Garden History at Twin Oaks Community Garden

Posted December 1, 2014 by Kent
Categories: History, Parks and Green spaces, Sports leisure and entertainment

Tags: , , ,

Twin Oaks(The Twin Oaks Community Garden, at 14th and Taylor streets, NW. View of southern garden)

Community gardeners in the neighborhood will surely be familiar with the Twin Oaks Community Garden located at 14th and Taylor Streets, NW. It’s currently configured with half of the garden to the north and half of the garden to the south of Taylor Street. Interestingly, the bisected nature of Twin Oaks dates to 1920, when the site was officially established as a community playground. As part of the Powell School modernization and expansion project, the northern garden area will eventually be relocated on the hill above the turf soccer field in the Upshur Recreation Center as the school expansion calls for the garden space to become a surface parking lot for the school. None-the-less, the southern garden area will continue as a community garden along with the new Upshur Recreation location.

I’ve been intrigued by Twin Oaks for some time now. The field house on the site, built in 1934, first attracted my attention as it is a design similar to Park View’s field house, now listed on the National Register. However, when I started to look into the historic nature of Twin Oaks, I quickly learned that the gardens there have their own interesting and important history.

The Washington Youth Garden program began in a modest way at the Twin Oaks Playground in the spring of 1962 by two volunteers at the playground – Mrs. Harold Marsh and Mrs. Martin Vogel. The Department of Recreation supported the gardens and quickly expanded the program – with Twin Oaks designated as the demonstration center and headquarters – to provide an opportunity for inner city children to grow flowers and vegetables and learn from the experience. The youth garden program was co-sponsored by the D.C. Department of Recreation and the volunteer based Washington Youth Garden Council. By 1966 the Twin Oaks center was enlarged to include the abandoned tennis courts on the north side of Taylor Street. By 1977 the program had grown to include three centers and vegetable garden plots at 40 playgrounds throughout the city. The youth gardens that took root throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s transformed communities and the individual participants.

Washington Youth Garden brochure(Undated Washington Youth Gardens brochure, featuring the Twin Oaks Demonstration Center. Image from Washington Youth Garden Web site.)

The goal of the Youth Gardens was to teach elementary school students in D.C. horticultural skills and life skills such as team building, cooperation, personal responsibility, self-confidence and environmental stewardship. After a successful garden program at the Twin Oaks Playground in 1962, plans were made by the Youth Gardens Council to develop some 200 plots in over 90 playgrounds in addition to developing gardens in other lots, yards, and encouraging small projects such as window boxes and potted plants at the beginning of 1963. While the program began under the direction of recreation department horticulturist Frank L. Ford, horticulturist William C. Hash quickly became the Recreation Department’s youth program director. From the beginning, the Twin Oaks Garden Center served as the training center for volunteers and as a demonstration area for the various types of garden projects. The field house was prepared with office space in 1963 to support the administrative and training needs of the Youth Garden program.[1]

Twin Oaks Youth Gardener with radishes, ca. 1970s

Twin Oaks Youth Gardener with radishes, ca. 1970s

The Twin Oaks garden demonstration program was open to children between the ages of 8 and 16. In 1967, about 75 children participated in the program at Twin Oaks – many of whom had never visited a farm. Some children grew enough produce to take home or sell. By 1968, about 800 to 1,000 Washington children were participating city-wide.

The Washington Youth Garden received positive attention outside of the immediate community. It was of interest to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, which selected the Youth Garden concept as a model for consideration as a nationwide program to be sponsored by some clubs.[2] Additionally Lady Bird Johnson’s First Lady’s Committee bestowed their More Beautiful National Capital Award to the Twin Oaks Garden Demonstration Center on June 6, 1968, specifically noting that the Twin Oaks program contributed “toward making Washington a more beautiful place for its citizens and the nation.” Twin Oaks was not only the headquarters for the Youth Garden program, it was considered the largest garden site in the Youth Garden program with about 50 plots under cultivation. This made it a logical choice when the program was expanded in 1970 with the first youth garden greenhouse, dedicated on May 15th of that year at Twin Oaks. The greenhouse remains a rare building type owned by the District of Columbia.

Lady Bird Johnson Award

In 1971, a youth garden was established at the U.S. National Arboretum as a special project. The Arboretum garden was tended by 100 youngsters from four elementary schools: Logan, Peabody, and Nalle in Northeast, and Shadd in Southeast. Access to the Arboretum was provided by buses which ran twice a week.[3] Due to D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation budget cuts in 1995, the Friends of the National Arboretum (FONA) increased fundraising efforts and “adopted” the Washington Youth Garden (WYG) in 1996. Today, the WYG receives in-kind support from the U.S. National Arboretum including land, soil amendments, office and greenhouse space, equipment use and horticultural expertise.

