WSIC- Square 552- Odd side of 200 blk Bates- A visual

This concludes the visual look at the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC), properties on Square 552. According to the 1933-1934 General Assessment WSIC owned lots 33-35, 49-94, 98-100, 104-150, 811, and 816-820. The 200 even block of Bates St NW were lots 80-94.

Whereas there were fewer dual entrance properties on the even side of the 200 block of Bates, the odd side had preserved more of them into the early 2000s.

211 Bates St NW
217 Bates St NW
227 Bates St NW (red house)
229 Bates St NW

Although it no longer had a second entrance, you can see evidence that there was a door under the window of 225 Bates Street NW.

225 Bates St NW (yellow)

A ‘positive’ of neighborhood disinvestment is that sometimes it works as a preservative. If structures manage not to get torn down, there is little incentive to modernize or gussy up the exterior. When gentrification hits, as it has, there is an incentive to add a third story or change the whole structure. I am thankful for the 2004 photos. It was the start of the 2nd wave of Shaw gentrification, but well before the million dollar houses started showing up. We can still see what the WSIC built and what managed to survive after 100 years.

I’m going to take a little break from WSIC. Just a little.

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

White Landladies and Black Renters

My last post ran long and I felt I buried the lede.  I’m just going to rehash it with a clique beatty title.

Sq520-1909-BaistMap
1909 Baist Map of Sq. 520

In 1905 the Miller ladies owned several lots on a city block in Washington DC. The square being Sq. 520, which sits between 3rd and 4th, R and Q Streets NW. The Miller ladies being Katharine Miller and her daughters Catherine, Agnes, and Anna. They were white women. According to the 1905-1906 General Assessment they owned under the names Katharine/ Katharina Miller, Catherine A. Miller, Anna B. Gaegler, and Agnes C. Sullivan lots 57-62, 65, 68, 74, 76-78, 86-88, 90-95, 102-106. Using the Library of Congress’ Baist map and Property Quest and trying to match addresses to lots with numbers that may or may not line up with current lot numbers, I think they owned 1603-1611 and 1629 4th, 1635 4th, 1641 4th, 1646 3rd, 1638-1642 3rd (empty lots), 1618-1622 3rd, 1602/4?? 3rd (empty lot 95), 1604-1614 3rd, and 304-312 R St NW.

Map from 1892

A lot of houses in DC say they were built in 1900. They weren’t. Several of these were. The map to the right is a Hopkins map from 1892. There are structures at the corner of 4th and Q and 3rd and R Streets that pre-date 1900. When looking at the 1900 census for residents in these Miller owned properties, they are all African American renters. Those older homes, 1603-1611 4th St NW,  were owned by Millers but rented by the Turners, the Smallwoods, Motens, Dotts and others. They were Black laborers and domestics. But they also owned newer housing that did not exist in 1892 but did in 1900. These newer homes were 1629, 1635, and 1641 4th St NW.

Thomas Jenkins, a porter born in 1850, lived at 1629 4th St NW with his wife, 4 sons and three daughters. He and his wife Rachael were both born in Maryland. Their children were born in the District. His adult son William was a porter like his father. The second son Charles was a teacher. The third, Harry, was a bellman. The youngest, Thomas, was 10. His daughters appear to have been at home, unemployed.

There were 3 households at 1635 4th St NW. The first was a widow woman Cornelia E  Madden. She is listed with a 2 year old daughter and a 17 year old son. The second is Sandford Madden, a 23 year old waiter. I don’t know if he was related to Mrs. Cornelia Madden. He is listed with his wife and their infant son, They also had two ‘boarders’ ages 3 and 4 in their home. Lastly there was William Washington, another young waiter in his early 20s. He lived at 1635 with his wife and their two year old son. Today the house boasts of having about 1500 sq feet.

1641 4th St NW also had three households listed as residents. First, there was 65 year old widow Ann Bowie with her 40 year old daughter Ella. Then there was 50 year old widow Louisa Brooks, a servant, with her 16 year old son Adolphus, a porter. Balancing out the widow women was Benjamin Stiles, a day laborer, He lived with his wife, Sarah, a washer woman and their 3 year old daughter. They had a male boarder, Richard Neale, a hod carrier.

