Fun with ProQuest: Black middle class tries to help

From “D.C. Frontiers, Inner-City Renewal Project, Will Open Soon: Inner-City Renewal Housing Project to Open Soon” by John Saar, Washington Post, 8/13/1973 pC1
Quick abstract: Black businessmen and other AfAm professionals in the form of non-profit DC Frontiers Inc, build, at a financial loss several (and after sever set backs) townhomes at 14th & S, 11th & M, & 11th & N for low income families.

You can still walk by those townhouses today and after 30 some odd years you could say that the project was a success. In the article there was expressed concern that the surrounding decay would undermine the goals of the project. There was a problem with theft while the building was getting built, some snafus that added to construction expenses and there was this inflation thing going on in the 70s. Despite all that the buildings got built stable families got in them and they survived the Crack Barry years and the gentrification.

According to the article, DC Frontiers Inc was more successful than RLA (Redevelopment Land Agency). The difference between the two (besides one being smaller and non-govt) was DC Frontiers aimed for low density and homeownership whereas RLA was high density and rentals, which would be “recreating the old ghetto conditions.” The Frontiers houses aimed for something the high rise apartments for poor families wouldn’t have, a living room for the parents, play room for the children, a small yard, space for living.

The black middle class I write of were doctors, lawyers, Realtors and such who sponsored the construction costs of building the houses. They wanted to do something to help rebuild the area and they did by offering an alternative. As I mentioned RLA was aiming for high density high-rises, which solves the problem of putting roofs over peoples heads, but does little in stabilizing black families and helping them build wealth.

Frontiers sought to ‘reseed’ 14th St NW with families with low but steady incomes who paid their rent on time and turn those families into homeowners. Candidates were chosen by what sounded like the lottery method, and had three years after moving in to decide if they wanted to buy. There was a monetary deposit that in 2007 dollars is $1,604.16 and the option of taking a 25 year mortgage.

Another form of criticism in the article I see aimed at RLA that was a problem then is probably a cause of development problems now (or not, it’s an opinion). RLA costs were ‘unnecessarily’ high because the project bought a lot of commercially zoned land for residential purposes. For you kids who don’t know, commercial lot is way more expensive than residential lot. Both could be the same in every way, one is more expensive. Fast forward to 2007, hey guess what is sitting on the commercial strips of 7th?

Fun with ProQuest: An obseravation

I’ve been taking quick peeks at the Washington Post articles on ProQuest and there is something about how I approach them. Being in 2007, I’m aware how things turn out in the end, yet the surprise is in the discovery of where stuff came from. The people of the 50s, 60s, & 70s they don’t know how things are going to turn out. So I read about this and that plan for the area and things don’t always provide the results desired, and in some cases, I can’t tell if it has worked out. Also, not surprising to me, there is the messiness of the past, the corruption, sloth, distrust, confusion, and lack of funding that make their appearances.
Anyway, an article I’ve yet to read in its entirety is “Urban Renewal: A Slow, Painful Process: SW Developers Made Mistakes The City Now Hopes to Avoid,” by George Day. Washington Post 6/2/1969 p.C1. In it one little caption “Northwest One includes housing for elderly (rear) and Sursam [sic] Corda Project”. Sursum Corda, wonder how that’s working out?

Slum history note or Fun with ProQuest

In the category of ‘research on the side’ I’m looking at something I noticed played a huge role in the development of Shaw around and after the riots, as reported by the Washington Post, the RLA or Redevelopment Land Agency. The RLA was started up in 1945. The Post proclaimed, “[the] RLA would be one of the most powerful governmental units ever ti operate in the District.” The RLA would purchase ‘slum’ properties and then sell or lease those properties with certain controls. A quick scan of the first RLA project, the Marshall Heights plan in SE, failed. It seems people just needed the City to put in sewer lines and pave the streets, not a huge governmental take over and undermining of property rights.
Fast forward past the SW redevelopment and all of its drama, to dealing with the “crime-ridden Second Precinct” in the mid 1950s. Where is the 2nd precinct? It is bounded by Florida Avenue, 14th St NW, the rail road tracks in the east, and MASS Ave and K Street to the south. Hhum, what could fit into that, what now? There is no neighborhood that ‘currently’ stretches that far, but I believe there is one that sorta fits, and I shall call it Shaw. With the National Capitol Planning Commission’s help they were going to clean up this ‘slum’ too. Yet the thing that gets me is the Post had a graphic proclaiming the 2nd as “THE WICKEDEST PRECINCT”. Okay I pick up on this later and see what adventures the Post, the RLA and the National Capitol Planning Commission has in store.

