Posted tagged ‘history and culture’

DC Preservation League Launches DC Historic Sites App

May 20, 2016

Earlier this week the DC Preservation League launched a new app that I think it pretty cool. It is called DC Historic Sites and it allows users to quickly get an idea of the historic properties that are located within their community. In addition to providing a map and allowing users to locate recognized historic properties throughout the city, it also includes pictures and text so that you can learn more about the sites.

According to the DC Preservation League’s announcement, the app is still a work in progress. Most notably, not all of DC’s historic landmarks have been included within the database yet. I’ve begun sending in text and photos of landmarks that I know aren’t on the map yet to assist with building it out and expect them to be added shortly.

Even in its current state, the app is really interesting and should be a great way for everyone to learn more about the architectural and cultural history of Washington.

To learn more about D.C.’s historic places and spaces, visit the DC Historic Sites site and download the app.

DC Historic Sites app(Screen shot of DC Historic Sites app showing Park View School listing.)

Three Maps That Provide Insight Into How Park View Developed

May 12, 2016

I was recently alerted to the following three maps of Park View that were created for the Historic Preservation Office/Office of Planning in 2015. I think they are interesting and help provide some context for how the neighborhood was built out. I hope you find them interesting too.

Map 1: This map shows the age of the neighborhood, with eras represented by different colors (darkest color represents the oldest buildings).ParkView_Years

Map 2: This map shows the top five architects represented in the building permit database.ParkView_Architects

Map 3: This map shows the top five builders represented in the building permit database.ParkView_Developers

1930 Photo of Soldiers’ Home Dairy Captures Use of Milking Machine

April 22, 2016

While milking machines have been in common use since the 1920s (with the first practical milking machine developed in the 1890s), I’m guessing that its introduction at the old Soldiers’ Home Dairy might have occurred around 1930 based on the photo below.

Mechanical milking

The  photo was taken at the Soldiers’ Home Dairy on November 20, 1930. The caption states: “Adolph Schneider, dairyman at the United States Soldiers’ Home Dairy, does his daily crossword puzzle while the mechanical maid milks old Bossy. The cow is one of the herd said to be the best Holstein herd in the Country.”

Project Creating Movies from Old Photos Includes York Theater

April 8, 2016

This is something that is really fun (and thanks to those that sent this to me). According to a posting on Sploid from Wednesday, Alexey Zakharov “used a technique where he sliced up antique photos and then carefully animated the various elements, like people, cars, and buildings, to give the appearance of actual moving footage.” What is cool for those that live in Park View is that the York Theater (now the Fisherman of Men church) is featured at the 2:31 minute mark. Nice to see a streetcar roll down Georgia Avenue again.

Then and Now: The Park View Playground Field House

February 12, 2016

On Wednesday it was brought to my attention that the Department of General Services had posted a nice overview of the neighborhood on their Website as part of Black History Month.  The lead in to their overview began as follows:

In celebration of Black History Month, we are spotlighting recent Department of General Services (DGS) construction projects that are named after significant Black History People & Places in the District of Columbia, our nation. The first project that we will highlight is the Park View Field House in Ward 1.

You can visit the entire profile here, which also highlights from my Historic Park View: A Walking Tour guide. As the reason for the post is to highlight the Park View Playground field house, which was fully renovated in 2015, I’m including before and after photos below for those who may not recall what the field house looked like before renovations.

Park View Rec Center Fieldhouse(The Park View Playground field house in 2009.)

Park View Field House(The field house upon DGS’s completed renovation.)

1935 Photo Shows Aftermath of Fire Truck and Streetcar Collision

February 9, 2016

I recently found this photo from 1935 that shows the aftermath of an accident between a fire engine and a street car in 1935. Below is the photo and the story behind it.

scan0001(Four firemen were seriously injured when a fire engine was struck by a street care and spun around like a straw in the wind as it was speeding to a fire, 5/8/1935.)

On the evening of May 8, 1935, an east bound fire engine responding to a fire was struck by a south bound street car at the intersection of 11 and V streets, NW. The engine was a combination hose and pumper that was on its way to extinguish a small fire in a bus, housed in a garage near Georgia Avenue and W Street, NW.

The impact overturned the fire engine on the sidewalk and injured the four firemen on the truck, hurling one of them about 75 feet. The most severely injured was Private Raymond L. Creel, 30, of 413 D Street NE, who was taken to Garfield Hospital. The fire truck came to rest on the southeast corner of the intersection facing west. The front end of the street car was badly damaged, but the motorman and the few passengers escaped injury.

