Some Make Stuff Up, & Some Bring Proof

Originally uploaded by In Shaw

I have a laundry list of 1/2 done projects. At work there is the ‘paper that should have written itself,’ but noticeably didn’t. At home there is the 1900-1930 census project, which at the pace I’m going will be done in time for the 1940 census to be rolled out. And way down on the list is correct that damned Wikipedia page on Shaw. Because I want to actually cite sources, the problem is trying to figure out the coding (which I know shouldn’t be that hard) to cite the sources to prove that most of the history written there is a load of horse manure. I’m reminded of this everytime the question of where the borders of Shaw are comes up, like with DCist .
Maybe I’m too timid when it comes to over writing something that someone else wrote. But then again, I have to ask ‘prove it’. The other problem is that I’m a bit shaky and not particularly sure on a comment I wish to make saying that the neighborhood wasn’t called Shaw prior to 1950. Okay I actually want to say 1960. However there was a school boundary but as a neighborhood in general I haven’t come across any pre-1950 lit saying otherwise. But just because I haven’t come across it doesn’t mean it such evidence doesn’t exist, and that’s what concerns me.
So in my mind, the TC is part of Shaw, as it was a federal agency and the DC government that came up with the borders. Yet, people keep doubting and throwing out ideas with no proof or anything to back it up.
Correcting the damned page just moved up again.

Snippet in Bladgen Alley History

It’s in the past, so it counts as history. 1994. Bladgen Alley. Zoning Case ZC 94-14. The idea was to change the zoning for the alley facing buildings from R-4 to C-1 or C-2-A. A look at the current zoning map and the proposed zoning for back then, it appears the effort failed. But what is interesting, and something a researcher (not me, somebody else) may want to explore are the signed petitions, the form and original letters from residents, businesses and workers in and around Bladgen Alley about the conditions of the alley. One interesting piece submitted was a statement, I gather to be read at a Zoning meeting, describing the conditions of the alley as a place of illegal dumping and tranny tricking. There are other zoning cases, in other neighborhoods where testimony is given describing neighborhoods that’s just interesting.
I’m sure a more complete story of ZC 94-14 can be found at the DC Archives. The part I encountered is from the National Archives, RG 328 Entry A1-27, boxes 89 & 90, as an FYI to the National Capital Planning Commission.

The remains of the day

I only glanced at the Sunday paper and some other articles relating to the anniversary of the 1968 riots and noticed something. Furniture stores, drug stores, and liquor stores were looted and burned. It seems the only thing to bounce back from the riots quickly were the liquor stores. Correct me if I am wrong, but between 1970 and 2000 wasn’t the easiest thing to buy in Shaw was something, anything, that could get you smashed quickly?
When I first moved to Shaw (after bouncing around the metro area), beer and wine, or read 40ozs and MD 20/20, was available every two blocks. Now, sorta yes, sorta no. The Bates market, has been shuttered for a while, but it is no longer selling anything. The liquor store on 4th and Florida is transitioning and sells a selection of wines you can cook with.** G&G on New Jersey sells no alcohol. But there are still several old style liquor stores in the hood with the scratched up Plexiglas and 90-100% of the merchandise behind it.
So 10-20-30 and 40 years after the riots, you still have liquor stores. I can’t remember if it was DC or some other post riot city where a black businessman was interviewed. To bring business back to the black community he…. opened a liquor store. I could only shake my head. So though very flammable, liquor is what remains when the fire has died down.

**I don’t believe you can cook with Boone’s Farm. Actually, I don’t think anyone in their right mind should drink Boone’s Farm.

Scanning History

Originally uploaded by In Shaw

I’m trying to bring some order to my history collection. Somethings I’m holding on to because I wanted to share them with others, like this letter. But knowing that it is the responsibility of the Federal Government to keep the blasted thing, then there is no real reason for me to hold on to it, and I may as well chuck the copy I have.
I also updated my DC Maps on Flickr, so there are some 1887 parts of the Truxton Circle ‘hood.
Anyway, I’m guess the letter is difficult to read from my blog page. It is from the April 7, 1966 Open session of the NCPC on the topic of the Shaw School Urban Renewal Area’s boundaries. My fav part of the letter reads “WHEREAS, it appears that conditions of slum, blight, and deterioration exist in this area which are detrimental to health, safety, and welfare of the inhabitants and occupants of the area of the District of Columbia….”

Urban Renewal: So what were you thinking?

