RESTART-WSIC-1950 Sell Off- 130 Q 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 130 Q St NW:

  • March 1951 Evans, Levin and Taube sold one-fourth of 130 Q NW to Daisy A and George W. Drakeford.
  • March 1951 the Drakefords borrowed $4,300 from Colonial Investment Co. favorite trustees Abraham H. Levin and Robert G. Weightman.
  • March 1951 Evans, Levin and Taube sold another quarter of 130 Q NW to William H. and Eva R. Oliver (mother & son?).
  • March 1951 the Olivers borrowed $4,300 from trustees Abraham H. Levin and Robert G. Weightman.
  • June 1951 Evans, Levin and Taube sold one-fourth of 130 Q NW to Julia R and Frank J. Bush.
  • June 1951 the Bushes borrowed $4,250 from trustees Abraham H. Levin and Robert G. Weightman.
  • July 1951 Evans, Levin, and Taube sold the another quarter of 130 Q St NW to Alice B. Johnson.
  • July 1951 Mrs. Johnson borrowed $4,325 from trustees Abraham H. Levin and Robert G. Weightman.
  • June 1954 the Olivers lost their property to foreclosure and the property returned to Evans, Levin, and Taube via an auction.
  • November 1957 the Drakefords lost their property to foreclosure and the property returned to Evans, new partner Harry A. Badt, and Taube via an auction.
  • November 1957, as part of a larger property package the Badts (Harry and wife Jennie) transferred/sold their interest in 130 Q and other properties to the Levin survivors.
  • March 1964 the Bushes were released from their mortgage (they paid it off) and owned their fourth free and clear.
  • May 1958, in an unusual twist, the Levin survivors lose their interest in 130 Q St and several other properties to foreclosure. Or it appears so.
  • April 1972, the Bushes, the Levin survivors, their spouses, Evans, Taube and their spouses sold their portions of 130 Q St NW to the District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency.
  • Sometime between 1972 and 1978 the DC RLA transferred ownership to the Bates Street Associates.

This had not only one but three foreclosures and so close together. This makes me wonder if buyers were set up to fail. The Bushes were the only ones to avoid foreclosure and the property eventually was owned by the DC RLA.

Preparing for Washington DC History Conference- Black Homeowners of Truxton Circle

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be presenting at the 2024 DC History Conference and I’ll be talking about the Black Homeowners of Truxton Circle.

So if you are available Saturday, April 6th at 10:15 at the Neighborhood History and Housing panel, come see me. Ask some questions.

You can register now for the April conference, and take a look at the program here.

So in order to get ready for the conference I’m going to slightly ignore the blog for a bit. Also I have some personal things I need to deal with. Even once the conference is done, there will still be some personal things that will need to be dealt with, maintained? So I’m thinking of a schedule of one researched post a week with a few Memory Lane posts. I’d like to get around to actually getting something published outside of the InShaw blog about Truxton Circle and that’s going to take some focus and time, in addition to some of those personal things I’ve been ignoring.

Black History Month 2024: First Class- Ch. 17 Back to the Future

This year for Black History Month we’ll review chapter by chapter Alison Stewart’s First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School. This is more Truxton Circle related then this blog’s previous annual looks at Shaw resident and founder of Negro History Week (later Black history month) Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s Mis-Education of the Negro. As Dunbar High School is located in Truxton Circle currently taking up all of Square 554.

We’ve finally made it to the last chapter of the book and from the description the students and staff are still in the 1977 Dunbar building. It’s still hovering around the 2010-2011 academic year. The new building was in the process of being built, there was hope for the future of Dunbar.

There are three views of the school. The first takes place in Matthew Stuart’s English class. The second with Dunbar’s football team on Cardozo’s field. The third is back at Dunbar, in the basement.

It’s the start of the class in Mr. Stuart’s room and students are making their way in. Despite a rule against cell phones, one student came in speaking loudly on his. We’re also told less than half of the students enrolled in his class were present. A picture is painted of what Dunbar’s academics are like. Left unsaid is that they are a far cry from Dunbar’s beginnings.

