Probably Extinct DC Housing- The Rooming House

Today we have Airbnb, back in the day there was taking in lodgers. The day being 1940, 1930, 1920… you get the idea. There also use to be things called boarding houses, where you could rent a bed, in a room that you shared with other people. You can do that too on Airbnb, but I haven’t tried it and haven’t been desperate enough to take that option.

People were more communal back then.

Men and women in boarding house room
1943 DC Boarding House

Anyway, you’d be hard pressed to find a rooming house in DC or anywhere these days. But they were an affordable form of housing for singles, when all a person needed was a warm clean place to sleep. It was common enough in the past that such living arrangements would pop up in fiction and radio plays of the early 20th century.

I remember back when I was little, in Florida, hanging out with a kid from (elementary) school and her family lived in a boarding house. A family of 3-4 in one dark room in the back of a two story structure. I gather they could not afford to rent a house, and apartments were not a thing where I lived. That house was torn down some time ago.

I’m not calling for the return of the rooming house. As a resident, I’d resist one coming into my neighborhood. No, I am just reminding readers of a type of housing that existed and is no longer an option. I think as a society we are slowly removing affordable options, even as we complain about the lack of affordable housing.


319 R St NW- Not hoping for the best, but the less ugly with a turret

319 R St NW So the Bates Area Civic Association (BACA) voted to support Plan B, which was building a distinct 3rd floor and a new turret, that looks like a little hat (See The Turret is Plan B). It was what the ANC and the residents of the 1700 block of 4th and Richardson apparently agreed on.

The developers ‘threatened’ that they could by right raze the building. Maybe. I don’t know if it would have been worth it because if the building were razed there would be no need to stick to Plan A either and they would have had to be within 60-62% of lot coverage. The current structure is about 70 something of lot coverage.

Anyway, I am still sad that the plan does not incorporate the turret like 1721 4th St does.
It looks less like a pop up.

Here is a newer picture I took a few days ago of 1721-1717 4th St NW. The building on the left is 1721, and it includes a pop up. The blue building in the middle is an original Wardman, minus some roof vents that existed earlier. The building on the right is 21st century infill. The one with the popup has a mix of historic charm and more square footage, the middle, has the historic charm and details, and new one, plain and has that extra floor. The buildings on the left and right do rise above the one in the middle but the heigh difference isn’t too drastic or jarring.

What 1721 does is use that old mansard roof and expands on it. There are other additions in Truxton Circle that add a floor. There is a popup on the 1600 block of fourth street that blends in well. I can’t seem to get a good photo of it because there are two trees that block the view, and maybe the trees help obscure the popup.

Q and 3rd I’m still trying to make up my mind regarding this pop up on 3rd and Q. It isn’t horribly ugly, it isn’t charming either. It might grow on me like the Darth Vader house at 1651 New Jersey Avenue NW.Vader House at 1651

I’m afraid that the 319 R St developers will go with ugly…. 1500 block of 3rd Street ugly. This particular ugly has been slapped by the market’s invisible hand for being so dang ugly.
Ugly Popup 2 

319 R St NW- The Turret is Plan B

There will be a BACA meeting Monday July 10th to discuss 319 R Street among other things. There was no meeting July 3rd because of the 4th.

So the ANC sent the developers (Fred Schnider Investment Group) proposal to her residents and looking at the plans, Plan A has a 3rd story, no turret. Plan B has the turret.

Developers Plan B

But it looks in Plan B like the turretted style is a tad ugly. There is some vacant space between the turret and the top floor windows. In Plan A (not shown here) there is a small row of windows, that fills the space between the turret and the larger 3rd floor windows. I wanted to like it but, it could look better. I’d approve of this less than flattering Plan B.

I was hoping for something like 1721 4th Street where the turret was incorporated into the 3rd floor. Popup on 4th   Also Plan B would have them destroying the old turret and us hoping that they bother to rebuild the odd little hat of a turret to go back on.

The other problem, I’m just now noticing is how it looks against the adjoining buildings. Currently three of the other houses along R Street NW are vacant investments gone bad. So there isn’t anyone in those buildings to cry foul. The transition from 319 to 317 is abrupt.

I might suggest a bit of a mansard like roof, with an opening for a deck, and the rooftop space on top. It would mean fewer windows on the top corner. But it could also make the transition from 319 to 317 less obvious and make the 3rd floor with the roof top entrance look less like a pop up.

1607 NJ Tagged by DCRA

1607 NJ DCRA
Originally uploaded by In Shaw

Well I’d like to thank Emil for spotting this on the rear of 1607 NJ Ave, NW, the house that may come crumbling down at any moment.
I’m a bit torn about this. I sort of feel badly because the family members have to deal with the death of a father and now this. But on the other hand, that alley isn’t that wide and even if this thing winds up crashing in the middle of the night it probably will take out the neighboring house, crush the fence across the alley and maybe send brick through the window of houses across the alley. Worse case scenario is that parts may come down on a kid running by.
What got me was the senior tax deduction for real estate, and normally I kind of like to wait several years after the person has died before complaining about it, but this house is a danger.
The best thing for everyone is for the family to get this through probate and sell it to some developer, who hopefully might fix this mess before it hurts someone.

