Portrait of Brookland in 1908

Posted July 31, 2014 by Kent
Categories: History, Random Observations

Tags: ,

I’m continuing to re-post a series of articles that were originally published in the Washington Times that paint caricatures of various Washington suburbs as they were in 1908. I’ve previously posted the articles for Georgetown, Anacostia, and Tenleytown. Today’s feature is Brookland.

Brookland bannerBrookland cartoon 1908

Almost Deserted During Day, Activities Begin After Nightfall.


Grocers Wake Up, Druggist Starts Fountain, and Business Begins.


BROOKLAND is inhabited mainly by people who are not afraid to go home in the dark.

Hastening oout there early in the afternoon, I expressed a burning desire to round up its well-informed citizenry and learn all about the place. Dr. J.H. Brooks, who had much to do with laying out the sub-division some fifty years ago, inasmuch as his ancestors had thoughtfully annexed considerable land thereabouts, quickly disillusioned me.

“You would converse with our leading citizens?” he asked, or words to that effect. “Ha! You are stranger in our midst evidently. We are all sundowners our here. Wait around until nightfall and the folks will come in from the Government departments. Our doctors, lawyers, merchants and other leading lights never hang out their shingles until after sundown. Yes, indeed, business picks up a bit out this way at night.”

The doctor was right. I conversed at length with the policeman, postmaster, town barber and a few women and children, all of whom have to stay in Brookland during the daytime, until the real population arrived at sundown.

Cavalcade Descends.

As the hour of 6 approaches a mighty cavalcade was seen descending from the hilltops, upon which the Brookland cars stop. The doctors prepared to diagnose, the lawyers to expound, the village barber to sharpen his razor, and the merchant to weigh out the daily portion of choice groceries.

Frantic canines heralded the approach of the head of the family; joyous children did likewise and clamored to know what further reason existed for not serving the evening meal. Brookland had come into her own and her male population had become a fixture for another fourteen hours.

While waiting. I had learned considerable about the place. It is bounded on the north by sites for colleges, on the west by colleges, on the east by more colleges, and on the south by still other colleges. Everything except a correspondence school is represented, and perhaps that will be as soon as land can be cleared.

People never ask out there about a stranger’s name or business. It’s “what school does he go to?” The rah-rah boy, the solemn visage wearer of the pronounced clerical garb, with theology written all over him, the vivacious seminary girl, the more sedate aspirant for a place in the cloistered precincts, bewhiskered professors – they are all every-day sights in Brookland. Read the rest of this post »

Brief Architectural History of Church at 13th & Fairmont Streets

Posted July 30, 2014 by Kent
Categories: Architecture, History

Tags: , ,

The church at 13th and Fairmont was designed by Appleton P. Clark, Jr.

I’ve long appreciated the architectural beauty of the church building located on the northeast corner of 13th and Fairmont streets, NW, in the heart of Columbia Heights. I personally think it is one of the more beautiful churches in the area. Significantly, the church has been home to only two congregations.Today, The Greater First Baptist Church, Mount Pleasant Plains, calls this building home and has since it acquired the building in 1956. Before that, it was the home of Fourth Presbyterian Church which built the original building and began worshiping there in 1899. Both congregations are deeply rooted in Washington with interesting histories in their own right. Fourth Presbyterian was founded in 1828 and Greater First Baptist was founded in 1878.

In the future, I hope to write more in depth about both congregations’ histories, but for now I’m going to focus on the architectural history.

While the church appears to be one building constructed at one time, that actually isn’t what happened. The structure as completed was designed in 1927 by well-known Washington architect, Appleton P. Clark, Jr. The building appears to be designed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style. The cornerstone was laid on October 21, 1927, and plans were made to celebrate the dedication of the new structure on the 100th anniversary of Fourth Presbyterian’s founding.

