MLK- Make the ghetto go away, and work together

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, I will post a few words from a speech he gave while visiting the Shaw neighborhood back in 1967.

Of course, we all recognize that if we are ultimately to improve psychological and physical conditions for minorities there must be total elimination of ghettoes and the establishment of a truly integrated society. In the meantime, however, all those working for economic and social justice are forced to address themselves to interim programs which, while not totally changing the situation, will nevertheless bring about improvement in the lives of those forced to live in ghettoes. And so, whiel [sic] many of those steps may lead to limited integration, those which do not must clearly be seen as interim steps until the objective situation makes a more fundamental approach.

and later

… Labor, Housing and the Office of Economic Opportunity, ought to work with the people of Shaw in developing, coordinating and concentrating their various programs upon social and economic problems of this area.

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at a March 13, 1967 rally for Shaw


I hope that reading this one can see the importance of integration. Segregating off into little ethnic and racial neighborhoods separate from other residents is not good for us as a whole. We need to unite and work together for the good.

WSIC- Owners of Sq. 552 in 1902

In my last post about the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company I noticed that the WSIC owned Sq 615 but not 552, yet. By 1909, it looked like they took 552 over, with a few holdouts. In 1903, there were 32 lots.

In the 1880 census there were about 11 households on the whole block. Then in 1900 there were about 25 households, nine of those were home owners.



Lot                Owners
1                 William R. Riley
2                 William R. Riley
3                 Jos. E & Sallie B. Roach
4                 William R. Riley
5                 William R. Riley
6                 William R. Riley
7                  Mary E. Hess
8                  Baptist Home of D.C.
9                  Louise Eustis Hitchcock
10                Louise Eustis Hitchcock
11                Louise Eustis Hitchcock
12                Louise Eustis Hitchcock
13                Louise Eustis Hitchcock
14                Louise Eustis Hitchcock
15                Marie  Clarice Eustis
16                Marie  Clarice Eustis
17                Marie  Clarice Eustis
18                Marie Clarice Eustis
19                Marie Clarice Eustis
20                Marie Clarice Eustis
21                Marie Clarice Eustis
22                Marie Clarice Eustis
23                Marie Clarice Eustis
24                Louise Eustis Hitchcock
25                Revere R. Gurley/DeWitt C. Chadwick/ Mollie Phillips/ Alice L. Wyckoff Trust/ Phoebe Hamilton
26                 Lycurgus & Sally Adams/ George Adams/ Levi Adams/ Edmund G. Hines
27               Frederick B. Jones/ Jas. B. Nourse & C.M. Jones Trustees
28               Robert A. Golden
29                William R. Riley
30                William R. Riley
31                William R. Riley
32                William R. Riley

It appears the main owners were William R. Riley, Louise Eustis Hitchcock, Marie Clarice Eustis, and the Adams family. Other owners of interest are the owners of lots 3 and 28, the last lots to be divided and developed. We’ll look at these people and see if there is any connection with the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, the organization that will eventually own their land.

WSIC Did Not Own Square 552 in 1902

So enough procrastinating, let’s get into the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) role in making the blocks that are bounded by Q, North Cap, P and 3rd Streets NW. Those would be Squares 552 and 615. Because of George Kober’s The History and Development of the Housing Movement in the City of Washington, DC ( 1907) we know they were building housing in the early aughts.

But the WSIC didn’t own all of the block, so in order to figure out which lots on those two blocks to look at I went to the General Land Assessment Files, 1902-1938, and looked at 1902/1903 Assessments. Because 552 comes before 615, I looked at that first. I did not see WSIC mentioned, at all. I was confused. If I had just looked at the Sq 552 map at, I would have seen why.

Hopkins Map, 1887 of Square 552, bounded by 3rd, Q, 1st and p Sts NW.

Bates Street did not exist in 1887 nor apparently 1902.

Source- Baist, Library of Congress. 1903 map of Sq. 552

I also compared the 1902/1903 assessments to the 1933/1934 assessments and there were a whole different set of lot numbers. For Square 552 in 1902/1903, there were lots 1-32, as you can see from the images above.

