August 15, 2016 - 4:56 pm

Two free history walking tours of LeDroit Park next month

U Street in 1908U Street in 2009

Come on out for a free history walking tour of LeDroit Park next month.  I conduct this tour annually as part of WalkingTown DC.

We will explore the unique architecture and the historical figures who transformed the neighborhood into the home of Washington’s black intelligentsia at the start of the 20th century. Neighborhood notables included Dr. Anna J. Cooper, Mayor Walter Washington, Sen. Edward Brooke, Rep. Oscar De Priest, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Mary Church Terrell, Duke Ellington, and Rev. Jesse Jackson. We will also admire the unique 19th-century houses and the 12 distinct architectural styles present in the neighborhood.

The tours will be on Sunday, September 18 at 2 pm and Sunday, September 25 at 2 pm. Meet me at the arch at 6th Street and Florida Avenue NW.  The tours are free and open to the public.

Alternatively, for $15 you can attend Sarah Shoenfeld’s tour on September 11 to explore the history of housing segregation in LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale.

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August 13, 2016 - 5:07 pm

Did Hillary Clinton assassinate a Bloomingdale man? No, you idiot.

… Despite the ridiculousness of this claim, Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder self-exiled in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, is actively fueling this conspiracy theory.

Some background: Seth Rich, a 27-year-old staffer for the DNC, was found murdered on a sidewalk at Flagler Place and W Street NW in Bloomingdale at 4:30 am on August 10. The police suspect his murder was a botched robbery in a neighborhood suffering a tripling of armed robberies this year.

When police found Mr. Rich, they found his watch, wallet, and credit cards on him. These facts have led conspiracy theorist away from the simplest explanation, a panicked robber, to a fantastical story of political revenge by Hillary Clinton on a DNC staffer who Mr. Assange strongly insinuates leaked tens of thousands of DNC emails.

This wild cloak-and-dagger theory has been thoroughly debunked, yet WikiLeaks is offering a $20,000 reward to catch the killer.  While that may seem helpful, Mr. Assange is using one family’s tragedy to push some political agenda against Mrs. Clinton.

The Rich family and the police appealed to the public to come forward with information and the MPD is offering a $25,000 reward to informants.  Mr. Assange’s publicity stunt distracts investigators from real leads.

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August 11, 2016 - 3:47 pm

Explore fair housing law in LeDroit and Bloomingdale next month

Hurd v. Hodge HouseDid you know a house in Bloomingdale was the center of a landmark Supreme Court ruling on fair housing in 1948? Explore civil rights history in LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale on a walking tour next month. The tour, Mapping Segregation, will explore the history and eventual Supreme Court dismantling of de jure housing segregation.

Discover these topics on foot with historian Sarah Shoenfeld, who has extensively documented the history of racially restrictive covenants in DC.

Tour description:

In honor of the September 3 birthday of groundbreaking civil rights attorney Charles Hamilton Houston (1895-1950), historian Sarah Shoenfeld will lead a walking tour of DC’s adjacent LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale neighborhoods. Shoenfeld co-directs the online public history project Mapping Segregation in Washington DC, which shows how racially restrictive housing covenants kept much of Bloomingdale off-limits to African Americans until the 1940s. Houston, former Dean of Howard University’s law school and a NAACP attorney, waged numerous legal battles over housing in this neighborhood. One of them, Hurd v. Hodge, contributed to the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that racial covenants were unenforceable. This tour will feature some of the houses and blocks subject to battles over covenants, and the shifting geographic lines that divided African Americans from whites in this area over the first half of the 20th century.

Tour details:
Sunday, September 11 at 10 am
Meet at the arch at 6th and T Streets NW
Price: $15 – buy tickets online from the Hill Center

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August 10, 2016 - 4:07 pm

Turn down that Prince music!

Prince

In 1998 LeDroit residents wrote an open letter to incoming Mayor Anthony Williams to complain about Prince and the House of Secrets (507 T Street).

