The Plan & Wiki

Not the Florida Market Plan. Another plan. A plan that I thought was born in the fifties and sixties and died possibly in the 90s. But like an aging celebrity you thought was dead because you haven’t heard about them doing anything recent, this thing is still alive too.
I write of the Shaw School Urban Renewal Plan. Poking around the National Capital Planning Commission website I found the plan, buried down the list:

Shaw School Urban Renewal Plan, Washington, D.C.
7/7/05, Modifications to the plan

So, it was adjusted in 2005, for what I don’t know, but that hints that The Plan is still alive. Admittedly, I’m too lazy to walk over and ask for a copy of The Plan from their offices, and they might charge me for it. The District Government may also have a copy of The Plan, but I fear it is in the hands of the Department of More Important Things, where they never return your phone calls and really that’s handled by someone else.
Another thing I noticed poking around on the Internet, was the Wikipedia entry for the neighborhood formerly or currently known as the Shaw School Urban Renewal area. “Shaw, Washington, DC” has in it’s history that

Shaw grew out of freed slave encampments in the rural outskirts of Washington City. It was named after Civil War Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the commander of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

Can anyone provide a dead tree reference for the slave encampment part? I’m aware of encampments around the city, and the big Freedmen’s camp was out in Alexandria, not so much one notable here.
And this is one of those moments I wish the African American papers were in an accessible database. ProQuest allows me to search the Post back to the late 19th century, but it was the white paper, and up until the Shaw School Urban Renewal Plan, the Post called this area the 2nd District. I’m curious about what Black residents called the area prior to The Plan, well besides Northwest.

Fun with ProQuest: Bates Street gets shafted

I started a new search “Bates Street” between 1950 to 1990. I decided to focus on Bates because of some of the rehab projects that were to take place in the first Marion Barry admin on the street.
One 1969 article got my attention and I’m just going to quote it:

…said its first ghetto aid effort was expected to be in the Bates Street Project — part of the Shaw redevelopment plan.
Later a spokesman…. said in Washington that the initial phase of the PIC plan will probably be shifted from Bates Street to a block of 8th and 9th Streets nw., bounded by S and T.
Russo said the RLA now feels it would be better to start in that block, with 25 houses on 8th Street and 20 on 9th Street.

Ronald Russo was the spokesman for the RLA. The RLA was the Redevelopment Land Agency. PIC was the People’s Involvement Corp, a federally funded group. Ghetto and slum are words the Washington Post used [past tense] to describe our neighborhood. They just use ghetto now and then these days.
I’ve waded through several “Crime and Justice” articles to get to the next quote and let’s say, I’m depressed.
Anywho, in a Jun 1971 article:

Two years ago, at a convention in Atlantic City, the league pledged $7 million toward the Bates Street project. “This soon became hopelessly involved in government red tape and citizens’ indecision,” league president Thornton W. Owen said recently, “so that any tangible activities in this area in the near future seems highly improbable.”

All articles from the Washington Post
“S&Ls Pledge $7 Million For Homes; Rehabilitation” by S. Oliver Goodman. June 1, 1969. p. 125
“Firms To Fund Housing; S&Ls to Build Huge Project For City Poor” by William H. Jones June 10, 1971. p. B1

Shaw History

For the rest of the week, maybe the rest of the month, I haven’t decided, I will refer to Shaw by one of its original names, the Shaw School Urban Renewal Area. Okay, that’s too many words, for the rest of this post SSURA.
Anywho, while going through some papers, I came across something mentioning the Shaw PAC. In 1984 the PAC appears to recognize the borders of Shaw as the city did when it was starting to renew the Shaw School U.R.A., being 15th to N. Cap, Florida to N, M, & NY Ave.
Yet the reason I write, I decided to look up info on the Shaw PAC on the web and found a resource that has some decent DC history, the George Washington University Library. Within their archive are the papers of David A. Clarke, and they have a folder list which lists the Shaw PAC, as well as some other things of interest. I am curious as to what they have on BACA and the Bates Street block club and other community groups. So besides the Washingtonia room at the MLK and the Washington Historical Society’s archive, you can find materials about DC neighborhood history at the various universities (Catholic, Georgetown, & George Washington) and federal institutions like the National Archives and the Library of Congress.