1909 Color-Source- Baist, Library of Congress.

By 1909, when the above image was mapped, the whole character of the block changed. There appears to have been a few hold outs, with lots 3 and 28. By 1933 they had been absorbed.

In the back of my head, I am wondering if any strong arming was involved to convince owners to sell. Well, that would be something to explore in my next post, where I look at the 1902/1903 property owners.

A Program for Bates Street 1968

Although this does not mention the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, it is about the houses the WSIC built, plus another block. Below is a 2008 post where I misremembered the name of the 1968 report, which I have below the fold. The report, A Program for Bates Street, is just 12 pages with a few pictures of residents, has mentions of rehabilitation and new construction.  Fast forward, this was under Marion Barry’s tenure so it got halfway done.

I have the 1968-1974 (the dates I’m unsure of) brochure of “A Plan for Bates Street” in PDF form. It’s a big file and because it is so large, I’m not posting here. However, I will mail it to folks who ask (offer expires in 30 days). Basically, like the title says, it was the government’s plan for the two blocks of Bates, to improve the housing.

Continue reading A Program for Bates Street 1968

Crowding- and good intentions gone lost- Washington Sanitary Impr. Co.

I am looking at what I’ve written before on the InShaw blog about the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) before going deep on the topic and writing something new. Call it procrastination.

This piece was about the intentions of the WSIC. They saw it as a way to battle overcrowding and substandard housing by making that housing go away and replacing it with better housing. What it did was expel Black residents, who were not going to live in the new housing. History doesn’t repeat but it sure does rhyme. The same could be said of HOPE and other government (WSIC was private) housing programs. Anyway…..

I forget which census year it was but one year there were 11 people living in the house I currently occupy. As far as I know, the house has always been a two bedroom and I believe the cellar is a late 20th century addition. My house is about 1,000 sq ft.
I have read that overcrowding could be blamed on segregation. Segregation was probably one of several causes, if there are so many structures in the city and many of those structures are off limits due to covenants and other restrictions, then that limits housing choices. I get a sense that economics had something to do with it as well, but that is just a guess.
Anywho, a turn of the century description of crowded rental housing comes from a report from Clare de Graffenried:

I have no doubt that lodgers are harbored in these alleys whose presence, for many reasons not creditable to the occupants, is always concealed. The confessed facts are startling enough. We have here accounts of 7 persons living in two rooms– the mother and her sons, 21, 17 and 7 years of age, occupying one bedchamber. Again, 9 individuals live in two romse[sic]; 11 people in four rooms. Five, almost all adults, sleep in one room– the mother 43, a son 21, and daughters 19, 17, and 14; and 4 persons use another room– a mother 45, and aunt 70, and a son 22, and a baby 9 months old.
–Page 18 of Kober, George “The History and Development of the Housing Movement in the City of Washington, DC” Washington, DC 1907.

Doing a Google search for Miss de Graffenried, brought up Between Justice and Beauty by Howard Gillette, Jr., which on page 113 where he notes that she goes for the dramatic story over statistics. Later Gillette writes on page regarding the predecessor of the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, which built the houses on Bates Street:

By 1904 the company housed 140 families, 30 of whom were black. Since the overwhelming majority of alley dwellers were black, the company clearly did not direct its attention to those in greatest need.– page 115

In Kober in 1909 writes about their housing efforts:

It should be stated, that while the original intention was to provide homes for alley residents and thereby remove the slums, it was considered best to begin this movement by providing improved dwellings for the better class of wage earners, in the belief that houses vacated by them would be rented by the next grade, and so on until the bottom of the ladder was reached. –page 31

1957 Church Survey: Tenth Street Baptist Church

In 1957 there was as survey of churches in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area, which included Shaw, Downtown, and the area we’ll call Swampoodle. One of the churches was Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church. 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.

photo of property

There has been a slight change in address for the Tenth Street Baptist Church. Currently it is at 1000 R St NW, but in 1957 when they filled out the 1957 church survey it was 1646 10th St NW.

According to the survey this African American church had been on its current site since 1888. Yet the structure was newish in 1957, having been built around the 1930s. Looking at the Google Streetview of the present day building, there may have been some updates in the past 90 some years.

