working as a preacher. He shows up at 67 N St NW in the 1910 census and the 1911 city directory. In the 1910 census he was shown as renting and living in the house with his wife, Sarah A. (nee Slaughter), his 69 year old mother Elizabeth, daughters Sadie B, and Annie E, and sons Allin J. and Earl K. He listed his occupation as a minister.

The earliest land record from the DC Recorder of Deeds online site (1921-Present) is an agreement from 1925. The agreement is between Alfred J. Tyler and the American Security and Trust Company where it appears Tyler had requested an extension on a note. The document notes that the initial promissory note dated back to September 1908. The next record is a September 1928 trust where Alfred and his wife Belle ( apparently Sarah is Belle) borrow $4000 through the Columbia Building Association. The next month they are two releases, both for 1908 debts, including the one with the American  Security and Trust Company.

In the end the Tylers lost the property due to the $4000 1928 debt in 1940. Rev. Tyler died in 1936, so this appears to be a failure of his estate. I will note an owner or two later in 1966, George Basiliko became an owner.