I’ve been meaning to getting around to talking about a lovely record group at the National Archives. If you go to their OPAC called ARC and throw in the phrase “National Capitol Planning Commission” you will find a slew of series that pertain to the history and development of the District of Columbia. Records Relating to Urban Renewal (ARC ID# 784266) do contain a lot of info about Shaw and other areas that got ‘renewed’ in the middle of the 20th Century. Another series I want to focus on in this post are the Transcripts of Proceedings and Minutes of Meetings, 01/1924 – 12/02/1999 (ARC ID# 1571319).
At the 1962 September Open Session Meeting of the Commission (9/13/1962), when speaking about the Northeast No. 1 Urban Renewal Project, Brig. General F.J. Clarke made the statement:

Urban Renewal, as presently thought of, may be separated into 2 principal categories: First, being those actions which are concerned with preventing future slums, namely improved planning, improved codes, etc.; and, 2nd, the elimination of existing slum or blighted areas.
In this category of eliminating existing slums, the primary purpose of urban renewal is the elimination of slum or blighted areas by various means: acquisition and demolition of structures; the rehabilitation of existing structures; installation of public facilities, and other measures.
Secondarily in purpose but not in importance is the prevention of the recurrence of slum and blighted conditions again in the redeveloped or renewed area.

There’s more, but I don’t feel like transcribing it right now. It points a bit to the thinking of the ‘why’. It’s getting to the what, that makes things interesting.

People over things

This comes out of some email correspondence I had this week about an inquiry about a Shaw house’s history. Sometimes you can find the date of when something was built, sometimes not. The date on my lovely domicile is based on tax records, one year it’s taxed as land, next year land and an improvement, no permit, and zilch about a builder. However, my interest in structures, my own particularly, is based on maintenance and bases for complaints when it comes to maintenance and the inadequacies of the building.
I have a greater interest in flesh and blood than bricks and mortar. People do things, they go to work, they have families, they have relationships, they have a story, and the place where they live is absolutely uninteresting without them.
And the people I’m most interested in are the ones who lived around here. This is to differentiate from the landlords who most likely, didn’t. I’m picking up from some of you a thinking that the focus should be on the property owner. Maybe in other parts of the country, maybe the place where you came from, people built and bought homes to live in. Maybe they made their little plot, a family home, where at least one generation would remember it fondly as the place they grew up and a place to return. Not the case here. The owners were landlords, their family homes were elsewhere. In the case of the woman who once owned my house, it was just another investment, something that could be bought and sold and rented out for income.
From the 1880 to 1930 census stuff I’ve seen, there were a lot of renters in the neighborhood. And I’ve noticed these people moved around. I was trying to find out who was the earliest family to live at a certain TC house on the 1500 blk of 1st Street. I found the family living there a few years after the date the house was built, and when I went back through the city directory (arranged by name) to see if the house existed a previous year (and it would be confirmed by that family being there in those previous years), that family lived further up 1st in Eckington.
The fun question then becomes, why move around? Why stay in a place for only a few years only to move 1/4 mile somewhere else? Why can’t you stay in one spot? The building just sits there, and doesn’t generate a lot of questions for me. The building is the backdrop, the scenery, the stage, but the play is nothing without the performers.
I’ve rambled enough, but sometime later I want to return to the idea of what it means to be an area with a very restless renter population.

Old Landmark Gives Way to Modern Rowhouses

From the Washington Post:

Another old landmark is to disappear soon through the change of ownership of the square bounded by R, Third and Fourth streets, and Florida avenue northwest, and long known as the Glorious property. The land has been occupied as a garden, and by a greenhouse, and a residence, which will be removed to make way for a block of twenty-seven two story dwellings, to be erected by Harry Wardman, who will put them upon the market, Each dwelling will consist of two flats of five rooms and a bath, and be strictly up to date in all features. They will be of press brick.
Work on the structures will begin about October 1, They are intended to be ready for occupancy April 1. Mr. Wardman has just completed, at New Jersey avenue and R street northwest, five two story flat dwellings of the same character as those described above. All these were sold, before being finished. At Thirteenth street and Whitney avenue, Mr. Wardman is erecting five three-story modern press brick and stone front dwellings to be finished November 1. These are to be provided with hot-water heating appliances, and all other conveniences. Another …
-Washington Post, September 21, 1902 p. 16

There you go another developer taking over green space throwing up a bunch of cookie-cutter townhouses (of the same character) on the edges of the city and out in the suburban parts of the District*. So in seven months time he’s supposed to tear down a landmark, and quickly construct 27 whole townhouses in move in condition?
And Modern?! Phooey, what’s wrong with the lovely and modest Federalist style that is the charming character of the city. Wardman wants to build these huge monstrosities that dwarf the humble classic styled houses. Modern, well I don’t care for this modernism, not one bit. And two flats? Obviously, these are meant for greedy investors as what appears on the outside to be a single home is nothing but a mini-apartment complex or flop house.
But let us return to what we will lose in all of this, flowers, beautiful locally grown flowers. It is sad that none of the Glorious children have chosen to take up their father’s passion to continue the family business, but I guess this is all what people call progress. [/sarcasm]

*Near the turn of the century, a lot of what was above Florida Avenue (then Boundary Avenue) was farmland and he sub-urban part of the District.