I would examine their White renters from 1910 to see if they were crammed in as much as their Black neighbors, but this post is long enough.

Black Home Owners of 1930-1934: Sq 551 Ethel Thomas

I kinda stopped looking at black homeowners when I hit a problem I’ll call the widow Ethel. Ethel Thomas (nee Heywood) was a widow after 1934 when her husband Sanders Thomas passed away. In the 1940 census she was shacked up with some guy she, or someone, told the census was her husband. But there is no record (I could find) that she remarried.

Recently some images of records came available and they really don’t clear up the tale of Ethel, since it occurs around about the time of her husband’s death. I strongly doubt that I will find out who was her mystery man.

Landowner list of Sq 551Square 551, which is bounded by 3rd, Q, 1st, Florida Avenue and R Streets NW, is quite big. Since Destructo-kid has become mobile, very mobile, I’ve had zero time to get back to data clean up. But every so often some new data pops up, and it is just a question of can I do something with it.

If I were free to get around to looking at the owners, I’d look at 1900. That period saw an explosion of growth and building in Truxton Circle, so I could look and see who were the builders building for by looking at the 1902-1903 owners. Then if possible, compare with the census.

Church spot gone condo: Scripture Cathedral

1957ChurchMap

Looking at the 1957 Northwest Church Survey, Scripture Cathedral did not exist. It would have been at 9th and O Streets Northwest. But the only thing on that block was a storefront church called Christ’s United Baptist Church at 1329 9th St NW, now an outreach center. So historically, in my opinion, this means it can’t claim a rich history with the neighborhood. And I don’t feel like researching it to see if this was  a post riot church. Looking at the website for Scripture Cathedral, currently in PG County, they don’t provide a useful history, or details.

Boarded Up Cathedral    Former Church Spot- Condos

The website for the condo building replacing it has plenty of details about the condos, ranging from $600K to $2 million.

The usual narrative would be Black church replaced by rich (let’s just assume) white condo owners, and then we are supposed to feel bad about losing people who park poorly in the neighborhood. Instead let’s go with ‘yay, new neighbors who may be overpaying for their home.’ Seriously, people still get shot a block or so away on 7th Street, and they can come home from the Mt. Vernon metro assaulted by the smell of K2 in the air.

Looking at the whole volume of the October 1957 Northwest Church Survey, there are plenty of churches that no longer exist. Churches that may have left because they ended their normal church lifecycle. Churches that picked up and moved before and after the riots, and before and after ‘gentrification.’ Neighborhoods change.

Why you can’t compare a pre-gentrification house to today

Vacant house on P
214 P St NW with broken windows in 2008.

When I read studies about housing, housing stock and affordable housing, as it applies to areas like Shaw, I can’t help feeling there is a very wrong assumption flowing through them all. I encountered, that feeling when talking to a renter on my street who would love to buy, but was unaware of what some of us did to make affordable homes livable, and once they became livable, unaffordable to people like him. A house that was affordable in Shaw in the 80s or 90s is probably not the same house that stands today.

In the 1940s-50s Shaw was described as a slum. A slum was defined in some writings as an area where a significant number of houses lacked indoor plumbing or interior toilets, thus slummy Shaw. I want you, dear reader, to think about that. Living somewhere, when you have to go, you’ve got to go….. outside. But now there are laws and regulations so when you rent a place, you get that fancy pants indoor bathroom with hot water.

But there are other housing deficiencies that houses in the 90s and early 00s suffered from because of the history of disinvestment in the neighborhood. Disinvestment meaning, landlords and homeowners had no incentive to maintain properties, beyond necessity, with little to no equity gained. Not updating kitchens, or electrical wiring, or plumbing, resulting in cramped little kitchens, wiring that would fry your electronics, and leaky pipes.

Renovation_0045
House under renovation.

Then came the renovations and the gentrification. Some were crappy and cosmetic, like my house when I bought it, and some actually fixed long neglected problems or updated systems. Even crappy renovations cost money and those costs are pushed onto the end user, the home buyer or the renter. Yes, there are places where there has been no, to little reinvestment, and the prices act as if there were.

So next time you read a report that assumes the equity gained due to gentrification is unearned, question if the house that was affordable in year X is of the same quality, with the same features, when it is unaffordable in year Y.