On April 17, 1953, Mickey Mantle hit one of the longest home runs in baseball history at Griffith Stadium, which stood where Howard University Hospital stands today. The ball landed in LeDroit Park and was alleged to have traveled the remarkable distance of 565 feet.
Sports historian Jane Leavey investigated the so-called “tape measure home run” in her 2010 book The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood. She appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation yesterday to discuss that record-setting home run that landed in LeDroit Park and she described her efforts to verify distance claim.
In reviewing Howard University’s proposed campus plan, we started to take account of all of the property in DC that the university owns. Up until 10 years ago, Howard University was accused of being LeDroit Park’s biggest slumlord, owning numerous properties in the neighborhood and letting them lie vacant, blighted, and decaying.
Under the reign of university president H. Patrick Swygert, Howard made a significant and commendable effort to rehab and sell many of its vacant properties in the neighborhood.
For instance, the university owned all but one house on 400 block of Oakdale Place. It let these houses lie vacant, blighted, and boarded up. Under Pres. Swygert, the university renovated the houses and sold them to employees. Today the 400 block of Oakdale Place is fully occupied and a new condo building is nearing completion on the western end.
In other cases, the university renovated properties but has retained ownership. 531 U Street NW looked terrible in 2004 (right), but now looks very nice. We can’t quite tell if the house is occupied, but it consistently appears to be in good condition.
Elsewhere on the 500 and 600 blocks of U Street, Howard built historic infill houses (below) on vacant lots it owned on the north side of the street. The result is a block with with a continuous wall of housing on the street’s northern face. The houses’ façades are of high quality, with detailed brick work, ornate porches, and a variety of detailing.
The job is not entirely done, however, and Howard University retains ownership of a few properties that raise eyebrows. Let’s look at these three:
649 Florida Avenue (left) sits as a vacant lot, frequently collecting trash and debris. A university official told us that long ago Howard had considered using the lot to create a delightful pedestrian path to the university from the Shaw Metro. That never happened and now the lot sits vacant.
408-410 T Street (center) was the home of Walter Washington, DC’s first elected mayor. The university owns the property, and though it’s not blighted, it may be vacant. With some renovation work, this would make an excellent rental home for a Howard professor or anyone else for that matter.
326 T Street (right) is the Mary Church Terrell House, future home of the Robert and Mary Church Terrell House & LeDroit Park Museum and Cultural Center. Though it’s vacant and undoubtedly meets the District’s definition of blight, we are willing to cut the university more slack in this case since the eventual outcome will be a wonderful addition to the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the campus plan does not specify any additional Howard funding to restore the site.
In addition to the properties above, Howard owns a few more properties in LeDroit Park:
- Gravel parking lot at the SE corner of 5th and W Streets. (Square 3072, Lot 818). Campus plan does not mention any change to this lot.
- Carver Hall, 211 Elm St NW (Square 3084, Lot 830). Campus plan mentions the dorm’s decommission, but no reuse plans.
- Slowe Hall, 1919 3rd St NW (Square 3088, Lot 835). Campus plan mentions the dorm’s decommission, but no reuse plans.
- Howard University Hospital daycare, 1907-11 5th St NW (Square 3090, Lot 41)
- 420 T St NW – a house that appears to be occupied (Square 3094, Lot 800)
- Howard University Hospital (Square 3075, Lot 807)
- Parking garage bounded by 4th St, Oakdale Pl, 5th St, and V St. (Square 3080, Lot 73)
- Parking garage bounded by 4th St, V St, 5th St, and an alley. (Square 3072, Lot 52)
Though Howard retains a few problematic properties, it’s important to note the great strides the university has made in taking responsibility for its property portfolio in the neighborhood. A plan for these few remaining properties, even one in which the university retains ownership but leases, would put residents at greater ease.
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.
Howard University Hospital is hosting a farmers market twice a week on the plaza at their Georgia Avenue entrance. The market will run Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
We’re excited to have fresh produce for sale so close to home and we hope the prices compare (or beat) Safeway and Giant.