At the time of the accident, there was little traffic and the way had appeared clear for the fire engine. Charges were brought against the motorman of the Capital Transit Co. streetcar for failing to give the right of way to the fire truck. A report into the accident determined that the fire siren was being operated and could be heard blocks away and that the street car was being operated at an excessive rate of speed when approaching a street intersection while fire apparatus sirens were sounding.

By the end of June, all the firemen, although badly injured, were reported to have recovered or to be recovering.

Further Reading

_____. “Fire Engine’s Crash Blamed on Motorman.” The Washington Post, June 21, 1935, p. 11.

_____. “Four Appointed to Probe Crash of Fire Engine.” The Washington Post, May 10, 1935, p. 18.

_____. “Motorman Arraigned for Fire Truck Crash.” The Washington Post, May 24, 1935, p. 18.

_____. “Motorman’s Case Delayed to June 11.” The Evening Star, May 23, 1935, p. B-1.

_____. “Motorman Held at Fault in Crash.” The Evening Star, June 20, 1935, p. B-1.

_____. “Probe is Ordered After Fire Engine Crash; Four Hurt.” The Evening Star, May 9, 1935, p. B-1.

_____. “Street Car and Fire Engine.” The Evening Star, May 9, 1935, p. A-10.

_____. “Trolley-Engine Collision Story Told in Court.” The Washington Post, June 26, 1935, p. 4.

_____. “Trolley Hits Fire Engine; Four Inured [sic].” The Washington Post, May 9, 1935, p. 1.

New Book Documents African American Leisure Destinations Around D.C.

February 1, 2016

African American Leisure DestinationsI was fortunate enough to catch a book discussion by author Patsy Fletcher that was held at Sankofa Video, Books Café yesterday (2714 Georgia Avenue, NW). The book featured was Historically African American Leisure Destinations Around Washington, D.C. and was recently published on December 7, 2015. The announcement described the book as follows:

“During the Jim Crow era, most public places of leisure like amusement parks and beaches were strictly segregated and were whites-only. So where did Black Washingtonians go to enjoy relaxation and recreation?

In African American Leisure Destinations, Patsy Fletcher highlights some of the picnic gardens, excursions, amusement parks, and beach resorts developed and patronized by Washington’s people of color as far back as 1880s for their own enjoyment.”

The discussion was fascinating and I’m sure the book will be of interest to many. Those interested in getting a copy can find them at Sankofa.

Patsy Fletcher(Historian Patsy Fletcher discussing Historically African American Leisure Destinations.)

Park Morton’s Legacy: Head Start and Health Care

December 16, 2015

The completion of Park Morton in November 1961 was an important accomplishment (read earlier post here). Not only did it house families displaced by urban renewal, but it also introduced garden style apartment buildings to the housing types built for low income families. During the first decade of Park Morton’s existence, and up until the District of Columbia achieved home rule, the housing complex was well supported and housed by families working hard to make a better life – both for themselves and the broader community.

It is too easy to dismiss and forget some of the early accomplishments of Park Morton residents, and harder still to find those years well documented in the popular press, so what follows are two of the better known and important contributions to society that is Park Morton’s legacy.

Establishment of Day Care & Head Start

In 1965, the small church at 625 Park Road was the home of Trinity A.M.E. Zion chuch, and one of the locations of UPO’s pilot head start program.

In 1965, the small church at 625 Park Road was the home of Trinity A.M.E. Zion chuch, and one of the locations of UPO’s pilot head start program.

By February 1963 the mothers’ club of Park Morton were able to establish a day care center for youngsters of pre-school age at the youth center of Trinity AME Zion Church on the north side of Park Road. The mothers’ club was developed by Area J board of the District Commissioners Youth Council, whose area boards were made up of citizens working as volunteers for a better community. The first session of the day care was held on February 11, 1963, and was attended by five mothers and 15 children. The success of this day care in supporting the families living in Park Morton was likely a factor when the United Planning Organization selected Trinity AME Zion Church to be the lead site of their pilot Head Start program in 1965 (read more about this history here). The success of the pilot Head Start program, and its positive support of Park Morton youngsters, helped launch the national Head Start program.

Establishment of the Upper Cardozo Health Center

The Upper Cardozo Health Center, located at 3020 14th Street, NW, in Columbia Heights, owes its founding to five women living in Park Morton. In 1962, these women, frustrated and angered by what they felt were inadequate medical facilities available to low income families of the neighborhood, began a campaign to raise funds for the center.

Four years later, with the aid of Change, Inc., an anti-poverty organization, and other residents of the area the women obtained a $1.9 million grant from the federal Office of Economic Opportunity to establish their clinic. In 1969 Washington’s first comprehensive neighborhood health center planned with the help of the low income families it served opened in a temporary facility in the Riggs National Bank building at 3308 14th Street, NW. By 1972 over 15,000 patients had received medical treatment at the center.