Attacking Slums. The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: Sep 28, 1945. p. 8 (1 page)
New Survey Area Covers 2d Precinct; Boundary Listing Is First Step to Rehabilitation of Broad Section New Survey Area Covers 2d Precinct by S.L. Fishbein. The Washington Post and Times Herald. Washington, D.C.: Sep 18, 1954. p. 1

More 1890 Fun

I’m kinda forgetful as in where this falls in the wonderful world of copyright, but until I’m feeling like clarifying (or someone else clarifies it) I give to you, the 1890-1891 City Directory for the area I call Truxton Circle. This is a Google Spreadsheet and it seems it helps to have a Google account.
Not all addresses are listed and not all addresses clearly fall in the strict definitions of the TC…. and I might have left out whole sections of the ‘hood. For the most part it is the TC, circa 1890. Enjoy.

Neighborhood Research: What I find plodding along

No. I have not found anyone famous. Of course, I am not looking for
anyone famous for that matter. What I am looking for are demographic
patterns of the NW Truxton Circle Neighborhood in 1880. The goal was
to do 1890-1930. Sadly, there is hardly any 1890 census as it was
burned, there is a 1880 census with addresses (the main thing that
allows me to focus street by street) and there are over a thousand
people to track each census year.
Anyway, just wanted to share one of my unexciting finds from the 1880
census. I keep finding Irish and German immigrants, or their crummy
children. I do find my clusters of African Americans but so far, and
I’ve only done a few blocks, we are a minority. Understand I had a
theory going in about the racial make up of Truxton, the data is
proving me wrong and I’m a bit miffed.
One of these immigrant or 2nd generation American families were the
Clarks of 406 Florida Avenue, NW. Headed by Cornelius Clark, clerk at
the S.G. (State Government?) Office, he lived with his wife Emily,
their 5 children, his 45 year old sister Margaret (dressmaker) and
their African American servant Henrietta Majors. The Clark parents
were born in New York but were children of immigrants as Cornelius’
and Margaret’s parents were born in Ireland and Emily’s father was
German and her mother Irish. Ms. Majors, their live-in
maid/housekeeper was of Virginia as were her parents. Given Majors age
at the time of the census (21) and her home state, I’ll go as far to
say she may have been born a slave.
So far, off the top of my head the Clarks are the 3rd family I have
found in Truxton to have a live in servant. Typically it was just one
servant. I haven’t found a home so grand in our area that there was a
need for multiple live in servants. The live-ins are recorded on the
census, those who went home after their shift were not recorded, so
there might be other households with servants but that information is
not recorded in the census.

Neighborhood Research

It all began with my house. My house. The one they told me was built in 1900. Liars. I went to the MLK Library’s Washingtoniana section up on the 3rd floor looking at building permits. I could not find a permit for my house. I guess no one bothered, or if they did it was lost to time. So I had to find another way of figuring out the age of my house.
The library has a resource guide (PDF file). Now I had already looked at the permits so I looked at the Baist, Sanborn and Hopkins real estate maps. Maps helped(see above). However they only go back to 1887. My house was on it so, well at least a brick house shaped like my house. So, my house existed in 1887, being 13 years older than I thought.
At some point, and now I have forgotten the true inspiration, I decided I’d try my hand at a neighborhood history. I’d look at the demographic changes of Truxton Circle from 1930 to as far back as I can go and see what happened. I bit off more than I could chew. I never got a real feel for how F’ing big the project would be. At some point it dawned on me that Truxton Circle had over 1000 houses, for each census year, with lots of people in each of the houses. That’s a lot of work. So now I’m just doing 1880, when (I believe) the census started recording the street addresses and I am going block by block to make sure I have done everything.
If you wanna know about your Truxton Circle house you can e-mail me or comment in this post and give me the property square number and I’ll try to give you the enumeration district. In the above photo you can see that the property square number for P, O, North Cap & 1st street is Square 616. With the enumeration district number you can look for your house on microfilm at the MLK. Or you can all wait till I’m done collecting my research.