Clean Up Street in LeDroit Park

We live amongst trash and filth in the 500 block of T Street NW, in the historic area of LeDroit Park. We are proud of our aged homes and the famous black Americans who lived in them. But when we turn the corner at Sixth and T streets, we are appalled at the piled garbage and trash. When we have special guests at our homes, we must hire a private company to remove the trash so that we will not be embarrassed. We also have a problem with the parties held in our neighborhood at an after-hours nightclub, the House of Secrets. It’s no secret that the last two times The Artist Formerly Known as Prince performed in the area, he had a party that went on from 1 a.m. until 5 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. The purple buses roared down our one-way street and unloaded noisy passengers. The limousines, cars and taxis pulled up, double parked and blocked our driveways. How is it that an after-hours establishment is allowed to exist in our neighborhood? We, law-abiding citizens, do not want this nightclub. We do not want to party. We want to sleep.
Lois Wiley and LilliAnn Williams, T Street NW

This letter appeared with other residents’ letters to Anthony Williams, who officially became mayor two days later.  The House of Secrets has hosted parties for decades, but has been relatively quiet since 2013, when two people were stabbed outside the house during a party.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board investigated the incident to decide whether it should decline future temporary liquor license requests for the house.  Although nightclubs and bars are not permitted in that location by zoning, the city does issue occasional temporary event licenses, usually for one specific day. Both the LeDroit Park Civic Association and ANC1B submitted letters protesting future licenses.

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November 08, 2015 - 11:14 am

Washington Post profiles LeDroit Park

Birney House

The Washington Post published a profile of our neighborhood in the real estate section. Here’s the lede:

It’s one of Washington’s most distinctive neighborhoods. Dotted with quirky freestanding homes in a variety of styles, originally designed as a gated suburb and later the place to be for the District’s African American intelligentsia, LeDroit Park has always been unusual.

Read the full story in the Post.

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October 02, 2015 - 9:44 am

JBG will extend W Street as a woonerf

945 Florida Avenue NW

JBG revealed more plans for the residential development it plans to build at 945 Florida Avenue NW. This is the site abutting the 965 Florida Avenue, which is slated for a Whole Foods. 945 is slated to be a multifamily building, which is not surprising, but the developer has opted to extend W Street one block from its current terminus at Florida Avenue NW to Ninth Street NW.

The W Street extension has been a long-standing goal of neighborhood planning efforts as there are currently few east-west connections between that section of Florida Avenue and Georgia Avenue. Smaller street grids make walking easier as there are fewer “superblocks” to walk around.

The new one-block extension will be privately built, owned, and maintained. It will be constructed as a woonerf, a street where automobile and pedestrian traffic share the same space.  The best example of a woonerf in the area is Cady’s Alley in Georgetown.

Cady's Alley NW

The developer is building the project matter-of-right.

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October 01, 2015 - 12:25 am

JBG reveals the locations of the new retailers opening this fall

Atlantic Plumbing rendering

The four mixed-use buildings on Eighth Street near the 9:30 Club are about to open.  The quartet is the product of prolific Washington area developer JBG, which recently released the layout of the ground-floor retail tenants. The retail spaces include small retail shops, a few restaurants, a small movie theater, and art galleries.

The Shay retailers

The Shay is a duo of apartments on the 700 and 800 blocks of Florida Avenue NW.  Retailers include

  • Riide – A DC-based electric bike company (9th Street)
  • Serv U Liquors – A liquor store that previous stood on the development site (9th Street)
  • Warby Parker – Purveyor of hip spectacles (9th Street & Florida Avenue)
  • Aesop – An Australian retailer of sustainable skincare, haircare and other personal care products (800 b/o Florida Avenue)
  • Chrome – A San Francisco-based bike bag purveyor (800 b/o Florida Avenue)
  • Le Labo –  A French perfumery (800 b/o Florida Avenue)
  • Benrus – A Rhode Island-based clothing retailer (800 b/o Florida Avenue)
  • Steven Alan – Casual clothing for men and women (8th Street & Florida Avenue)
  • An unnamed restaurant from Tim Ma, owner of Water & Wall in Arlington and Maple Ave. in Vienna (8th Street)
  • Frank & Oak – A hip, Montréal-based men’s clothing retailer (8th Street)
  • Glen’s Garden Market – The second location of this DC-based grocer will also serve beer. (8th Street)
  • Compass Coffee – The second location for the coffee shop that currently operates on 7th Street in Shaw (8th Street)
  • Read Wall – DC-based menswear retailer selling knits, outerwear, custom suits, and neckware (8th Street)
  • Lettie Gooch – A clothing boutique moving from U Street (8th Street)
  • Kit and Ace – A retailer selling clothes made of a sturdier cashmere (8th Street & Florida Avenue)