Looking at the 1957 make up of 10th St Baptist, it was a predominately white collar Black church, with 67% in the white collar profession. The next largest group was 15% classified as professionals. It was also a big church claiming about 5000 members, with less than half bothering showing up on any given Sunday. Considering that 70% lived in the Northwest Urban Renewal Area (as shown in the map, featured image above), they should have not have had a problem getting there.

CS 18 Tenth Street Baptist by Mm Inshaw


Not a charity but capitalist enterprise- Washington Sanitary Improvement Co

Below is an old post that was originally posted on January 30, 2009. For this deep dive into the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, I will look at the few posts where we looked at the WSIC but then I will look at the land and other records about the squares 552 and 615.

When last I left I was writing about the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) which built the houses along Bates Street NW, and some other streets in the TC that are somewhat Bates adjacent, around the turn of the century. You know they are built by the same company because their 2nd story bay window thing.
Anyway, the WSIC’s goal was to replace the slum dwellings in the various alleys, but as a profitable company and not a charity. From The History and Development of the Housing Movement in the City of Washington, D.C. page 61, Article III, section 4:

The company, although organized from philanthropic motives, is not a charity organization, and the executive committee shall take all legal measures to collect rents and to evict tenants who fail to pay their rent, or who neglect to keep the tenements occupied by them in a cleanly and sanitary condition, or who lead a dissolute or criminal life.

Another thing, as part of the pitch to draw interest in the company the author and secretary of the company George M. Kobr writes:

The attention of capitalists should be drawn to the fact that no class of realty pays as well as alley property in this city, and that there is a splendid field for investment in the erection of sanitary and comfortable alley houses on a business and humanitarian basis.
–page 23

Don’t blame me for a fuzzy photo

I’m looking at older posts on the topic of the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company because I’ll be taking a deeper dive looking at the two squares owned by the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) Sq. 552 and 615. These squares are  bounded by 1st Street, P St, 3rd St, and Q St. NW.
So here is the 2009 post below:

This was taken with an iphone in a lowly lit room at the Library of Congress from a book, while I held the pages down with one hand and took the pictures with the other. Now why are you looking at a fuzzy photo of a bunch of houses? This is the unit block of Bates Street, when the houses were somewhat new in 1907.
The photo, as well as some others I took are from The History and Development of the Housing Movement in the City of Washington, D.C. published by the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, which built the houses. The book starts off talking about unsanitary crappy housing in DC and how the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) was building alternatives to slummy housing, specifically crappy alley housing. Towards the middle of the book they start talking a bit more about the company as an investment. The directors consisted of the following:
David J. Brewer
Charles C. Cole
John W. Foster
Charles J. Bell
George Truesdell
Gardiner G. Hubbard
Anthony Pollok
Walter Wyman
Henry F. Blount
Mrs. George Westinghouse
Crosby S. Noyes
George H. Harries
William J. Boardman
William C. Woodward
Augustus S. Worthington
Henry Y. Satterlee
George L. Andrews
Bernard T. Janney
Mrs. Clara G. Addison
Willliam C. Whittemore
G. Lloyd Magruder
Joseph C. Breckinridge
Marcus Baker
Katherine Hosmer
Charles E. Foster
Simon Wolf
George M. Sternberg
S. Walter Woodward
George M. Kober
John Joy Edson
Maybe more later. Or not.

New Year, New Job, New Goals 2022

Last year I moved out of Truxton Circle after selling my home of 19 years to the wilds of PG County. Despite that I am still the world’s expert on Truxton Circle History and it is not a skill I will be giving up anytime soon.

Speaking of skills, doing the Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle series, has helped me get a new job. Nineteen seems to be a magic number, as I worked in the same Bureau of Fight Club (they are funny and don’t want me to talk about them) department for 19 years. This weekly, sometimes daily, habit of hunting down people, possibly long dead, and writing up a quick biography has developed a skill of a quickie genealogist. It was a skill I could point to in my job interview, semi paraphrasing Liam Neeson in Taken:

I do have a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. If you are obviously still alive, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you. I will protect your privacy. But if I’m not sure, I will look for you, I will find you, and I make sure you are dead.