Fun with the Census: Not really the Census, but close

The info that I thought was Census stuff, isn’t Census stuff, it is actually Commissioners of the District of Columbia stuff. Once upon a time DC had a board of Commissioners and off the top of my head I think they were appointed by Congress. Anyway those Commissioners put out some lovely annual reports which have a good deal of info. Sadly, that info seems to be on scratched microfilm in the GovDocs section of my place’s library. The photocoping fees for it is a strong disincentive for me to make copies and I should shop around. I hear the Library of Congress and the University of Maryland are more affordable.
So why would you, with your mild interest in the past have an interest in some old annual reports? Well besides knowing they counted only 11 Chinese women in all of the District in 1897, 4 of them living on Sq. 425 (currently being occupied by the Convention Center), the reports break down the blocks or squares with some interesting information. Their census was enumerated by the police in some instances, and I can’t determine who did the other sections of the report. There is a break down between “White” and “Colored”, colored I’m gathering would include the Chinese, Indians, African Americans, and other non-Europeans, by square. Some go further by locating the handful of Chinese (327 men, 11 women), one Japanese guy, and enough Indians to count on your fingers (3 men, 2 women) in the District in 1897. Gives you a sense of how cosmopolitian the city was, uhm? [

Ebay alert: Hopkin’s Map of Shaw

FYI over on Ebay there is a reproduction of the 1887 Hopkin’s map for the area south of Q, west of New Jersey and east of 9th up for sale for $90. You could also get a repro from the Library of Congress and maybe the National Archives, if you happen to know what map you want (I suggest going down into the basement of the Madison building @ the LC/ Archives II-College Park to find out and make sure), so don’t go overboard with the bidding.

…..and an original 1887 Hopkin’s map currently going for $156.00. It has a little bit of the TC, and a good amount of what looks to be Kevin Chappel’s ANC area.

Before there was the Shaw School Urban Renewal Area there was NW pt 2

So I have sworn I’ve seen this storefront church window before, I just can’t remember where. Driving me nuts now.
Anyway, where did I leave off? 1957. Italians.
Next is your favorite and mine, Shiloh Baptist church at 9th & P, then led by Rev. Earl L. Harrison who lived at 1743 Webster St NW, which I believe is in the Crestwood neighborhood. It had a membership of 7200 people, 1,200-1,500 attending worship services any given Sunday, with 3% living in the urban renewal area and 95% elsewhere in DC. There are no stats regarding occupational makeup. In 1957 they had a scouting program made up of participants from the church and the surrounding community, and a Baptist Training Union. It was founded in 1863 at 17th and L Streets and moved to its current location in 1924.
Bible Way Church of Out Lord Jesus Christ is not in Shaw but I find it very interesting. It is one the other side of NY Ave at 1130 New Jersey Ave NW. Their pastor, Rev. Smallwood E. Williams lived at 1328 Montello Ave NE. They had a total membership of 2000 people, and the average attendance exceeded the membership with 2200 (3,200 for all three services), it seems they had a lot of visitors and I gather a lot of non-tithers. Thirty percent lived in the renewal area and 69% scattered throughout the rest of rest of DC. This was a working class church, and that’s why I find it so interesting as 90% of the working people attending were ‘unskilled manual’, with 2% professional, 3% white collar, and another 3% skilled manual labor. They had no mortgage and seemed to have owned a good chunk of land down there.
Last in my review is a church that was a storefront that is now a steeple church and that is Mt. Sinai Baptist Church at 1615 3rd St NW, then led then by Rev. Charles Hayes of 47 M St. NW. It had a membership of 225 people with an average worship service attendance of 125. A insignificant number of members, two percent, lived in the renewal area, 96% were in the rest of DC. Occupationally it was 55% unskilled manual, 40% white collar, and 2% professional. They had a mortgage of $2K. Listed under “Future Expansion Program” they desired to build a new church on the present site. If it became necessary to move (because of the renewal) they wanted to stay in this central area so it would be accessible to all members.
Shaw had a lot of churches then, has a lot of churches now. There were Italians running around the TC on Sunday. And Marie doesn’t like to spend a lot of time typing.