Next, because of the construction for Dunbar’s new field and the change of layout of the school, the football team was at another school’s playing field. Coach Jerron Joe was a former Dunbar student (2004) and knew of other Dunbar alumni who moved on to the NFL. But Coach Joe did more than coach, he was also a mentor.

The last has us in the basement for girl’s track. This time with Coach Marvin Parker, and like Coach Joe, he’s a mentor to the girls, some of whom live under difficult circumstances. He wanted to break the cycle of poverty for girls, which at the time meant babies having babies. We’re told of a success story, Angela Bonham, who transferred to Dunbar and then excelled on the track and got a 4 year scholarship to GWU. Later we’re also told how Dunbar was essentially ignoring Title IX in favor of football, and Parker was an advocate for getting money for girl’s sports.

Dunbar may never be the academic powerhouse for Black education as it once was. But it is well known for it’s football team. Maybe it’s next chapter will be with athletics over academics. That’s fair. When I was looking at predominately Black private schools in the DC area, I stumbled upon a football schedule where a school I never heard of and couldn’t find was playing against DeMatha. What little I could find seemed to say the whole purpose of the school was for boys to play football. There are parents who value a school based on the school’s athletics. As a parent myself, I’m not going to fault another parent for their values, even if they strongly differ from mine. During the Covid shutdowns, there were Black parents who were very concerned about their sons’ high school sports careers. I found no fault with them.

When I was at the hair dressers getting my hair did, someone mentioned Dunbar. My first thought was for their dismal academic record. However, the barbers and the hairdressers spoke glowingly and lovingly about their football team. And again, I found no fault in them.

Let me conclude and get back to the book. This is a good history of Dunbar. It is not 100% about Dunbar. The author provides a lot of background information, necessary to understand and appreciate the parts that are about the school. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about the great history of the school beyond a Wikipedia entry.

Black History Month 2024: First Class- Ch. 16 New New School

This year for Black History Month we’ll review chapter by chapter Alison Stewart’s First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School. This is more Truxton Circle related then this blog’s previous annual looks at Shaw resident and founder of Negro History Week (later Black history month) Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s Mis-Education of the Negro. As Dunbar High School is located in Truxton Circle currently taking up all of Square 554.

In late 2011 the wheels started moving to create the 3rd Dunbar building. It was supposed to be the complete opposite of the 2nd Dunbar building. That was a success. The old 1970ish building was a Brutalist prison like structure and the new, current building looks like it belongs on a college campus. It is well lit, has lots of glass, open in a good way.

View of Armstrong Parking Lot from Dunbar High School window. Taken April 2018.

One part of the DC government to take credit for this change for the better is the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization (OPEFM) which was formed in 2007. OPEFM wanted to have a nod to the 1916 building, which there is.  The old building was along 1st St, the 1977 was closer to New Jersey Avenue. The current building is at the corner of 1st and N St NW.

The new building was planned to reflect current values but also make alumni happy. It was planned to be a LEED building. It was in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. There was space for metal detectors… we’re not about to forget about the crime. You kidding, we’re still in Shaw. There were nods to great Dunbar alumni built into the building.

Not mentioned in the chapter was another great change with the new building. O Street was reopened. Dunbar II ate O Street. It was not there. The neighborhood gained some extra street parking. It was good.

Black History Month 2024: First Class- Ch. 15 The Fall

This year for Black History Month we’ll review chapter by chapter Alison Stewart’s First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School. This is more Truxton Circle related then this blog’s previous annual looks at Shaw resident and founder of Negro History Week (later Black history month) Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s Mis-Education of the Negro. As Dunbar High School is located in Truxton Circle currently taking up all of Square 554.

So it’s 2010 and Dunbar is going down. In flames. Figuratively.

Literally it was a hot mess. In the previous chapter the building was not only ugly as sin, it was also in meh to poor condition in need of serious repairs. The open classroom concept worked against classroom management and made it hard to teach. In a school. Where the whole point is to teach students. Crime was a problem. The crime around the school was also inside. Drugs and gambling were inside. And there was a publicized sexual assault of a student in a stairwell.

Mayor Fenty lost to Vincent Gray in 2010. With that polarizing Superintendent Michelle Rhee was not able to remain, even after being heroically portrayed in Waiting for Superman. Gray removed a lot of Fenty’s work, including the Friends of Bedford managing Dunbar. Rhee was replaced by Kaya Henderson and the FoB were replaced by interim principal Stephen Jackson.