Following the budget cuts that ended the youth garden program at Twin Oaks, the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation continued to operate the site as a community garden. Currently, the Twin Oaks Community Garden contained about 45 plots – located on both the north and south parcels – each about 10′x15′ and altogether encompasses almost 3/4 of an acre.

Greenhouse 1970(At the celebration opening the new greenhouse, the children wore Dutch costumes and performed Dutch folk dances as part of the ceremony)

[1] “Youth Garden Projects Start,” The Evening Star, May 10, 1963, p. A-19.

[2] Durbin, Louise. “Our Youth Garden Project,” The Washington Post, Aug. 17, 1969, p. 136.

[3] “Green, Margaret. “Youth Commended for Gardens,” The Evening Star, Sept. 8, 1971, p. C-2.

Happy Thanksgiving

Posted November 27, 2014 by Kent
Categories: Holidays


Thanksgiving postcard

Georgia Avenue History: Lost Country Houses

Posted November 26, 2014 by Kent
Categories: History

Tags: , , ,

Georgia Field house

Recently I found a great article from the Washington Star that provides a snapshot of the kind of estates that one populated Georgia Avenue around Rock Creek Church Road before they were razed to make way for the growing suburbs. Two properties are featured, one being the house of George Field which was located on the east side of Georgia at Otis. In fact, the Field house was literally on Otis, and razed so that the street could be cut in. The article was published on March 19, 1916, and though unknown to the author, is interesting in that the Field property would not remain a stately country home much longer. Beginning in 1917, Lewis Breuninger would begin subdividing the property into the street we see today.

I’ve also noted before that the home of George Field was known for its greenhouses and has a connection with the development of the American Beauty Rose.

Below is the 1916 article in full:

An old and well maintained red brick house on the east side of 7th street just north of Park road has often attracted the attention of the Ramble, and no doubt many thousands of other Washingtonians hae given this picturesque and old-fashioned place a glance and a thought. That house stood there when the great highway which passes before it was called the 7th street road or the 7th street pike, a name which was discarded in favor ot “Brightwood avenue,” and which name gave way to “Georgia avenue.” The house is old, but the Rambler, in a spirit both of compliment and of truth, must say that it still looks young. The Rambler will not say of this house that “it does no look its age.” This is often said of a man, and perhaps sometimes of a woman, but the Rambler feels that though this observaiton may be prompted by the kindliest sentiment, yet it is a compliment that has whiin it a bitter tang.

The Rambler does not know to what age this house has attained. Its walls, its rafters and its roof are sound, and, as it is often said that a man is no older than his arteries, it might just as fairly be said of a house that it is no older than its walls and its roof. It may be that this house, like so many old men, is proud of its age, but the Rambler believes that this particular house will not asssume a resentful attitude toward him for writing that it is still a young house and that it will preserve its youth for many years to come.

George Field property and nursaries from Baist's real estate atlas of surveys of Washington, District of Columbia, 1911

George Field property and nurseries from Baist’s real estate atlas of surveys of Washington, District of Columbia, 1911

It sits far back from the street, as though it would preserve its air of exclusiveness even in this age of publicity and notoriety. This old house seems to protest against the habit which so many modern houses have fallen into, of building themselves flush with the sidewalk and perching themselves where any man may rub elbows against them or strike matches on their front. This old house, if it could get its own sentiments and convictions into the newspapers, wold probably denounce as a vulgar fashion the passion which new houses have for getting as close to the curbstone as the building regulations and inspectors will permit. This house belongs to the period when every well-mannered, dignified and properly conducted house insisted on having its own garden and rejoiced in a name instead of a number. The Rambler is violating no confidence when he assures his readers that this old house, comfortably seated in its own grounds, feels pity, with just a trifle of disdain, for those misguided houses which stand up in a row, all so near alike that their sole distinguishing mark is a number on their transom or the door.