History research

I’m back to the on again off again neighborhood research. In the past week I have done 2 blocks for 1880 discovering some odd little quirks about the 1400 block of 1st St & North Capitol, Unit blocks of 0 & P Street. Now I won’t have a fuller picture until I do the whole of Truxton Circle (which may be a while) but I found some lines of segregation on the blocks.
The 1400 block (even numbers)of North Capitol was the German-American street.
The 1400 block of 1st Street (odd) was the African American street.
The Unit block of O (odd) was German and Irish on the lower numbered end and Mullatoo (Black) with a few unskilled Irish on the other end.
The Unit block of P (even) from 10 to 64 P Street was mostly German with a few Irish and native whites. Then from 66 to 78 the families are African American.
I’ll be doing one more block this week then I think I’ll take another long extended break again.

Research can be fun

Semi-stolen from my other blog….
Well this lovely fourth of July was not as alcohol soaked as I may have let on. In fact the only drink I had was communion wine and one pina colada. But this weekend shall be fondly remembered as the research weekend.
The MLK Library’s Washintonia collection was useless to me. Mainly cause it was closed. I mean I looked at their website and they only mentioned being closed on the 4th, not the 3rd or the 5th, as their sign clearly said on the door. So not to be deterred I wandered over to the Historical Society at Mt. Vernon Sq. Well I swear their Real Estate maps from 1887 are in much better shape than and at MLK. Sadly the Historical Society’s library is not the best when it comes to reproducing what you found.
I was able to look at these great maps of the neighborhood and see how old some of these places are. My papers when I bought my crumbly pair of bricks and board said the house was built in 1900. Not so. It sits on the 1887 map. But that’s not all. In the 1940s and 1950s a guy (if I took better notes I’d have the name) went around DC taking pictures of different neighborhoods. Well I thought my neighborhood was sooooo uninteresting he wouldn’t have wasted film in my hood. Well he did and I found a picture of my street as well as the neighborhing areas. Woo hoo!

One of the good things about working with archives is that there is this theory that I can do archival research. These are some of the people in my ‘hood in 1890. They are all Black.

Robert Childs laborer 1618 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
Henry H Cox shoemkr 1612 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
Isaac S Goin student 1616 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
James Henderson laborer 1611 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
Hester Jefferson washing 1618 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
Augustus Kent driver 1610 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
Maria Kent, widow Joseph 1610 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
Rev James H Lee 1612 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
Nelson Lomax driver 1614 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
Hester Pendleton washing 1618 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
Amy Slaughter, widow John 1611 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
Grant Slaughter carpenter 1611 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
John S Slaughter laborer 1611 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
Daniel Stewart huckster 1614 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
Julia Taylor, widow John 1610 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
John Thomas laborer 1614 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
Fredk C B Washington student 1616 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
Jeremiah Watkins waiter 1616 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
John Watkins laborer 1616 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1890
Silas Carter driver 1614 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1891
James Henson laborer 1611 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1891
Foster Jackson laborer 1618 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1891
Esther Jefferson, widow Raleigh 1618 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1891
William Jefferson laborer 1618 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1891
Grant Johnson laborer 1610 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1891
Rev James H Lee 1612 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1891
Nelson Lomax driver 1614 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1891
Abraham Slaughter waiter 1611 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1891
Amy Slaughter nurse 1611 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1891
Grant Slaughter carpenter 1611 4th northwest District of Columbia DC 1891