Fun with ProQuest: Truxton Circle pt 2

Find part 1 here
The name Truxton Circle is somewhat controversial. There are residents of the TC who loathe the name and will on occasion mention how offensive the name is. Personally, I have no problem with the name, and it was the name on the map at the Washingtonia room at the MLK Library. It is a decent description of this eastern side of Shaw
The circle that Truxton Circle is named after is long gone. The man the former circle was named after, Revolutionary war vet Thomas Truxtun, is long dead, and we couldn’t bother spelling his name right and nobody ’round here really cares who was anyway. Regardless of all that, the name has stuck. Fun with ProQuest is simply tracking the name and its use in the Washington Post.
So up until the 1940s Truxton Circle was a traffic circle. Then circle go bye-bye. The next time Truxton Circle appears in the paper is in the 60s when it is a Post Office area. In 1964 the Truxton Circle postal annex at 17 Florida Avenue NE was robbed at gunpoint. Most of what I found in the 60s was in relation to the post office. The closest in this period of it being a neighborhood name or an area name is a classified ad in 1963 listing an address as “Box 26001, Truxton Circle, Wash, D.C.”
Nothing in the 70s. Nada.
Then in 1984, the city somehow christened the area as Truxton Circle when it was launching a subsidy program to encourage home buying in the District. Truxton Circle was one of the target areas, which also included “Columbia Heights; Shaw-Westminister, Carollsburg, Capitol Hill South….” Yeah, now I’m wondering what was so wrong about the area that it had to be a target area. The other funny thing about the 1984 article was the description of the program:

What the loan terms are: Fixed interest rate of 11.39 percent for 30 years. Buyer pays 1 point and seller pays 2 points.

Eligible candidates were to be first time District home buyers making less than $42,960. I was making less than that in 2000. Anyway, from 1984 on Truxton Circle was a neighborhood as far as the city was concerned.
I’m open to researching (light researching) the other possible alternate names the area may have held.

All Articles from the Washington Post
“Classified Ad 343” Sept 22, 1963 p. G6
“2 Gunmen Rob DC Postal Annex of $2000, Shut 8 in Rest Room” by Alfred E. Lewis. Sept 3, 1964 p. A1
“Postal Machines, Men Move Mountain of Christmas Mail” by William Clairborne. Dec 7, 1972. p.A36
“Subsidy Program’s Nuts and Bolts” August 2, 1984. p. A15.

Monday Miscellany

Well the dinner honoring Our Great Leader Jim James Jimmy Berry, former ANC for the TC, this weekend was successful. A fair number of mucky-mucks, like David Catania, showed up to honor Jim. Some of us learned a lot about Jim that we didn’t know. Like, hey he got married 4 months ago and she’s quite pretty. But the main thing was Jim’s leadership, not just with the ANC but in his professional and personal life. He is a humble man who serves, and his leadership was for all, newbies, old timers, all races, everyone. He was what was right with the ANC system.
Mentioning the ANC system, I’m a little fuzzy on aspects of the history of ANCs in the District, but I gather they came in with Home Rule (I dunno) and did what the various civic and citizens associations were trying to do. I will post a “Fun with ProQuest: Truxton Circle pt II”, but while trying to figure out what was going on with the citizen’s association covering the area that can be now described as the TC, I learned a little (just enough to be dangerous) about the neighborhood associations. I knew, because of B.’s research on DC stadiums, that citizen’s associations were the white groups and the civic associations were the African-American groups. Whatever citizen or civic association held sway over the area, so far what I’ve found are really dull names, North Capitol Citizens(?), Northwest Civic, Central Civic, and Central Northwest Civic Associations. So, I’m going back to searching just Truxton Circle.
If you are just dying for me to mention something about the house, well Sunday we taped out the layout of the upper floor. It appears that I might have an extra foot that I didn’t think I had. When I was measuring I had to employ my poor math skills. So the plans I drew up were more of a guide, because I’m using that extra foot for the small bedroom. Looking at the 2nd floor with no walls made me realize how friggin small these houses are and every inch is valuable. Which is why I nixed (along with financial concerns) the contractor’s idea to make the stairs normal sized. The stairwell is less than 3 feet wide, and probably is a little over 2.5 feet. He mentioned widening the stairwell would make it easier to get furniture and other bulky things upstairs. Um, bulky stuff don’t belong upstairs, because that whole not having a whole lot of space to begin with thing.