The house has a central building flanked on each side with a wing. It has a plenitude of porches, and the porches have width, length and iron railings. Above the roof rises a lookout or a little observation tower. Many trees grow around the house. Its lot is of about the size of a city square and the northwest corner is covered with a rose garden. This garden, with its wealth of bloom and color, has given pleasure to countless wayfarers along the old 7th street road. At the north side of the house and at its rear are glasshouses, in which live flowers of rarity and beauty. Read the rest of this post »

Park View Real Estate — 731 Prineton Place, NW

Posted November 25, 2014 by Kent
Categories: Real Estate

Tags: ,
731 Princeton Place, NW

731 Princeton Place, NW

It has been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to pop into an open house … mostly because so much real estate recently changes hands without one. I chanced upon one this past weekend at 731 Princeton Place and, after taking a peek, can report back that the house is move in ready and struck me as reasonably comfortable.

The house is listed at $685,000 which seems about right when compared to recent sales of other move-in-ready homes in the area this year. I’ll be surprised if its on the market for long.

The full listing, along with photos, is available at online here.

Update on 703-707 Newton Place Development, Named Whitney Row.

Posted November 24, 2014 by Kent
Categories: Architecture, Development, Housing

Tags: , ,
703-707 Newton Place, NW.

703-707 Newton Place, NW.

According to the Lock7 Development Website, the framing is nearing completion at their project at 703-707 Newton Pl. NW, which they have named Whitney Row.  They expect  completion to be in spring 2015.

Furthermore, Lock7 writes that the electrical and plumbing rough-ins are in progress. When completed, the building with have 9 new living units. According to the floorplans (which I’ve shared before) two of the units will be single bedroom units and seven will be two bedroom units. The upper three spaces will also have roof decks.

The rendering below  shows what the project should look like once completed.


Bruce and Wilson Normal Schools Achieve Landmark Status

Posted November 21, 2014 by Kent
Categories: Architecture, History, Preservation, Schools

Tags: , , , , ,

Bruce School 1900(The Blanche Kelso Bruce School, ca. 1900)

Yesterday, November 20, 2014, two landmark nominations, authored by me, were considered by the Historic Preservation Review Board and approved.

Both the former Blanche Kelso Bruce School and the James Ormond Wilson Normal School buildings were added to the D.C. Inventory of Historic Structures when the Historic Preservation Review Board voted unanimously in support of the nominations. Both schools currently house charter schools. The Bruce school building, at 770 Kenyon Street, NW, is currently the home of Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy, Chavez Prep Campus, and the Wilson Normal school currently houses the Carlos Rosario School.

For those wanting to learn more about these buildings, the Historic Preservation Office’s staff reports provides a concise overview.

The staff report for the Bruce school concludes (read full report here):

The principal significance of the school is as an educational facility, serving generations of African-American elementary students during the era of segregated schools. Like other neighborhood schools, it grew out of and grew up with the community, serving as a community center in all senses.

The building is significant as well as a great example of one subtype of school, a product of the “Architects in Private Practice” era of 1897 to 1910, as described in the Multiple Property Documentation Form Public School Buildings of Washington, 1862-1960. It also stands as an interesting application of Albert Harris’s extensible school design as an addition.

The staff report for the Wilson Normal school states (read full report here):

The property retains excellent historic integrity, including its original lunch-room ell, its chimneys, etc. It has the expected alterations and repairs for a building a century old, such as window replacements. Its appearance has changed with some entry features erected for the present occupant, a charter school, but these alterations are ultimately reversible.

The nomination proposes a period of significance from 1912, the principal year of construction, to 1987, when the school was vacated by the teachers school, which had been merged into the University of the District of Columbia beginning in 1978. While 1987 is a pretty recent date to be considered historic, such a terminal date has few implications for the preservation treatment of the building exterior, given its remarkable preservation from a century ago. Further, if the continuity of Wilson Normal including its mergers into more modern institutions is important, then recognizing this entire span is reasonable.

Both nominations will be forwarded to the National Park Service for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

Love Coffee? Check Out Harrar’s Weekly Coffee Ceremony

Posted November 20, 2014 by Kent
Categories: Commerce and Businesses

Tags: , , ,

I haven’t written about Harrar Coffee & Roastery in a while, and thought time was overdue to give them a shout out. I’ve yet to be disappointed in a visit there, and find it a good way to get a day off to a good start.

While there last Saturday, I learned that on Saturday’s starting at 11:30 am, Harrar has their weekly Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, at which they also provide free samples of their coffee. Yet one more reason for me to really love this business.

If you love coffee, and haven’t stopped by Harrar yet, you might want to give them a try. They are located at 2904 Georgia Avenue, a little south and across the street from Bravo Bar. Hours of operation are Monday thru Friday 6am-8pm, Saturday 7am-8pm, and Sunday 7am-7pm.



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