Comparative White DC Home Owner- Georgetown- Charles P. Reckert- 3214 Volta Place NW

Although the African American home owners of Truxton Circle are my focus, I am looking at a few other blocks in Washington, DC to compare them to. So I looked at the census for blocks in the city that were in the F1 or red lined category, but happened to be 90%-100% white. I included Georgetown, and this is the story of one household.

photo of 3214 Volta Pl circa 2004

According to the 1930 Census Charles P. Reckert was the owner of 3214 Volta Place. He lived there with his wife Valeria Irene Warner Reckert, and their children, Charles Peter Jr., May Callista, William F. and Eileen Reckert. By the 1940 census the Reckerts had 3 more children Joseph W., Virginia M. (later Lapp), and Robert W. No surprise, they were a Catholic family and parishioners of Holy Trinity Church.

Mr. Reckert was a multi-type machinist working for the Government Printing Office. He had been employed with the GPO since he was a messenger boy in 1911 then moved up to the role of machinist before 1920 after serving in the first World War.

According to the land records the Charles and Valeria purchased 3214 Volta in April 1929 from Eudora B. Johnson. In December 1931 they took out a loan with the Oriental Building Association. It looks sort of like a HELOC where there was a range, and the range appeared to be $1,800-$4,000. They closed the loan ten years later in 1941.

Then something curious happens. When I’ve seen this sort of thing with the TC homeowners it happens on the same day and is a way to change the name of who is on the property. Usually to remove the name of a spouse or add or transfer it to a family member. November 1945 the Reckarts sell/transfer the property to Minnie May Wanner. I attempted to find any connection with Minnie May with either Charles or Valeria. As far I as could find, Mrs. Wanner was a Baltimore widow and Charles’ family lived in Charm City at some time in the 1920s. A few months later, in March of 1946, Wanner sells/transfers the property to Valeria and in her name only.

I’m not entirely sure why this was done. They did not divorce and Charles was no where near death. I’m guessing taxes.

Valeria took out two loans. In her name only. The first was in 1946 ($3,000-$20,000) and the second in 1950 ($7,500 ) with the Washington Loan and Trust Company. It appears the second loan paid off the first and the second loan was completed in 1969.

By the 1950 census the Reckerts had moved a few blocks over to 3130 Dumbarton Ave NW. That census revealed they had another son, David. World War I records show that the Dumbarton Ave home was previously home to Charles’ father Charles G. Reckert, a Baltimore grocer.

Charles and Valeria died in 1972. Their many heirs, being their children and their children’s spouses, sold the property in 1973.

Comparative White DC Home Owner- Capitol Hill- Frieda Humpries- 215 E Street SE

I’m going to try something new. For a few years I have been looking at the African American home owners of Truxton Circle. As a part of it, I look at land records and then I get confused. I wonder if the borrowing activities are unique to Black home owners. So I am looking at DC white home owners from another part of DC that isn’t a “suburb” like Adams-Morgan.

According to the 1950 census German immigrant Frieda (nee Bohraus) Humphries lived at 215 E Street SE. She worked at a hospital for a number of years as a seamstress and as an office clerk. Looking at the land records she owned 215 E St SE prior to 1923. She took out very few loans. Because a release (cancelling/payment of loan) in 1923 we are aware of a few loans Frieda and then husband George Milton Humphries made in 1913 and 1915. However, according to the 1920 census they were renting 2310 Pennsylvania Ave NW.

George was a carpenter turned auto mechanic. They married in 1905, a month after she arrived in Baltimore from Europe. At some point prior to 1930 the marriage failed. She was listed as a widow in the 1930 and 1950 census but George didn’t die until the 1970s. They had two children, Carl W. and Cara/Cora Humphries.

During the years at 215 E St SE, as head of the household Frieda housed relatives and lodgers. In 1930 she lived with her children, son-in-law James Bristow, sister in law Myrtle Humphries, and two roomers Sidney S. Ball and Erma Brewer. In 1940 it was just her daughter, sister-in-law and a lodger William M. Hobbs.