The beautiful building completed and dedicated in 1928 was the end result of a process begun around 1889 and with a much different design. The Fourth Presbyterian congregation decided to move from their original location at 9th and Grant Place, NW, and relocate to Columbia Heights in 1898, after nine years of contemplating a move from downtown. They chose and empty lot at 13th and Yale (Fairmont) Street and hired noted Washington architect Frederic B. Pyle. Pyle’s overall plan for the church building would remain mostly true over time. It contained a large Sunday school and chapel structure at the rear of the property (with the entrance along Fairmont Street) and the sanctuary toward the front with the entrance at the corner of 13th and Fairmont streets. Pyle chose to design the building in the Gothic Revival style, however this aesthetic would never be realized beyond the chapel structure.

original 1899 design(The Gothic Revival church designed by Pyle)

Fourth Presbyterian 1922When construction ended in 1899, only the rear portion of the church designed by Pyle was completed. This was the chapel and Sunday school section of the church and it would be the primary church space until the larger and remodeled church structure was completed in 1928.

It is interesting to note that while the primary sanctuary remained unfinished until 1928, a smaller addition was added to the chapel in 1903. This addition was a gymnasium building auxiliary to the church and first opened on May 20, 1903. At the time of construction, Fourth Presbyterian was one of two churches in Washington with an established gymnasium. The other church with a gymnasium was the Whitney Avenue Christian Church. In addition to the provision for gymnastic exercise in the building, it also contained a reading room and was used for entertainment.

Though not obvious to most people looking at the building today, traces of the original Gothic chapel and the gymnasium addition are both visible to anyone knowing where to look. The east elevation of the chapel was not modified during the 1927 reconstruction and still shows its original red brickwork and Gothic windows. It is a little harder to see the gymnasium building. That requires a walk through the alley to the rear of the building, where the gymnasium addition is clearly visible.

chapel greater first baptist(The east elevation of the church along Fairmont Street shows the original Gothic design of the 1899 chapel building)

gymnasium building of church(The 1903 gymnasium addition as seen from the alley)

Gymnasium interior(Interior of the gymnasium from 1903)

Another Pop-Up Going Up in the Neighborhood

Posted July 29, 2014 by Kent
Categories: Architecture, Development, Housing

Tags: , ,

If you haven’t been at the southern end of Warder Street recently, you probably haven’t seen the pop-up at 423 Columbia Road. It is located right where Warder, Columbia Road, and Michigan Avenue come together and the house faces McMillan Reservoir. The Office of Planning is currently proposing some Zoning changes in R-4 Zones that, if implemented, would impact both building height and the number of units allowable in row structures. I’ll write more about that when I get a copy to the most recent version of Planning’s proposal.

423 Columbia Road(423 Columbia Road in the midst of adding another floor.)

RFP for Park Morton Attracts Four Proposals

Posted July 28, 2014 by Kent
Categories: Development, Housing

Tags: , , , ,


Park Morton units from Park Road.

Park Morton units from Park Road.

In February 2014, the District terminated its relationship with Landex for the redevelopment of the Park Morton housing development. As part of the process to get the project back on track, the Office of the Deputy Mayor For Planning and Economic Development’s New Communities Initiative reviewed the process, interviewed many of those involved, and issued a new Request for Proposals (RFP) to find a new developer of the property. The deadline for submitting new RFPs was July 1, 2014.

On July 22nd, the DC Housing Authority issued a News Release that announced that four proposals to redevelop Park Morton were received by the July deadline. The four proposals were submitted by:

  • Park Morton Partners – A partnership between Pennrose Properties, LLC and Warrenton Group, LLC.
  • Park View Commons – A partnership between Atlantic Pacific Communities, LLC and Non-Profit Community Development Corporation of Washington, DC, Inc.
  • Park View Partners – A partnership between Mission First, Neighborhood Development Company, The Henson Development Company, and Urban Matters
  • Park View Community Partners – A partnership between The Community Builders, Inc. and Dantes Partners

I haven’t had the opportunity to see any of the proposals yet, but am eagerly looking forward to learning more about them. Of the developers listed, two are particularly familiar: 1) Warrenton Group is listed a part of the partnership making up Park Morton Partners . Warrenton was also in partnership with Landex in the previous selection, and 2) Neighborhood Development Company (NDC) is part of the partnership making up Park View Partners. NDC has been active in other Georgia Avenue projects and their office is located in the neighborhood.