JBG is still actively leasing three retail bays.  The Shay’s grand opening is today from 6 pm to 9 pm.

Just north on Eighth Street at V Street, JBG has sold numerous condos at 2030 8th Street and has nearly completed the larger Atlantic Plumbing apartments on the north side of V Street. The company has released the retail layout of both buildings.

Retail layout

The retailers include

  • Hazel (probably) – A new restaurant from Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which currently owns Birch & Barley and Bluejacket (V Street)
  • Declaration Pizza – A new pizza shop from the owners of Lincoln and Teddy & the Bully Bar (8th & V Streets)
  • Landmark Theatre – A theater featuring independent films in six small-screen mini-theaters (V Street)
  • An unnamed ramen restaurant from the people behind Daikaya in Chinatown (8th & V Streets)
  • Tasty Burger – The first DC-area location of this Boston-based burger chain (8th Street)
  • Bazaar Spices – The second location for this independently owned herbs and spice shop, which also sells at Union Market (8th Street)
  • Cherry Blossom Creative – A graphic-design studio that will also offer original works for retail purchase (8th Street)
  • Foundry Gallery – An artist-run gallery that will move from Dupont Circle (8th Street)
  • Typecase Industries – A locally-based letterpress and design studio (8th Street)
  • Washington Project for the Arts – The headquarters for a non-profit arts support organization (8th Street)

All shops will be open by the end of the year.

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September 23, 2015 - 11:02 pm

LeDroit resident meets his former teacher, the pope

Pope Francis is in Washington visiting President Obama, addressing Congress, canonizing Junípero Serra, addressing the public, and leading masses. He’s also reuniting with a former student, Yayo Grassi, a LeDroit Park resident.

Mr. Grassi grew up in Argentina, where Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, was one of his teachers. Mr. Grassi moved to LeDroit Park in the 1990s and runs a catering company whose food I get to devour at a local Christmas party every year.

Today Mr. Grassi (in the blue jacket), reunited with his former teacher at the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican’s Embassy in Washington.

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September 15, 2015 - 3:30 pm

Free history walking tours of LeDroit Park this month

U Street in 1908U Street in 2009

Come on out for a free history walking tour of LeDroit Park.  I conduct this tour annually as part of WalkingTown DC.

We will explore the unique architecture and the historical figures who transformed the neighborhood into the home of Washington’s black intelligentsia at the start of the 20th century. Neighborhood notables included Dr. Anna J. Cooper, Mayor Walter Washington, Sen. Edward Brooke, Rep. Oscar De Priest, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Mary Church Terrell, Duke Ellington, and Rev. Jesse Jackson. We will also admire the unique 19th-century houses and the 12 distinct architectural styles present in the neighborhood.

The tours will be on Saturday, September 19 at 1 pm and Sunday, September 27 at 1pm. Meet me at the arch at 6th Street and Florida Avenue NW.  The tours are free and open to the public.

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September 04, 2015 - 5:14 pm

Neighborhood happy hour on Sep. 8, block party on Sep. 12

Horn

The LeDroit Park Civic Association has organized some social events for everyone to attend.

The next neighborhood happy hour will be on Tuesday, September 8 from 6:30 pm to 8 pm at BKK Cookshop (1700 New Jersey Ave NW). BKK, named for Bangkok’s airport code, is located in the former Beau Thai space, which recently decamped for 7th Street in Shaw.

The Civic Association will also host a neighborhood block party on Saturday, September 12th from noon to 6 pm. The party will be held on the 300 block of U Street. Everyone is welcome to attend and bring additional food.

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