For the 1950 census the home appears to be 3 units. Frieda, her daughter and new son-in-law Malcolm N. Walters, a house painter, lived in the first unit. Reginald and Gertrude Burns from West Virginia lived in the second unit. Divorced Pentagon telephone operator Alice C. Jennings, her son William F. and her brother George Myers, a mechanic, lived in the 3rd unit.

Mrs. Humphries took out a loan in her name of $2,500 at 6% interest from the Permanent Building Association in 1925. That loan was settled in 1943. The next document came in 1960 when she sold the property to Sharon and Thomas Lias. Frieda was 79 years old at the time of the sale.

Scoping a comparison block- Black v White

I have an idea. I would like to compare the land records I have been seeing in my series of Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle with that of white home owners. I would start with the 1930 census because that is when redlining starts. Also the DC Recorder of Deeds online records start around 1921, and I like having a buffer.

The Truxton Circle block will be Square 509E. Why? Because I used to live there. Also It’s not as big as Squares 551, 552, 553, 554, 555, 615, 616, or 617. The small and more manageable blocks are 519, 550, 553W (maybe), 554W, and 618.

So what’s the deal with Square 509E? In the 1940 Census it was 100% Black, had 67 occupied units, and 10% was owner occupied. In the 1950 census, still all Black, 69 units were occupied and the home ownership rate was up to 28%.

The 1950 Census the last and most recent open census, and that is where I’ll stop. Also after 1950 DC experienced white flight, particularly a loss of its white working class and poor. As of this time, the District does not have any white working class neighborhoods.

So I started looking for a 90-100% white comparison block. I was looking for something in Old City. I wanted something with an older housing stock, with row houses/ townhomes. To make it easier on me, no big blocks. I wanted to avoid blocks with large apartment buildings, so that eliminated most of Dupont Circle. Many Logan Circle blocks got kicked out of the running because many blocks did not remain 90%+ white by 1950. I really wanted to keep Shaw blocks finding 90%+ white blocks.

So here are my possible candidates:

Square 980N (Census tract 84, ED 720)- This NE block along Florida Ave in 1950 was 95% white, and 45% owner occupied with only 20 occupied units.

Square 984 (Census tract 81, ED761?)- This block is at E and 11st Sts NE was 90% white, 33% owner occupied with 62 occupied units.

Square 966 (Census tract 81, ED 767)- This Lincoln Park block was 100% white, 23% owner occupied with 40 units.

Square 765 (Census tract 65, ED374)- This Capitol Hill block was 96% white, 32% owner occupied with 54 units.

Square 1255 (Census tract 2, ED564)- This Georgetown block along Wisconsin Ave NW was 98% white, 31% owner occupied with 64 units.

So 980N got eliminated first because I couldn’t find the square on the Library of Congress map site. It seemed to have gotten left off and I need the real estate maps because lot numbers change.

Square 1255 in Georgetown is going to be set aside because the occupations I am seeing appear to be very upper middle class. The Truxton Circle block is more working class and I don’t want to compare it to a block that is more managerial and richer.

Squares 984, 966, and 765 are great contenders because they have several working class residents. There is the odd doctor on the block. Fair enough, 509E had a Dr.

Next, collect the info.

WSIC-Newspaper Search part 1

Instead of looking at individual addresses, which I’ll still keep doing, let’s look at the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) in the newspaper for Truxton Circle. I have to limit it to Truxton Circle because WSIC had investment properties in various other parts of Washington, DC and I really want to focus on the TC.

This is broken up into parts because newspaper announcement of auctions of individual properties makes the post too long.


Building Permits IssuedEvening star. [volume], April 21, 1905, Page 12. “To the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, thirteen two-story brick dwellings, 147 to 171 P street northwest, to cost $39,000; thirteen two-story brick dwellings, 146 to 170 Bates street northwest, to cost $39,000; six two-story brick dwellings, 100
to 113 and 121 to 125 Bates street northwest, to cost $18,000.”  “To Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, three two-story brick dwellings, 120 to 124 O street northwest; cost $9,000.”

BUILDING PERMITS FOR WEEK INCREASEEvening star. [volume], June 21, 1924, Page 14. Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, to erect eight dwellings at 12 to 26 Bates street; cost $60,000.