Death, taxes and a building that’s gonna fall

Originally uploaded by In Shaw

This is the alley side of 1607 New Jersey Avenue, NW. I’ve been told by one citizen living on this block that he’s fearful when walking by this building because it looks like it is going to topple over at any moment. It’s got missing bricks at the base on the alley. It bows out. Its got some pretty wicked looking cracks and I think that upper window is broken.
Well I took a look on the property tax database and 1607 is owned by Arvid W Broadus who is receiving the Senior Citizen Homestead Deduction. Mr. Broadus is dead. According to the Social Security Death Index he died last year 16 Jan 2009 (born 30 Sep 1919) and unfortunately he didn’t make it to his 90 birthday. Unfortunately for us, and anyone walking by this structure, it hasn’t turned over to the living.

ADDITION- Apparently people still read this blog, even journalists. It appears Channel 7 did a story on this house.

The Board for the Condemnation of Insanitary Buildings (BCIB)

Broken Windows
Originally uploaded by In Shaw

I was about to blog about horrendous vacancy rate taxation on houses that are not vacant. But one of the example houses was recategorized to normal…. now all the owners have to do is get their homestead exemption. But while poking around for info I came across the Board for the Condemnation of Insanitary Buildings.
I didn’t know there was such a board until I found a letter from a similar sounding agency in the personal papers of a landlady. In the 1930s & 40s the landlady had owned my house as well as several other properties in DC, and one townhouse on the 1700 block of 4th Street was in danger of being condemned by the city.
Since I hadn’t really heard of anything about the city condemnation agency, I just assumed it was one of those defunct city agencies, like dairy inspectors. But no. There is the BCIB, and they are under DCRA.

1227 First Street NW

Originally uploaded by In Shaw

Okay, once again because all the cool kids are doing it, another vacant house. This also has been bought this year, so the pitiful state that it is in *might* not the new owner, Ms. M. B. Jackson’s fault. Ms. Jackson of McClean, VA acquired the house in May 2007 for an unknown amount. The unknown makes me wonder if it was a transfer, tax sale foreclosure, or something else. According to the DC.Gov tax assessment site, the place is assessed at $248,570, for 2007, and will go up to $296,570. The $570.00 at the end of both prices make me wonder if the assessor just decided, “OK, add $48K, viola!” Anywho, there is an interesting “Special Assessment” dated 7/30/2004 and 12/13/2007 for $62,213.03. I wonder what that’s all about.
It was built sometime during the turn of the century, as the DC government lists it as being built in 1900, which means they have no clue. My census of 1900 notes aren’t revealing any residents of the 1200 block of 1st, and my maps (which I admit neglects the Hanover/MVSQ crossover area of the TC) don’t show anything, so I have no clue either.

Lucky Kitty

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.

And you were going to do what?

And you were going to do what?

I was talking with the neighborhood handyman some time back and he mentioned the guy who had sold me the house came by to, I don’t know, look around or something. Anyway the seller voiced regret about selling the house. He went through the shoulda done this or that’s.

Hearing this I’m thinking to myself, you owned the house for how many years, didn’t do a dang thing and now after I painted and repaired and am still finding crap hidden behind the drywall you wish you hadn’t sold it?

Let’s review shall we? I know he “fixed up” the place for sale. The fixer was a Nigerian named Sonny who does crappy work and hires crackheads. The upstairs was covered in textured paint…. to hide the cracks in the plaster. I know this because the texture wasn’t uniformed and very prickly and scratchy over the big cracks. The floor upstairs is uneven and is covered up by cheap carpet, which after 2 years, I need to replace. We discovered the plastic pipes weren’t sealed properly, they were just being held together by friction and gravity. The windows are cheap “section 8” windows, that also need replacing and squaring. The interior doors are hollow core and I have so far had to glue them back on occasion.

I have so far, painted the front, covering up the hideous red, that sat between two other red (different shades) townhomes. Got rid of the ‘weed’ trees in the front and the back. Cleaned up the front yard getting rid of stupid low unattended bushes replacing them with large flowers that keep blooming and planted grass. Nevermind that the cat kills the grass, I made an attempt. I have replaced the front lighting. I put in a rustic looking brick walkway replacing the green turf carpet encrusted with dirt. I have planted herbs in the front. In the back I replaced the fence with a newer cedar fence, and then stained it. I’m in the process of painting the back, updating the kitchen, and the interior lighting. Future plans are to lay hardwood flooring on the 1st level, replace the carpet upstairs, and redo all the windows.

I really doubt the former owner/landlord would have gone through all this trouble.