This is the third in a series on the Scurlock photo archive. Read the others.
The 1968 riots burned and economically destroyed many commercial districts throughout Washington. Riots came to U Street, too, and several properties which were obliterated have not entirely recovered from the devastation.
After World War II, many of America’s cities faced population and economic decline as the nation suburbanized; Washington was certainly no exception. The retail corridors on 14th St NW, U St NW, and H St NE were already declining when riots hit American cities in 1968 following the Martin Luther King’s assassination.
Addison Scurlock (1883-1964) was Washington’s most prominent black photographer and when the riots started in April 1968, Mr. Scurlock[‘s sons, who inherited his studio] at 9th and U Streets (where Nellie’s now stands) knew that [they were]
he was witnessing history in the making. Mr. Scurlock The Scurlocks photographed rioters at the beginning of the riots and photographed some of the aftermath.
The corner of 7th Street, Florida Avenue, and Georgia Avenue suffered from the mayhem. The southwest corner now houses a CVS and a parking lot on land that Howard University owns. Beneath this store runs the Metro tunnel between the Shaw and U Street stations. Back in 1968, this site featured a strip of retail stores until the riot.
One of the most striking Scurlock photos is of the northwest corner of 7th and T Streets NW, where the CVS currently stands. Rioters burned the buildings that stood on the site.
[Toggling between now and then photos will not work in RSS readers. View the actual post]
Only recently did I notice the roof terrace atop this building at the northwest corner of Florida and Georgia Avenues NW. It would make an excellent spot for restaurant seating.
We passed by Pharmacare today at the corner of Georgia and Florida Avenues and they were hosting their grand opening. Pharmacare is not your average pharmacy. They stock pharmaceuticals not readily available at most pharmacies and they provide home delivery too. Pharmacare is a local chain and we’re told that they were among the only pharmacies in Washington that braved our snow storms to deliver critical medicines.
We welcome them to the neighborhood and we hope they succeed.
At Thursday’s ANC1B meeting, Chip Ellis, head of the Howard Theatre’s restoration, announced that the much-delayed renovations will start in the last week of August. The theater, when it opens, will host R&B acts, jazz, and Sunday gospel brunches in a venue that Ellis describes as “cabaret style”.
Careful observers of the restoration sketch (above) will notice the statue at the top of the façade. Originally the theater featured a statue of Apollo playing the lyre; the new statue, fabricated in metal and lit with LEDs will be themed “the Jazz Man”. Mr. Ellis will return in a few months with design drawings.
When asked about parking, Mr. Ellis stated that the restoration project plans to partner with Howard University to offer parking in one of its lots a few blocks away on Georgia Avenue. He also proposed the idea of building a garage on the southern portion of the parking lot of Howard University Hospital.
We appreciate Mr. Ellis’s efforts restoring the Howard Theatre, but we would not welcome a parking garage on Georgia Avenue. A garage would contradict the Office of Planning’s DUKE Plan, which specifically calls for ground-floor retail and offices on that site. A street-fronting garage would deprive Georgia Avenue of the streetlife that retail uses generate.
Furthermore, since parking is a necessary component of driving; providing more parking will induce more driving, something the area suffers from already.
It’s confirmed. A 7-11 is coming to the corner of Georgia and Florida Avenues just outside the LeDroit Park Historic District. Douglas Development Corporation, the building’s owner and one of the city’s biggest developers, has confirmed to our ANC commissioner that 7-11 has signed a lease for part of the first floor space.
Pharmacare, which has not opened yet, occupies the Georgia Avenue front on the first floor (photo above, left side) and 7-11 will occupy the Florida Avenue front (center and right side). The choice of leasing the space to 7-11 has sparked a small controversy as many residents were hoping for something a tad more upscale than than discount drugs (you can buy the illegal kind a block away at the corner of Seventh & T) and a chain convenience store.
Some residents have expressed the desire to see a cafe, gym, or a full-fledged grocery store open up in or near LeDroit Park.
The LeDroit Park Market does indeed sell coffee, but residents looking for an espresso fix have to wander on over to the Starbucks at W Street and Georgia Avenue. There are rumors of a cafe coming to the old Pyramids Restaurant space in the building currently under renovation at Sixth Street and Florida Avenue, but we haven’t received details yet.
The siting of a grocery store is more difficult. The nature of grocery shopping tends to require parking more so than most other commercial uses do, so any grocer would probably only consider spaces with underground garages or outdoor lots. Few properties nearby meet this requirement, except for the United Planning Organization headquarters at Second Street and Rhode Island Avenue (pictured below). For decades it was a Safeway, but since UPO has no plans to move, we can rule out the building as a potential site.
Another potential site might be the Wonderbread Factory (pictured below) on S Street by the north entrance to the Shaw Metro. It’s currently owned by Douglas Development, but has been vacant for quite a while. At nearly 40,000 square feet over two floors, the building might be a good candidate for a grocery store. With the UNCF headquarters about to break ground this summer just across the alleyway, perhaps the two developers could come to an agreement to provide some underground spaces to patrons to a potential store next door.
The O Street Market project, supposed to bring a 57,000-square-foot Giant is still years away as is the proposed grocery store for the parking lots at W Street and Georgia Avenue. Any potential grocer might fear an over-saturation of competition.