Alumni did not seem to care for Jackson because he was a FoB hire. They did not care for the New York connection. Jackson survived that and was able to stick around for the plans for a 3rd Dunbar building.

Black History Month 2024: First Class- Ch. 14 From Bed-Stuy to Shaw

This year for Black History Month we’ll review chapter by chapter Alison Stewart’s First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School. This is more Truxton Circle related then this blog’s previous annual looks at Shaw resident and founder of Negro History Week (later Black history month) Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s Mis-Education of the Negro. As Dunbar High School is located in Truxton Circle currently taking up all of Square 554.

The Bed-Stuy in the chapter title refers to a New York neighborhood from which the group Friends of Bedford hailed. It was the earlier part of the Fenty mayoral administration, which meant the Superintendent was Michelle Rhee. This was an environment for trying new things, hiring consultants, throwing more spaghetti at walls. The pasta in this case was Friends of Bedford who were tasked with fixing schools like Dunbar High.

The school building was in poor shape. The Friends of Bedford noted the unsatisfactory ADA compliance,  bad interiors, dirty carpets, an unstable aged roof and ‘fair’ electrical system. FoB had a Summer Blitz where there was cleaning and fixing. Unfortunately, a lot of Dunbar’s history got ditched in the frenzy. Yeah, that happened.

In 2010 there was a very heated race for the mayor and Fenty was replaced by Councilman Vincent Gray. The chapter pointed out that Gray did not like Rhee. A lot of people did not like Rhee. I suspect some did not like her because she wasn’t Black. But many more probably didn’t like her because of all the school closures and other shake ups.

Gray was a Dunbar graduate (1959), but a post-desegregation Dunbar grad. So he didn’t have the same love or romance for the school as the legally segregated Dunbar. He was asked to be the commencement speaker for the class of 2010. Fenty was on the same platform. Both addressed the students. Fenty was booed.

Black History Month 2024: First Class- Ch. 13 Children Left Behind

This year for Black History Month we’ll review chapter by chapter Alison Stewart’s First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School. This is more Truxton Circle related then this blog’s previous annual looks at Shaw resident and founder of Negro History Week (later Black history month) Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s Mis-Education of the Negro. As Dunbar High School is located in Truxton Circle currently taking up all of Square 554.

This chapter starts in 2008. It’s the Fenty era and Michelle Rhee is the first, and so far only, Asian American DC school chancellor. The chapter name refers to President Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ program.

The author covers the poor education students received in 2008. It didn’t improve. I covered Dunbar’s PARCC scores in 2019 and they are depressing.
PARCC by Race

PARCC Scores 2018-19, % meeting & exceeding expectations
Black White Hispanic Asian
ELA 2018-19 16.5% N/A n<10 N/A
Math 2018-19 .5% N/A n<10 n<10
Males ELA 13.4% N/A n<10 N/A
Males Math .9% N/A n<10 n<10

ELA- basically covers English and Language Arts, that would be reading and writing. And Math is math, numbers, adding, subtracting, figuring out sales tax or a 20% tip. Less than 1% of Dunbar students were proficient in Math.

The chapter covers the school from the 1980s to the aughts. The author mentions the school’s challenges as well as a few success stories as it is not all doom and gloom, despite dismal academics.  But there was a clear academic and cultural difference between pre-desegregation Dunbar and post.

That difference also showed up in a division in the alumni association. The old Dunbar alumni who were held to higher standards and expectations had trouble connecting with the younger alumni. It is not as if the Old Dunbar did not help the New Dunbar students. There were scholarships and a story about a student who was accepted into Amherst College revived a Amherst-Dunbar connection and money flowed to the student.

Black History Month 2024: First Class- Ch. 12 New School

This year for Black History Month we’ll review chapter by chapter Alison Stewart’s First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School. This is more Truxton Circle related then this blog’s previous annual looks at Shaw resident and founder of Negro History Week (later Black history month) Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s Mis-Education of the Negro. As Dunbar High School is located in Truxton Circle currently taking up all of Square 554.

Southeast on 7th and M Street, 1969

This chapter starts with the 1968 riots which pretty much destroyed much of 9th and 7th Street in Shaw. Yes, other neighborhoods experienced damage too, but we’re focusing on Shaw. The damage lasted 30 years. Whatever plans for the Shaw School Urban Renewal Area took on a new spirit after the riots and redoing Dunbar was part of it.

There were pre-riot plans for the Dunbar facility. There was a modernization plan to make it larger than Eastern High School. After the riot the School Board decided the building needed to be torn down.

As the 1970s approach Dunbar was a completely different school. Gone were the high standards and expectations of earlier years. There was a mix and range of students. And there were drug dealers around the neighborhood.

This chapter gives some detail about the prison like structure that loomed on Square 554 for 30 years. The new Dunbar Senior High School would be modern. It had open classrooms. I’m sure that idea looked great on paper.

Of course Dunbar alumni fought the good fight and tried to save the original 1916 building. Senator Brooke (mentioned in the previous chapter) lent his support for saving the old building. Apparently the building was recognized as an historic landmark. The alumni even took the city to court in 1977. June 2, 1977 the city began to knock down the old Dunbar building.

Black History Month 2024: First Class- Ch. 10 Bolling, NOT Brown

This year for Black History Month we’ll review chapter by chapter Alison Stewart’s First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School. This is more Truxton Circle related then this blog’s previous annual looks at Shaw resident and founder of Negro History Week (later Black history month) Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s Mis-Education of the Negro. As Dunbar High School is located in Truxton Circle currently taking up all of Square 554.

Most are familiar with Brown v. Board of Education. It is the US Supreme Court case cited and credited with desegregating American schools. What most don’t realize (because history seems to be a drive by affair where you briefly are told of a topic and then immediately run off to the next in the chronology) that Brown v. Board was made of 5 cases, a DC case being one of them. That DC case was Bolling v. Sharpe.

The note that a M St/Dunbar graduate, Charles Houston, was on the legal team seems unimportant. What the chapter does is give a sense of what public education was like for African American students in the 1950s. The previous chapters gave it for the 1940s and earlier. Both Dunbar and Armstrong were overcrowded in 1948, as well as the other Black high schools in the city.

Armstrong High School March 1942
Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information photograph collection (Library of Congress)- Armstrong High 1942.

May 17, 1954 the US Supreme Court made their decision on Brown v. Board and that year the District began a slow roll to desegregate starting at the elementary level. Of course, there was fighting. At least in the book, adults in positions of influence fighting about how the desegregation was going and planned.

I’m going to detour from the book to make a note. In the neighborhood had a smattering of white families in the 1950 census and by 1960, they’re gone. Doing the WSIC 1950 sell off series, I know why. It wasn’t because of school desegregation that had the families moving out. It was that those households were renters and their landlord WSIC decided to sell, specifically to Black buyers. Just looking at the census demographics and knowing about desegregation, it’s no great leap to assume that the change was due to the schools. Okay, back to the book.

“By 1957, Superintendent Hobart Corning declared, “Desegregation id complete.” But he then added this: “Desegregation is the moving about of people and things, Integration is a much longer process depending the creation of a community.”” So what does this mean for Dunbar, a school dedicated to Black academic excellence? Well it was the beginning of the end of that tradition and that culture.

Those fighting hard for desegregation weren’t thinking about Dunbar and what would come of its teachers and prospective students.  Dunbar was on its way to becoming just a neighborhood school.

Black History Month 2024: First Class- Ch. 2 Teaching to Teach

This year for Black History Month we’ll review chapter by chapter Alison Stewart’s First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School. This is more Truxton Circle related then this blog’s previous annual looks at Shaw resident and founder of Negro History Week (later Black history month) Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s Mis-Education of the Negro. As Dunbar High School is located in Truxton Circle currently taking up all of Square 554.

Okay I’ll make this quick. This starts in the mid 19th century and is about Myrtilla Miner, founder of the Normal School for Colored Girls, then after her death, called the Institution for the Education of Colored Youth, then the Miner Normal School, then the Miner Teacher College.

Since this has nothing to do with Truxton Circle, I’m skipping this chapter.