This is a book I never finished and I think I might have thrown out in my move from DC to Maryland, Family Properties: How the Struggle Over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America. It had a lot of information and told a story of unfairness in white real estate investors selling properties in a former Jewish neighborhood to African Americans. The unfairness was that the buyers had really bad contracts, the houses were in poor shape and the buyers were set up to fail.
Until I started looking at the great sell off of Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) with 43-45 Bates Street NW, I thought such a thing was a corrupt Chicago thing. Nope. It happened here.
Prior to looking at this I’d been doing my Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle series and most things looked like they were on the up and up. Even prior to the records I found in the Recorder of Deeds on-line site, starting in the 1920s, I was aware of Black families in Truxton Circle who owned their homes, if not several other properties. They borrowed from financial institutions, such as the Perpetual Building Association and passes down or sold their homes in the natural course of living. Sometimes there was the odd foreclosure.
But this. This looked like a scam to me.
They sold half. HALF. Of the property to a buyer, whom I will assume was African American because in the 1950s, Truxton Circle was overwhelmingly Black. They all used the same lenders, Levin and Weightman. Then in a few years the property would go into foreclosure and would get sold to a man the Washington Post called a slum lord, George Basiliko. If the Black buyer managed to avoid foreclosure, for some reason they would eventually sell their half to George Basiliko.
June 22, 1959 George and Sophia Basiliko purchased a package of properties from a party of interests associated with the original three business men who purchased almost all the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company rentals. This is captured in documents #1959019387, 1959019395, 1959019388, 1959019389. And more in an August 5, 1959 document # 1959024641. These accounted for about 122 properties. And there were more packaged properties.
I’m not going to go into detail in this post as there are a lot of properties in documents 1959019387 to 1959019389, 1959019395 and 1959024641. If you read this blog, all three of you, there are many individual properties where all or half of it fall into Basiliko’s hands.
Then a load of federal money, laundered through the District of Columbia government, flooded into Basiliko’s pockets in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As seen in several posts, the DC Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA) purchased poorly maintained Truxton Circle properties from Basiliko. In 1969 for a US House Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Home Financing Practices and Procedures an article about Basiliko was submitted. Basiliko came up a lot in the hearing.
The RLA, which got its funding from the US government (remember Home Rule doesn’t come until 1973), bought out Basiliko. It can be argued that he was able to off load the properties for far more than what they were worth. The DC government in the form of the RLA was a more generous buyer than any private investor buyer.