The City Paper reports that Bistro Bohem‘s mixologist (cocktail chef), Mark Reyburn, has defected across 6th Street to Shaw’s Tavern. Reyburn intends to infuse Shaw’s menu with Civil War-era cocktails befitting the venue’s namesake.
Considering that Bohem’s cocktails were exceptionally good when I reviewed the place in May, Reyburn’s new grog gig is sure to please.
The City Paper also notes that Shaw’s plans to add a roofdeck within two months. I have come to learn, however, that these build-outs typically take longer than even the most ambitious restaurateurs expect.
But even with Shaw’s salvo of a new cocktail list and roofdeck, Bohem isn’t ready to surrender so easily. Bohem is planning a Reconstruction of its own, in fact. The Bohem dominion is expanding into the space next door that used to be Zee’s Restaurant. The new Cafe Bohem will open on September 3 and will serve coffee and pastries.
When perusing the excellent interactive DC zoning map, one thing stands out around LeDroit Park: all the properties fronting Florida Avenue are zoned to permit both residential and commercial uses. Even the rowhouses on the LeDroit side of Florida Avenue can be turned into restaurants, offices, or shops without any need for special zoning approval.*
We mention this not to alarm anyone, but to educate residents about the influence of zoning ordinances. Zoning is the invisible geography that quietly shapes the use and form of the built environment.
The north-side rowhouses on the 400, 500, and 600 blocks of Florida Avenue were clearly built as homes. About 100 years ago, many of these rowhouses hosted the offices of Washington’s prominent black doctors.
Neighborhoods change and businesses move and nearly all the rowhouses on our stretch of Florida Avenue reverted to their original uses as residences. Even the notable Harrison’s Cafe at 455 Florida Avenue is a residence with much of its former retail bay window bricked in.
A few businesses still dot Florida Avenue. While Shaw’s Tavern and Bistro Bohem are reviving the corner of Florida Avenue and 6th Street, they occupy buildings that are clearly commercial in form. Thai X-ing, however, has been located for several years in and old rowhouse at 515 Florida Avenue NW. Though it looks like an abberation, Thai X-ing may just be ahead of its time.
The properties fronting Florida Avenue are zoned C-2-A, which permits as a matter of right,
office employment centers, shopping centers, medium-bulk mixed use centers, and housing to a maximum lot occupancy of 60% for residential use and 100% for all other uses, a maximum FAR of 2.5 for residential use and 1.5 FAR for other permitted uses, and a maximum height of fifty (50) feet. Rear yard requirements are fifteen (15) feet; one family detached dwellings and one family semi-detached dwellings side yard requirements are eight (8) feet.
There is no need to worry about an old rowhhouse being torn down and turned into office blocks. First, the houses along the LeDroit Park side of Florida Avenue are within the historic district. Historic preservation laws prevent drastic alterations, especially alterations to such an cohesive section of architecture.
Second, the C-2-A zone is a low-density zone, permitting a floor-area ratio (FAR) of only 1.5 for non-residential uses. Most of the existing rowhouses already exceed 1.5 FAR since they were built before the current zoning code.
The opening and success of Shaw’s Tavern and Bistro Bohem demonstrate business success along our stretch of Florida Avenue. There is clearly a demand for commercial activity near LeDroit Park and we were happy to spend Sunday afternoon revisiting Bistro Bohem. Whether this demand translates into rowhouse conversions into restaurants and bars remains to be seen. Even still, don’t be surprised if Thai X-ing gets a few restaurant, pub, cafe, or boutique neighbors in the coming years.
* Though one may open a restaurant without special approval in a commercial zone, a restaurateur must still follow the usual process for obtaining a license to serve alcohol.
We got news this morning that a man had been found stabbed on the 500 block of Florida Avenue NW near Shaw’s Tavern. The story turned out to be a bit more complicated. A man driving a BMW crashed into the Florida Avenue side of Shaw’s Tavern early this morning. When police arrived, they found the driver with a stab wound in his neck. He was taken to Howard University Hospital where he later died.
The details are unclear at this point, but the driver may have been stabbed elsewhere and may have been trying to drive himself to the hospital for treatment.
Here’s the Fox 5 news report from early this morning.
This is not the first significant crash near 6th and Florida. In 2006, a drunk driver crashed into 605 Florida Avenue, destroying much of the house’s brick turret.
520 Florida Avenue NW
Rating: 5 arches (out of 5)
Recommendation: House-smoked pulled pork shoulder (pictured above)
Back in November 2010 we wrote about the renovation underway at the two-story brick building at the southeast corner of 6th Street and Florida Avenue. What a great place for a cafe, we opined.
Finally in July of last year, a restaurant called Shaw’s Tavern opened up in the space. Many neighbors expressed eager anticipation at the very rumor, mostly since Florida Avenue lacks a variety of decent sit-down options.