BUILDING PERMITS TOTAL $209,215Evening star. [volume], January 19, 1929, Page 15– “Repairs to Be Made. Washington Sanitary Improvement Co., owner; to make repairs to porches,
200 to 230 Bates street and 201 to 231 P street (lots 132 to 147, 111 to 119 and 148 to 150. square 552); to cost $1,044.
Washington Sanitary Improvement Co., owner; to repair porches. 15 to 77 and 44 to 76 Bates street (lots 195 to 207, 253 to 256. 134 to 140, 237 to 244, 245. 811 to 818 and 258 to 265), square 615); to cost $1,436.”

Home Building Shows IncreaseEvening star. [volume], October 22, 1932, Page B-3. “Washington Sanitary Improvement
Co., owners; George E. Locknane, designer; Mutual Construction Co., builders; to erect one 2-story brick apartment, 130 Q street, to cost $10,000.”

Building Drops In Capital AreaEvening star. [volume], February 17, 1934, Page B-1. “The largest single Item was for a $10,300 addition to a structure at 124 Q street, to be built by the Washington Sanitary Improvement Co.”

Transactions Brings End to Low-Rent HousingEvening star. [volume], November 04, 1950, B-1 & Firm’s Sale Brings End to Low-Rent Experiment  B4. The WSIC came to an end. They rented to whites and blacks. WSIC informed white tenants that they intended to sell the units to African Americans. Unhappy tenants created the Tenants Committee to Protest Eviction. “The units so far offered for sale are mainly located on Bates street between North Capitol and Third streets N.W.; on Third street between P and Q streets N.W.; on Q street, between Second and Third -streets N.W., and on P street between Second and Third streets N.W.”
List of properties sold (address, yr. acquired, no. of buildings):
1501-1551 Third street N.W., 1904, 24 buildings.
124-230 Q street N.W., 1905, 24 buildings.
201-231 P street N.W., 1905, 16 buildings.
14-42 O street N.W., 1901, 15 buildings.
14- 28 Bates street N.W., 1905, 8 buildings.
30-94 Bates street N.W., 1900, 25 buildings.
15- 77 Bates street N.W., 1900, 32 buildings.
119-229 Bates street N.W., 1905, 26 buildings.
200-230 Bates street N.W., 1905, 16 buildings.
416-441 Warner street N.W., 1902, 13 buildings. <- Not in TC but wanted to add.

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], April 14, 1954, Page C-5. Auction of 131 Bates St NW ($7,750).

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], June 03, 1954, Page B-20. Auction of 132 Q St NW ($8000).

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], December 07, 1954, Page C-4. Auction of 200 Bates St NW ($8,000) and 129 Bates St NW ($3,650).

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], September 27, 1955, Page B-8. Auction of 20A Bates St NW ($7,750), 229 Bates St NW ($8000), 215-215A Bates St NW ($7,750), and 66 Bates St NW ($7,750).

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], April 26, 1956, Page B-15 and –Evening star. [volume], May 01, 1956, Page B-12. Auction of 142 Que St NW ($8,250), 202 Bates St NW ($7,750).

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], August 09, 1956, Page B-11– 214 Bates St NW was to be sold for approx. $7,750. 200A Bates St NW, to be sold for approx. $8,000. 132A Que St NW to be sold for approx. $8K.  (54A Bates St NW to be auctioned too)

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], September 13, 1955, Page C-4. Homes to be auctioned- 1545-A Third Street NW ($7500).

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], March 05, 1956, Page B-9. Auction of 229 P St NW ($8,000).

Rando Alley In Shaw- Glick Alley

This is from 1916 and shows Glick Alley which is in Shaw. It was on Square 442, which is between 6th and 7th, R & S Streets and Rhode Island Avenue NW.

Glick Alley, as far as I can tell, no longer exists.No inside plumbing for these Glick Alley homes. As I remember it, the lack of plumbing made something a slum dwelling.

A Program for Bates Street 1968- Updated

This is the 3rd version of this post because I realized that the images did not transfer when I moved this from a Blogger environment to WordPress. So the links did not work. This post aims to fix that.

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- Updated

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

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

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.