Full press release below:

Proposals for Park Morton

Improvements in Progress at Bruce Monroe Park

Posted July 25, 2014 by Kent
Categories: Development, Parks and Green spaces, Sports leisure and entertainment

Tags: , ,
One of the two new water fountains at the Bruce Monroe Park.

One of the two new water fountains at the Bruce Monroe Park.

The long awaited improvements to the Bruce Monroe Park originally announcement in April 2013 are finally underway. $200,000 was programmed to improve the park in 2013 by including two new water fountains and a shade structure — including seating, large enough to accommodate gatherings and programming.

It has taken a lot of effort and advocacy, but the improvements are finally underway with the goal of being completed by July 30th. To date, the two (2) water fountains have been installed, the shade structure is almost complete and eight (8) of the benches will be installed on July 25th (today) if all goes well.

The photo below shows the shade structure nearing completion.

Bruce Monroe shade structure(New shade structure at Bruce Monroe Park)

The plan below shows the location of the shade structure, the two water fountains, and the proposed location of the benches.

Bruce Monroe Improvement map

Schuetzen Park Tokens Link to Neighborhood’s Past

Posted July 24, 2014 by Kent
Categories: History

Tags: , ,

Trade tokens aren’t typically seen all that much these days.  The heyday of trade tokens in the United States was the era of 1870 through 1920. Generally, these tokens were issued by merchants such as general stores, grocers, department stores, dairies, meat markets, drug stores, saloons, bars, taverns, barbers, coal mines, lumber mills and other businesses. Given the type of entities that issued tokens, and the era when they were most popular, its hard to imagine a type of token that could be strongly associated with the lower Georgia Avenue area. Yet, there are some — the tokens issued by Washington’s Schuetzen Park. The park was established shortly after the Civil War and a popular destination until it closed in 1891.

Schuetzen Park 1903 map(Detail of 1903 Baist’s Real Estate map showing location of Schuetzen Park. Today, Hancock Street is Kenyon Street and Morris Street is Hobart Street)

I’ve briefly touched upon the history of Schuetzen Park and the German community in the Georgia Avenue area before in digging into the history of the Steuben Monument that was once located there. That artifact is currently at the residence of the German ambassador. Schuetzen Park tokens are a little more accessible, but still not all that common. It is not entirely clear as to whether the numbers on the tokens denote monetary values or not, but three values are known. Washington Schuetzen Park tokens  are known in denominations of 5, 10, and 25. Below are two I’ve found in the 5 and 10 values.

Schuetzen Park token 5

Schuetzen Park token 10


Redevelopment of Park Road Church Property Gets Board of Zoning Adjustment Support

Posted July 23, 2014 by Kent
Categories: Architecture, Development, Housing, Zoning

Tags: , ,

Perspective 1 625 Park Road(Rendering by Arcadia Design)

Yesterday, July 22nd, the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) considered the zoning variances requested to redevelop the former New Community Baptist Church property located at 625 Park Road while incorporating the historic church structure. After hearing testimony from the applicant, the Office of Planning (which opposed the relief), representatives from Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1A (supporting of the project), and residents the BZA voted unanimously to support the BZA application. This is a significant step forward for this development. Prior to the BZA hearing, ANC 1A voted unanimously at its July meeting to support the project. (You can read a related post on UrbanTurf).

The core issue related to this property has been to balance the competing needs of preserving the historic church with the desire to add density and more housing to the area. The plan as approved achieves this, as the new building along with adaptively reusing the former church will create a 38-unit development (the ANC had previously considered and supported a 41-unit project).

Since first presented to ANC 1A, the front of the building has been set back a few more feet, the third level is now in line with neighboring rowhouses, and the three units along Park Road will now have individual entrances facing the street. As the church structure is set back from the street, this also creates a grassy court that otherwise would not exist. (Those interested in watching the BZA hearing can do so at this link).

The redevelopment of 625 Park Road will significantly help revitalize that section of the community.

Perspective 2 625 Park Road(Rendering by Arcadia Design)


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