Funding for a new $4.6 million health center at 3020 14th Street, NW, was made available in 1972 by a grant from the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration and matched by a loan from the Equitable Life Assurance Society and the Riggs bank. The site – then a barren vacant lot, a remnant of the riots 4 ½ years earlier – was made available by the city’s Redevelopment Land Agency. The Upper Cardozo Health Center was the first new construction planned on an urban renewal site in the Columbia Heights neighborhood since the 1968 riots.

Work began on the new center in late 1972 with a ground breaking on October 25 and represented more than a decade of efforts begun by the women living at Park Morton who organized a committee to push for the new health facilities in their neighborhood. Work on the new center was completed and it was serving patients by March 1976.

Upper Cardozo Health Center(Upper Cardozo Health Center, 3020 14th Street, image from Google.)


James, Betty. “OEO Citizens Advisers Back Health Center Plan.” The Evening Star, June 1, 1967, p. B-1.

Levy, Claudia. “Mayor Dedicates New Health Center.” The Washington Post, December 15, 1969, p. B1.

“Park-Morton Day-Care Unit Opens.” The Evening Star, February 12, 1963, p. B-4.

Scharfenberg, Kirk. “Riot Corridor Health Center Work Begun.” The Washington Post, October 26, 1974, p. C1.

Swanston, Walterene. “10 Years of Work for a Hospital.” The Washington Post, March 18, 1976, p. D.C.3.

Taylor, Walter. “Health Clinic Started.” The Evening Star, October 26, 1972, p. D-4.

Building Park Morton: An Historical Perspective

December 8, 2015

The selection of The Community Builders/Dantes Partners as the new developers of the Park Morton Housing Complex in the Fall of 2014 renewed efforts dating to 2008 to replace the aging low-income apartments located east of Georgia Avenue between Park Road and Morton Street. As one would expect with most major neighborhood construction projects, the city’s decision to include the former Bruce-Monroe School site as part of the re-imagined Park Morton – along with the series of community engagement meetings and workshops – has both its critics and supporters.

In order to fully understand the path forward it is helpful to look back … and for Park Morton that means going back about 60 years. Planning for Park Morton began in the mid-1950s with the complex completed and opened in November 1961.

Reimagining Southwest and the Birth of Park Morton

The 1950’s witnessed a growing commitment to eradicate slums in American Cities. By 1955, efforts in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Pasadena, and Kansas City, Mo. – to name a few – had shown enough promise that the National Association of Real Estate Boards had launched a blight elimination program under the slogan: “No Slums by 1960.” Within this broader context was the decision to eradicate the slums of Washington’s Southwest neighborhood through a massive urban renewal program. The redevelopment of Southwest displaced hundreds of families and required the construction of new replacement housing. One of the earliest developments planned to house displaced families was Park Morton. (more…)

Looking at Pepco’s Anacostia Substation

October 30, 2015
Pepco substation No. 8, located at 2415 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE.

Pepco substation No. 8, located at 2415 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE.

While Pepco is on most minds these days  due to the proposed merger with Exelon, I’ve been taking some time reviewing Pepco’s substations. There was a time when Pepco actually generated power, sold electrical appliances, and was part of a larger corporate structure that included streetcars. Today, all of that is gone leaving Pepco focused on distributing power to homes and businesses throughout the metropolitan area. The distribution of electric service is accomplished via Pepco’s many substations, which generally transform power voltage up or down between the electricity generated and the voltage needed for consumer needs.

One of the reasons I’ve been looking at substations is because some of them may be rebuilt, closed, or renovated in response to changing technology and the growth of Washington in the coming years. This will eventually include the substation at Harvard and Sherman Avenue, designated as substation No. 13. I’ll write more about this substation in the near future.


The Anacostia Substation (No. 8) was constructed in 1927, and is the third oldest substation in operation in the District of Columbia and the oldest operating substation east of the Anacostia River. The oldest is actually the one on Harvard Street (dating to 1907) and the second oldest is No. 21 located between 16th, 17th, K, and L streets NW (dating to 1923).

What is particularly noteworthy with the Anacostia substation is that it has survived 88 years with little to no loss to its architectural integrity.

With regards to the numbering of substations, I’ve also learned that while lower numbers may give some indication of age you can’t rely on them to help place substations in chronological order. Numbers can and have been reused. For example, Anacostia is substation No. 8 and was built in 1927. However, the original substation No. 8 was located in a building next to the Trinidad streetcar barn on Bennings Road.

Anacostia substation(A view along the east side of the building showing electrical equipment.)

%d bloggers like this: