WSIC-1950 Sell Off- 1541 3rd Street NW

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.

photo of property

Let’s see what happens with 1541 3rd St NW:

  •  January 1951 Evans, Levin and Taube sold one-half of 1541 3rd St NW to Essie G. and James W. Balthrop.
  • January 1951 the Balthrops borrowed $3,375 from Colonial Investment Co. favorite trustees Abraham H. Levin and Robert G. Weightman.
  • January 1951 Evans, Levin, and Taube sold the other half of 1541 3rd St NW to Mrs. Floretta L. Williams and Mrs. Mary M. Woody.
  • Jan 1951 Williams and Woody borrowed $3,375 from trustees Abraham H. Levin and Robert G. Weightman.
  • April 1960, Williams and Woody lost their half of 1541 3rd to foreclosure. Through an auction the property returned to Colonial Investments Co owners, Taube, Evans and Harry A. Badt.
  • April 1960, as part of a larger property package, Badt and his wife transferred their interest in the property to Nathan Levin’s survivors.
  • March 1961, the Balthrops owned their half free and clear.
  • November 1961, as part of  larger property package, Levin’s survivors and the owners of the Colonial Investment Company sold their half of 1541 to George Basiliko.
  • September 1967, widow Essie Balthrop borrowed $1,287.60 from trustees Ralph O. Weed and A. J. Mascetta.

Despite the half of the property being sold to Basiliko it did not wind up in the hands of the city.

Who were the Balthrops? I have no idea where the G. came from but Emma Jane Royal married James Westly Balthrop in 1908 in Richmond, VA. When their first son, William was one years old in 1910, Emma worked as a servant and James a butler. By 1920 the family was in Washington, DC with two more sons. In 1930, they had 6 sons and housed a nephew. According to the census they owned 631 Gresham Pl NW, which has less than 1000 sq. ft.

Looking into 631 Gresham Place NW (Sq. 3056, lot 57) I found one of those weird real estate things. This is not in my area of interest, but when you see weird stuff, you write about it. So you know about racially restricted covenants, how about reverse UNO card covenants?

See close up here- 3056-57

It appears the Balthrops and their neighbors signed an agreement to be able to sell their properties to African Americans. Okay moving on.

In 1940 the family, sans James, was renting a house at 611 Morton St. NW. At that point, Essie was the head and she had 5 sons, 1 daughter and one renter living in the home.

When James W. Balthrope died October 8, 1962, he died at home on Third Street. He was survived by many relatives. He had 14 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. His funeral was at the Vermont Baptist Church.

Memory Lane: 403 R St NW

I’m going through old photos, walking down memory lane I spot this bunch of 403 R St NW.

Taken December 23, 2007. 400 block of R St NW.

I’ve researched the history with Black Home Owner- Lewis Griffin. And I’ve looked at it as a long vacant house on the 400 block of R Street with cinder block windows.

Those permits in the window seemed just for show. Nothing happened to this house for years and years.

Fast forward to today, and Redfin claims the renovated house is worth well over a million dollars. The key word here is “renovated”.

I’m going to resist going on a tangent about the worth of housing. I’m very sorry that housing has gotten so ‘flippin’ expensive. But that’s the cost of all the things we want out of housing. The cheapest housing in the world is a tent or a crappy hut with some random materials thrown together on land you can’t claim. We want walls that are strong and will keep out the bad weather. We want A/C and heat. We want to keep out rodents (good luck). We want plumbing and electrical systems that work. And we want the local municipality to approve it. All this adds costs. It doesn’t explain all of the costs.

Anyway, this went from being an abandoned vacant house to a home.

1920 to 1930- White to Black- 1727 New Jersey Avenue

1700 Block NJ Ave NW, 1930. Brown= AfAm residents; White= No data

In this series of looking at the odd numbered side of the 1700 block of New Jersey Ave NW from 1920 to 1930, I decided to look at the other end of the block. The change from 1920 to 1930 for most of the block was from white renters to black home owners. My post The sell off of the 1700 block of New Jersey Ave NW pretty much explains the why.

So let’s look at the residents of 1727 New Jersey from 1920 to of property

The White Renters

In the 1920 census there was one family occupying 1727 New Jersey Ave NW. It was headed by a 59 year old “widow” Mary A. Moore. She was a Massachusetts born Irish American. She lived in the house with her adult children and 45 year old roomer. Her son John J. Moore was a 30 year old self-employed artist with is own studio. Her 26 year old daughter Margarite worked as a clerk for War Risk in the Treasury Department.

The 1930 census shows that Mary wasn’t widowed. Her husband Richard F. Moore was alive and well and living with his family at 913 Jackson St NE. Son John J. was a commercial artist and owner of the home. Daughter Marguerite was 38 year old lawyer for the Federal government. The children were still single.

Moving forward to the 1950 census, Marguerite C. Moore was an attorney for the VA. She lived with her brother, who also did not marry, still worked as a commercial artist making about $30K which was very good money in 1950.

The Black Owners

The DC Recorder of Deeds records aren’t helpful. The buyer Addie E. Webb purchased the home February 1921, and paid off the loan in February of 1924. And that’s the last that is heard from Webb. In 1935 there is a judgement where William Dodson had to relinquish 1727 NJ Ave NW to Mamie Smith. The judgement doesn’t say why.

Addie E. Webb was an African American hairdresser. In 1920 she was 50 years old and lived at 1514 S St NW. It appears she shared an apartment or something with a 40 year old woman named Ida Smith who was also a hairdresser that census year. Ida (nee Roane) had been Addie’s landlady back in the 1900 census, when Addie lived with Arthur S. Smith, Ida and Ida’s mother and brother, and Arthur’s cousin James Watkins.

I’ll take a guess Addie did not make it to the 1930 census.

I have no idea who William Dodson was and how he came into possession of the property. In the 1910 census Addie lived with Ida Smith and Addie’s daughter, public school teacher Helen (Ellen?) F. Webb. She doesn’t show up in the long list of people who signed off in selling the property in 1939 along with Mamie Smith. Could Mamie Smith be related to Ida Smith? A C. William Webb is mentioned in the legal notice about the 1936 judgement. In an 1935 article in the Afro-American, it appears C. William Webb, son of Addie, disappeared and had been missing for 30 years. Mamie Smith was one of his heirs. One of many. So they went to court to get a hold of the property to sell it and split the estate.

The Black Renters

So if Addie Webb did not make it to the 1930 census, then who was there in 1930? Wade Shields a 31 year old barber who was renting the property with five female lodgers. In 1928, he was living or operating out of 17 Fenton NE. In 1922 Wade married Gladys Rodgers. They were not living together in this census.

As for the lodgers with Mr. Shields, one was a woman, and the remaining females were minor children. Rose Johnson was the adult, a 28 year old hair dresser. The eldest child was Thelma Pryor a 16 year old who worked in a laundry. Pryor’s mother was Lucille Johnson and it appears Rose and Thelma were related, as they share a headstone. I don’t see any relationship with Mr. Shields or his missing wife, except for the profession of working with Black hair. This is something they shared with the previous owner Addie Webb. The other girls were 11, 10 and three years old and listed as lodgers. I wonder if they were foster children?

Memory Lane: 219 P St NW

219 A P St NW. Taken December 15, 2007

I’ve featured this address before as a former Washington Sanitary Improvement home that was sold to African American buyers in the 1950s. All did not end well as you could gather in 2007 when this photo was taken. There were some questions about ownership that weren’t clear.

Well somebody, or somebodies own it now. I looked on Redfin and it looks like it has been split into 3 units, with 3 separate entries, up from the original 2.

Redlining in the TC- the dog that didn’t bark

I’m not done with the WSIC-1950 Sell Off series of posts, but I can recognize a pattern. What’s the pattern? The houses formerly rented by the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) were sold by the Colonial Investment Co who would sell two halves of a house to African American buyers. And then there would be a foreclosure. Not always, but very often. And for some mysterious reason the property always returned back to the Colonial Investment owners. Then they would sell it to slum landlord George Basiliko who would eventually sell the property to the DC Redevelopment Land Agency. That was the pattern.

There was something else I noticed in the pattern. It wasn’t obvious. It was what I did not see with other Black home owner posts.

225 Bates St NW (yellow)

The WSIC series came after a lot of Black Home Owner of Truxton Circle series’ posts. For most of the Black home owners I looked at between 1920 to about 1950 most things were fine. They borrowed money, they sold their homes, willed their homes to family members…. who then sold the houses. Every so often, there would be a foreclosure. Sometimes the lenders would be institutions like the Perpetual Building Association or individual trustees.

I noticed that for most WSIC buyers they did not have the option of institutional lenders. BW-photo-of-Bates-St-NW-DC

Redlining is when home buyers and owners in an area are denied financial products, like home loans, because of where they lived. Their area was red-lined.

In one Sherlock Holmes detective story, the great detective noticed that the watchdog did not bark the night of the murder, hinting that the dog knew the murderer. It took me a while but I noticed there was no other lender than Colonial Investment’s lenders. I found the redlining when WSIC buyers were denied other financial products. It was a subtle fact like the dog who did not bark. It was the lenders who were not there, who operated elsewhere in other parts of the neighborhood.

The red line was between North Cap, 3rd St,  P and Q Sts NW and only of formerly WSIC homes.

Memory Lane: Lucky Kitty & the Contractor

Cat sitting on fence at 1616 4th St NW. Taken October 31, 2003

I wrote the post below back in the early days of the blog in 2003. I was undergoing my first major house renovation, the kitchen with a contractor I found via some swing dance friends who live (still live) in the H Street area.

That contractor had his own company and paired up with a fellow and they created a company. I see that company’s trucks all over my new neighborhood. But this post is about a kitty.

My neighbors down the street had a cat. They kept the cat outside most of the time. Lucky was a very sweet cat.

Lucky Kitty

My contractor has run off with the neighbor’s cat. She’s doing much better now he says. I kind of miss her. Lucky is an extremely affectionate cat. Of course she mainly wanted food and tried breaking into my house often. But now she’s in a warm house, the neighbors kept her outside, eating regularly, I used to feed her a little & thought her owners were too, and she doesn’t slobber anymore.

My contractor took her home. She was well cared for. She became an indoor all the time cat and got fat. She was in kitty heaven. Well she died after many, many years and is now in kitty heaven.

Carter G. Woodson FBI FOIA request – #1

So I put in a FOIA request to the FBI looking for Carter G. Woodson. Not my first. That was George Basiliko. That led to bupkis. But I decided to give it another try with Carter G. Woodson. I got a response to go bug the National Archives with a couple of file numbers and the document below.

I was going to sit on this but the FBI’s eFOIA system got some crazy bug and sent me about 18 emails in the past 3 days. I have another non-Shaw related request (I’m curious about stuff) and was hoping it was about that. But nope. It took me a while but I discovered it was the same stuff I got before. It’s just one crazy duplicate email after another. And the FBI gives you 48 hours to click on the link if you want your document. I clicked the link and I got an error.

Instead of suffering in silence, I decided to blog about it. May as well write a post.

The above disappointing article is a very brief mention of Dr. Carter G. Woodson. I’m guessing it is FBI file 25-LA-330971 and this appears to be some African American paper where Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Elijah Muhammad had a column. EM mentions Woodson’s book Negro Orators and Their Orations, published in 1925.

When I get something from the National Archives, I might share it. If it is semi-useless as the newspaper clipping from the FBI, I probably won’t.

Memory Lane: 400 Block of Q St NW 2007

Taken December 12, 2007. 400 blk of Q St NW looking west towards NJ Ave NW.

Even as far back as 2007, there were bike lanes.