The Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) was a late 19th century charitable capitalism experiment that ended in the 1950s. This blog started looking at the homes that were supposed to be sold to African American home buyers, after decades of mainly renting to white tenants.
Looking at WSIC properties they tend to have a pattern where the properties were sold to a three business partners, Nathaniel J. Taube, Nathan Levin and James B. Evans as the Colonial Investment Co. for $3 million dollars. Those partners sold to African American buyers. There was usually a foreclosure. Then the property wound up in the hands of George Basiliko and or the DC Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA). Then there were the odd lucky ones who managed to avoid that fate.
Let’s see what happens with 1539 Third St NW:
- January 1951 Evans, Levin and Taube sold one-half of 1539 3rd St NW to Florence and John H. Green Jr.
- January 1951 the Greens borrowed $3,525 from Colonial Investment Co. favorite trustees Abraham H. Levin and Robert G. Weightman.
- December 1950 (recorded January 18, 1951) Evans, Levin, and Taube sold the other half of 1539 3rd St NW to Virginia M. Lewis.
- Dec 1950 Ms. Lewis borrowed $3,375 from trustees Abraham H. Levin and Robert G. Weightman.
- November 1954 the Greens lost their half to foreclosure and the property returned to Evans, Levin, and Taube via an auction.
- November 1961, Harry Badt (new member of Colonial Investment Co.), Evans, Taube, Levin’s survivors, and their spouses sold the foreclosed half to Sophia and George Basiliko.
- February 1965, Virginia M. Lewis was released from her mortgage.
- May 1976 Virginia and William Green sell their half of 1539 3rd St NW to George Basiliko, Inc., having the whole property is under one owner.
- Sometime between 1978 and 1981, Basiliko sold the property to Bates Street Associates Limited. Possibly it was sold to the DC RLA who then transferred it to Bates Street Assoc. Limited.
Okay now I’m curious. What are the odds that a woman who owns half of the property winds up marrying someone with the same surname as the other owners?
So looking on Ancestry, there were several Virginia M. Lewises living in Washington, DC in 1950. But only one was Black. The Afro-American Virginia M. Lewis was a 40 year old divorced woman who lived at 1108 Florida Ave NE for the 1950 census. She was listed as the head of household, working as a nurse for the District government. She lived there with her three adult daughters, Dorothy L., Juanita M. and Mary V. Lewis. A 63 year old waiter named William C. Thomas was listed as her “partner”, Hazel R. Foster and the Mitchells (all between the ages of 22-37) were listed as lodgers.
From what little I can find on Ms. Lewis she was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1910.
I’m not sure about the Greens. I can find a John A. Green married to a Florence Green, but not John H. Those Greens lived at 118 S St NW in 1917-1918. I’ll leave it there since there is not much to go on.