The excitement was short-lived. The restaurant’s management ran afoul of the District’s liquor regulations when it allegedly forged an alcohol license to purchase liquor from suppliers. Just before opening, Shaw’s hosted several events during which they served alcohol without the a license. The Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Board, rightly outraged, refused to grant the license.
Unable to serve alcohol, which is where restaurants make much of their money, Shaw’s quickly closed. New owners bought the business and have reopened the space for breakfast, brunch, and lunch. Shaw’s will finally serve dinner and thus expand their hours beyond the 4 pm closing when they get their alcohol license approved.
We dropped by Shaw’s Tavern recently to sample the food and the trip was well worth it. The food was excellent and refined and the atmosphere was pleasant.
We ordered the house-smoked pulled pork shoulder (pictured above), which is served on a patty of crispy jalapeño-cheddar polenta and cider vinegar jus. The waiter described the item as “killer” so we couldn’t possibly ignore such an endorsement.
It turns out the waiter was right. The pork, as he described, is smoked for 12 hours. It shows. The distinctly smokey and faintly tangy flavor of the tender shoulder meat makes the dish a signature item for Shaw’s.
The pork tops a polenta patty, which is cripsy like hash-browns on the exterior, but creamy like skillfully prepared scrambled eggs on the inside. In fact the filling is not egg at all, but jalapeño cheddar cheese with polenta, making it a close rival to the pork.
For dessert we ordered spiced chocolate pudding. A dollop of cream and candied orange peel garnish the pudding. Don’t let that fool you, though. The pudding itself is not nearly as sweet as most American desserts and so the spice stands out.
The interior of the restaurant provides an unusual variety of seating options. There are high tables for four people and larger parties. The bar itself is as wide as a full table and provides ample space for dining. The outdoor patio on the 6th Street side just opened with several iron tables and chairs. The inside also sports several couches with coffee tables, each equipped with a book on the Civil War to honor the restaurant’s namesake, Col. Robert Gould Shaw, for whom the Shaw neighborhood is named.
There are few restaurants that really impress us, but Shaw’s Tavern was able to do it. When it opens up for dinner, we expect to return often.
Two years ago we wrote about the old street names for LeDroit Park. Finding out just when the name change occurred is hard to pin down. Different sources, from address directories to newspaper articles, refer to old names and new names during the same period of time.
The mystery is closer to resolution, however, as we found what we believe to be the earliest reference to the name change:
New Names for Le Droit Park Streets.
July 31, 1890
The names of the streets in Le Droit Park have been changed as follows: Le Droit Park avenue to Second street, Harewood avenue to Third street, Linden street to Fourth street, Larch street to Fifth street, Juniper street to Sixth street, and Maple avenue to T street.
There appears to be an error in the article as ‘Le Droit avenue’ never actually had ‘Park’ in its name.
In preparation for redistricting Ward 1′s ANCs, the DC Office of Planning has released block-by-block demographic data for the District. We have combined the data for the blocks that comprise LeDroit Park to create a LeDroit Park census.
Analyzing U.S. Census data for LeDroit Park proves difficult because the of the way census tracts are drawn. Our census tract, 34, combines LeDroit Park and Howard University. Dorms on the northern end of the campus, far away from LeDroit Park, account for 717 of the tract’s 4,347 residents, thus skewing tract data. Furthermore, the tract also inclues several blocks bounded by Rhode Island Avenue NW, Florida Avenue NW, and 2nd Street NW.
Fortunately, the Census Bureau provides data for each block, allowing us to combine the statistics for those blocks in LeDroit Park, while excluding the Howard University campus. In the map below, we have outlined the tract in blue and shaded the blocks for LeDroit Park in red.
View LeDroit Park Census in a larger map
Though LeDroit Park started out as an exclusively white suburban neighborhood, by 1910 the neighborhood was almost entirely black. Today, 100 years later, the neighborhood is 70% black and is continuing to diversify.
However, when looking at the numbers on a block-by-block basis, you see that the neighborhood demography, must like that of the District itself, is unevenly distributed.
The block bounded by 5th Street, T Street, 6th Street, and U Street is 53% white, the highest in the neighborhood. Likewise, the block containing the Kelly Miller public housing is 91% black, the highest percentage in the neighborhood. The block containing the arch and the Florida Avenue Baptist Church comes closest to black-white equilibrium at 44% and 49% for each group respectively.
When looking at total population numbers for each block, you see that the two most populous blocks contain Howard University dorms. The block bounded by 2nd Street, T Street, 3rd Street, and Elm Street has 382 residents and contains Slowe Hall, which houses 299 students.
The second most populous block contains the new park. However, it also contains Carver Hall, which itself houses 173 students. Certainly these blocks are big, but the fact that their population numbers are off the chart has more to do with student dorms than with any inherent difference in housing density.
Finally, when we look at housing vacancy, we see that the block bounded by 5th Street, T Street, 6th Street and U Street has 38% of its housing units vacant. We’re not sure what’s causing this number, but we suspect that the apartment building at 5th and U Streets NW boosted the vacancy rate. The building has since been finished and is fully rented.