A few months ago we found this old photo at the Washingtoniana Division of the MLK Library. The photo is an aerial view looking westward on the north end of LeDroit Park. Griffith Stadium, now the site of Howard University Hospital, rests in the background; the stadium was demolished in 1965. To its right (north) is the location to which the Freedman’s Hospital moved in 1869. One will also notice that rowhouses stood on what is now the Gage-Eckington site. Looking closely between V and W Streets, one will see that the Kelly Miller public housing apartments appear to be under construction, dating this photo to around 1941.
(If you’d like to zoom on the photo below, download it as a PDF)
Unlike Metro, Howard University Hospital must stay open no matter the weather. As such the groundskeepers are quick to remove snow the moment the first flake hits the ground. The employee parking garage on the block bounded by Fourth Street, V Street, Fifth Street, and Oakdale Place also needs its top level cleared of snow. But where does the snow from the top level go? Well, over the edge it seems.
The record snow that accumulated this weekend brought us out to snowball fights and sledding in Meridian Hill Park. With few stores open and few roads passable, Saturday was a true holiday in the old-fashioned sense.
Howard University Hospital’s groundskeeper was out in heartbeat clearing the hospital’s sidewalks while contractors cleared the hospital’s parking lot. Pretty impressive!
Neighbors dug their cars out of snow and the usually busy Florida Avenue carried more pedestrians then automobiles. The District government sent numerous plows along U Street and Florida Avenue, largely neglecting (understandably) the quiet streets of LeDroit Park.
You didn’t need a 4×4 to get around this weather. These two girls found that a daddy-powered sled was the most convenient form of transportation.
In Dupont Circle, hundreds of people gathered for a snowball fight. We caught the end of it:
Is a white Hummer camouflaged when it’s in the snow? These snowballers were able to spot and pelt it.
This Suburban sped away as soon as the light turned green.
For cars in LeDroit Park, Fourth and Fifth Streets are passable, but the east-west streets are better left to the four-wheel-drives.
More snow is expected Tuesday night and during the day on Wednesday. Were Pres. William McKinley still alive today, he would not only argue the merits of a gold standard with Rep. Ron Paul, but would also scoff at this relative “dusting”. Though we’ve recorded 45 inches so far this winter, the winter of 1898-99, during McKinley’s administration, set the city’s record, dumping a total of 54.4 inches on the capital!
If you’re tired of the snow, be glad you don’t live in Québec City, which suffers 124 inches of snow each winter… on average!
The National Weather Service is predicting a snow storm to cover Washington from Friday morning through Saturday evening. The storm is expected to leave 12 – 20 inches of snow.
So far we’ve been impressed with the dedication of Howard University Hospital’s groundskeepers, who are out there within an hour of the first flake to clear the sidewalks.
Here’s a novel idea we found online for a pedal-powered snow plow. If someone is willing to build it, we’re willing to drive it down every sidewalk in LeDroit Park.
What a difference twenty-one years make. Below are two satellite photos of LeDroit Park— one taken in 1988 and the other taken in 2009. Toggle back and forth between the two to see how the neighborhood’s footprint has changed.
There are a few noticeable changes:
- Howard University Hospital built an annex behind the main hospital building.
- The entire block bounded by Fourth Street, Fifth Street, V Street, and Oakdale Place is now a multi-level parking garage.
- In 1988, the 500 block of U Street looked gap-toothed; new houses have since been built to fill out the entire north side of the street.
- Street intersections have been replaced with concrete while the roadways remain asphalt.
- The tree canopy is much more expansive now (or the 1988 photo was taken in the winter).
- Houses have been built on the once-vacant land around the northeast corner of Fourth and U Streets.
- The intersection of T Street, Sixth Street, and Florida Avenue has been reconfigured, making way for the pocket park home to the LeDroit Park entrance arch.
- The Schoolhouse Lofts condo building has since been built at Second and V Streets.
Did we miss anything?