What amenities would you like to see in or adjacent LeDroit Park?
At tomorrow’s monthly meeting of ANC1B, representatives for a fledgling coffeehouse/lounge, The Independent (715 Florida Avenue NW), will petition for a Class C liquor license. The Independent seeks to serve beer, wine, and liquor to a maximum of 235 people (199 seats) on the first floor and a maximum of 90 people (75 seats) in the summer garden. They propose these hours:
|last call & close||2am||3am|
Entertainment will run 6pm – 2am (Sun. – Thurs.) and 6pm – 3 am (Fri. and Sat.).
Up at 2632 Georgia Avenue, GII Restaurant & Lounge plans to host acoustic jazz bands, karaoke, open mike nights, and DJs to a maximum of 102 people (86 seats). They propose the following business hours: 6 am-2:30 am (Mon. – Wed.) and 6 am-3 am (Thurs. – Sun.). The propose serving alcohol 10 am-2 am (Sun.), 8 am-2 am (Mon. – Thurs.) and 8 am-3 am (Fri. and Sat.). Entertainment will be 6 pm-2:30 am (Mon. – Wed.) and 6 pm – 3 am (Thur. – Sun.).
Here in LeDroit Park, the Elks Lodge at 1844 Third St seeks to renew its license but not without controversy. In April 2008 the lodge was the site of a triple-stabbing and just a few months ago, the lodge was delinquent in paying license fines.
In addition to the lodge, the following restaurants seek to renew their licenses:
- Alero Lounge, 1301 U Street, Class C
- Crème Café & Lounge, 1322 U Street, Class C
- Little Ethiopia Restaurant, 1924 Ninth Street, Class C
- Portico, 1914 Ninth Street, Class C
- Mesobe Restaurant and Delimarket, 1853 Seventh Street, Class C
As usual, the ANC meeting will be held tomorrow (Thursday) at 7 pm on the second floor of the Reeves Building at Fourteenth and U Streets.
After months of sitting empty, the recently renovated building at Georgia and Florida Avenues now sports a few building permit in its window. The plumbing permit #P1002466 issued on February 16, 2010, suggests that a drugstore may be moving in:
TENANT FIT-OUT FOR PHARMACY SPACE. NO EXTERIOR IMPROVEMENTS. SEE DRAWINGS FOR COMPLETE SCOPE.
Maybe the CVS diagonally across the intersection is relocating or maybe they’re simply getting more competition.
Careful observers occasionally spot the old street signs adorning a few of the light poles in LeDroit Park. When the neighborhood was originally planned, most of the streets were named after trees. LeDroit Park’s street system didn’t fit with the L’Enfant Plan in either name or alignment—much to the dismay of the District commissioners—and the street names were eventually changed to fit the naming and numbering system.
A perusal of old maps reveals that the street names changed over time, not all at once. Elm Street is the only street that has retained its name. Since your author lives on Elm Street he has learned to respond to puzzled faces that know that Elm doesn’t fit the street naming system: “It’s kinda like U-and-1/3 Street”.
Anna J. Cooper Circle didn’t have a name at all until 1983, when it was restored to its circular form after a decades-long bisection by Third Street.
Just outside of LeDroit Park, the city renamed a few streets as well: 7th Street Road became Georgia Avenue and Boundary Street, the boundary of the L’Enfant Plan, became Florida Avenue.
Here is a table matching the current street names with their previous names.
|Old Name||Current Name|
|Le Droit Avenue||2nd Street|
|Harewood Avenue||3rd Street|
|Linden Street||4th Street*|
|Larch Street||5th Street|
|Juniper Street||6th Street|
|Boundary Street||Florida Avenue**|
|7th Street Road||Georgia Avenue**|
|Oak Court||Oakdale Place|
|Maple Avenue||T Street|
|Spruce Street||U Street|
|Wilson Street||V Street**|
|Pomeroy Street||W Street**|
|(unnamed before 1983)||Anna J. Cooper Circle|
|* For a short period, 4th Street was called 4½ Street.
** Though these streets were just outside the original LeDroit Park, we have included them for reference.
Signs bearing the old street names have reappeared in the neighborhood, and according to the Afro-American, were put up in 1976: “The LeDroit Park Historic District Project was instrumental in getting the D.C. Department of Transportation to put up the old original street names for this Historic District Area under the present street name signs”.1
Unfortunately, some of the signs are showing their 33 years of weather, as this sign at Third and U Streets shows.
Eventually these signs will have to be replaced, but rather than placing the old names onto modern signs using a modern typeface, we suggest something that evokes the history without being mistaken for the current street name:
White text on a brown background is the standard for street and highway signs pointing to areas of recreation or cultural interest. Seattle started using the color scheme to mark its historic Olmsted boulevards and New York has long used the combination for street signs in its historic districts. The adoption of this style of sign would alert visitors and residents to the neighborhood’s historic identity while the different color and typeface would prevent confusion with the actual street names (U St NW in this case). Typographers would be pleased by the use of Big Caslon Medium, a serif typeface based on the centuries-old Caslon typeface.
- Hall, Ruth C. “Historic Project”. Washington Afro-American. 1 May 1976.