Fun with ProQuest: Truxton Circle pt I

I ‘heart’ ProQuest. It allows me to post on things historic without having to do to much work. Anyway, another part of my lazy posting because I have no pictures of the renovation right now….. Fun with ProQuest: Truxton Circle.
Using the all articles prior to 1968 in the Washington Post and all other papers it ate (like the Washington Star), the first mention of Truxton Circle is August 1891 regarding the District Surveyor. Then the name appears again in 1900 regarding shrubbery, which then just makes me think of the Holy Grail. A cursory look at the rest of the articles bringing up the TC in the 1900s refer to the circle as just the circle or a park, not so much a neighborhood, unless you count “near Truxton Circle”.
That “near Truxton Circle” thing appears in an April 27, 1919 article regarding house sales where it is written:

For Robert M. Harper, 51 Q Street northeast, an attractive six room and bath house near Truxton circle, at consideration of $3,500. Mrs. Henry Price has purchased this property and will occupy it as her home.

The same article does mention “1766 Church street an attractive residence in the neighborhood of Dupont circle….” So Dupont is a neighborhood, the TC, not so much. And we see it again more as a landmark than as a neighborhood designation in another house sales article from November 20, 1920, where a house on the 100 block of Bates street is “located near North Capitol and Truxton Circle” and 1842 North Capitol Street was “located in Bloomingdale.”
However I do see something very interesting in an April 26, 1925 article “Ryan Quits Central Citizens’: Will Head Movement to Form Another Association in Same Territory. Section called too big” The section Francis J. Ryan decides to chop up for himself was to “have as its approximate boundaries New York avenue to Truxton circle, and New Jersey Avenue to North Capitol street.” My, that sounds awfully familiar.
Well I need to pursue this further, doing another search, so maybe part II.

THE DISTRICT SURVEYOR.; Recommendations About the Preservation of Plats and Records.
The Washington Post (1877-1954). Washington, D.C.: Aug 1, 1891. p. 5

ASKS DISTRICT TO PAY; Dog Catchers Caused Injury to a Bicycle. CHASED BULLDOG, BROKE A WHEEL Animal in Attempting to Escape the Net Ran Into the Bicycle of P.J. Nee, Who Claims Damages — District Auditor Approved Application and Recommends Payment — Plants from Mount Vernon Square to Decorate Other Reservations.
The Washington Post. Mar 15, 1900. p. 12 (1 page)

The Washington Post (1877-1954). Washington, D.C.: Apr 27, 1919. p. R6

$110,500 IN SALES OF HOMES IN CITY; Houses Fetch $17,500 Disposed by Hartung & Gibbons.
The Washington Post (1877-1954). Washington, D.C.: Nov 7, 1920. p. 34

RYAN QUITS CENTRAL CITIZENS’ PRESIDENCY; Will Head Movement to Form Another Association in Same Territory. SECTION CALLED TOO BIG
The Washington Post (1877-1954). Washington, D.C.: Apr 26, 1925. p. 2

I have an old house

I found out that my house was built sometime between 1871 and 1873, somewhere in there. Because of the tax assessment for my house did not show up in the 1869-71 assessment, but big as day in the 1872-1873 assessment as a brick house worth $1000. These assessments are located on microfilm at the MLK library in the Washingtonia division. Well at least the 1874ish one. 1860something to whenever in the 19th Century is located at the National Archives downtown, record group 351, entry 49 (or 46, 40something, I forget). I don’t know if the Washington, DC Historic Society has it too.
If you are going to look at property assessments know your square number and your lot number by heart. It also helps to know around about what time your lot existed. My block in the late 18th century was subdivided into 6 to 8 lots. In the late 19th century it was divided further and my lot became into existence.

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