It’s easier to do the job if the persons in the document are dead.

However, the new work environment will be a bit more restrictive. I don’t know how much attention I can pay to this site. I do know that I will no longer have access to the primary records related to Shaw and Washington, DC history, as I did with the old job.

I hope that I can work on a few new projects. I have warned that I will look at Squares 552 and 615, the core Bates area of the TC, and because my past research has been used for historic preservation/landmark, I want present owners to make the changes they can now before any restrictions come. There is also a journal article I want to write, but I have to figure out what story the data I’ve cobbled together actually says.

I’m a little sad that my job move means I won’t be exploring the history of DC public housing. Once upon a time public housing didn’t suck, and wasn’t shorthand for crappy crime ridden living conditions. But now it is, what it is.

The new job does pay more…. so I could conceivably hire someone to do the leg work of scanning those records.



In praise of the Envirocycle Composter-Update

UPDATE- The universe has semi-answered my prayers. I must thank friend and sometimes reader of the blog Shawn for giving me his unused rotating composter. It sits next to the composter I bought. It’s sturdy and I look forward to turning it into a turny worm paradise.

_______original post below________

Sometimes you never know what you had until it is long gone and you can never get it back. That is how I feel about my-no-longer-mine Envirocycle composter.

Taking another break from the Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle, again. Face it, it’s long and tedious. Also rewarding. Anyway..

When I first moved to Truxton Circle, a co-worker (now department head) gave me his composter. He and his partner had no use for it. They lived a couple of miles where I live now in the Maryland suburbs. He was nice enough to throw it in the back of his truck and deliver it to my Truxton Circle home.

I dumped my old plants in it. I dumped some cherry tomatoes from a house warming party in it. That resulted in having accidental cherry tomatoes growing in the front yard. I put shredded paper from shredded documents in it.

I took earthworms found on the concrete patio in it. At another point I bought some earthworms in the mail and put them in. This resulted in the great worm escape on an unusually hot day where worms were oozing out of the slits en masse. It was a sight.

I used the compost tea and the compost for my container garden. I also donated compost for one of the sidewalk trees Brian and crew placed on 4th St. It was a lovely thing to have.

Did it stink? On occasion, when I failed to balance the ‘greens’ and the ‘browns’. The greens were the romaine lettuce butts, egg shells, whole avocados gone bad, remaining parts of avocados gone good, and all the raw veggies that were composting in the refrigerator. I’ll also include tea bags, loose tea, and lots of coffee grounds from nearby coffee shops, when the neighborhood starting having coffee shops.

The browns were the shredded papers, dryer lint, and maybe the odd batch of leaves.

I took it for granted.

When we decided to sell our Truxton Circle home I had to find a new home for the composter. By this time, 19 years had passed and around year 17-18 some urban wildlife tore a hole in the side.

I suspect it was the big bag of fruit I threw in there.

I put the composter on Freecycle, with pics of the hole, and a fellow with a pick up truck picked it up and took it away.

Fast forward 1 year.

I was in my new suburban home and getting tired of putting food scraps down the garbage disposal drain or in the trash. The place where we moved has a composting program, however, I wanted to get back into gardening, and I want my own compost, where I know what’s in the compost.

So I went looking for a new Envirocycle and holy heck those suckers are $500! I could buy similar tumbling composters and I really don’t need the feature that made it great for my urban back patio, the system that captured the compost tea and kept it from staining the concrete.  But I really like the door for the composter. I like that all I had to do was turn the composter, no lever or having (but I did) to go in and turn the compost myself.

I don’t really like the new style of Envirocycle. The old model had several little slits, and this new one just has a vent at the top. I guess that would prevent the hole problem I experienced.

Since I’m not paying $500, I bought a $80 stationary composter. It’s eh. I’m just happy I’m not throwing perfectly good scraps away. I might break down and buy a tumbler. I just don’t see one that I like for a price that makes sense to me.

I miss my old Envirocycle. I guess you really can’t appreciate what you had until it is gone.