The block with the second-highest rate of vacancy contains the now-renovated Ledroit Place condo building at 1907 3rd Street NW.
It would be interesting too look at other data, including household income, car ownership, and age distribution for the neighborhood. However, the Office of Planning’s spreadsheet only covered population numbers, racial distribution, and housing unit numbers, so those are the metrics we graphed.
This is the fourth in a series of the Scurlock photos. Read the others.
We have reported before on the coming of Shaw’s Tavern to the building (pictured above) at the southeast corner of 6th Street and Florida Avenue. It turns out that the bar at Shaw’s Tavern will not the be the first establishment to stir up elixirs at that location.
While perusing the Smithsonian’s Scurlock photo archives, we found that one of the building’s previous tenants was the Ethical Drug Store (also known as Ethical Prescription Pharmacy and Ethical Pharmacy), one of the many black-owned businesses along the 400 – 600 blocks of Florida Avenue NW.
Pharmacist Lewis Terry (1904- 1978) graduated from pharmacy school at Temple University in 1928. The following year he opened Ethical Pharmacy at 518 Florida Avenue NW. The pharmacy had filled 1 million prescriptions by 1953 earning him a special honor from Temple. Though Mr. Terry sold the business in the mid-60s, the pharmacy stayed in operation until the 1990s.
The name Ethical Pharmacy is a relic of a professional division in the pharmacy field a century ago. An “ethical pharmacy” proudly devoted itself solely to filling prescriptions and did not sell other extraneous products as modern drug stores, such as CVS, do today. The use of ‘ethical’ was a high-minded misnomer since a pharmacist could sell other wares ethically or devote himself exclusively to quack medicine.
The Scurlock Studio photographed the pharmacy in 1937 and again in 1950. We have included both photo shoots below.
Here is a photo Addison Scurlock took of Ethical Pharmacy in 1937:
Here are some other shots of the interior. Though the Smithsonian has no date for the first two, we suspect they was shot in the 1930s. The third photo is dated 1937 and judging from the change in the interior, we suspect the pharmacy had undergone some sort of renovation to appear more modern.
Mr. Scurlock photographed the pharmacy again in July 1950:
He also took more shots of the interior in 1950:
Mr. Steve May relayed more details on Shaw’s Tavern at last night’s meeting of the LeDroit Park Civic Association. The restaurant, slated to open in mid-June, will seat 65 – 70 people inside and 15 – 18 people on a sidewalk patio on the 6th Street front. On Florida Avenue near the eastern end of the building, the restaurant will feature a special door just for take-out pizza orders. (Click the image above for a larger version.)
Inside, however, the restaurant will feature a variety of entrées priced from $12 – $18. Mr. May distributed a tentative menu.
The restaurant expects to stay open until 11:30 or midnight on weeknights and until midnight or 1 am on weekends.
As for the adjacent
empty lot on 6th Street, Mr. May offered to buy it, but says the owner demanded $1 million, which is far too much for a vacant lot of that size.
While Shaw’s Tavern will occupy the first floor, the restaurant will rent out three one-bedroom apartments upstairs and expects to have them ready by May.
The building at the southeast corner of 6th Street and Florida Avenue (pictured above) may soon have a tenant. At Tuesday’s meeting of the LeDroit Park Civic Association, Mr. Steve May will discuss construction plans for a restaurant called Shaw’s Tavern. We don’t have the full details, but we are told it will be similar to Clarendon’s Liberty Tavern, which describes itself thusly:
Located in a historic building in the heart of Clarendon, The Liberty Tavern features modern American cuisine in its upstairs dining room and downstairs bar, along with a diverse wine list, creative specialty cocktails and a great selection of premium draft and bottled beer. Our comfortable ambiance is enhanced by warm, hospitable service, and whether you’re joining us for a round of drinks in the bar, a casual midweek supper with your children, or a special evening with friends and family, you’re sure to feel at home.
Attend the civic association meeting on Tuesday night for more details. (7 pm in the basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church; enter on U Street)
512 Florida Avenue sits at the southeast corner of Sixth Street and Florida Avenue, just across the street from LeDroit Park. You may have noticed some construction work going on recently.
Indeed, TBD reports that Mr. Abbas Fahti recently bought the building for $500,000 from Howard University and is renovating it to include housing and retail space. The top floor will include two one-bedroom apartments and one two-bedroom apartment.
The entire ground floor will be cleared out to make one single retail space. While Mr. Fahti doesn’t have a tenant lined up, we’re hoping for a tavern or cafe.
We’ve thought about the building before and its many virtues as a sit-down food establishment. First, it’s located at the boundary of Shaw and LeDroit Park, so it can legitimately claim to serve both neighborhoods. It’s also located along Florida Avenue, a street whose traffic will also generate business from passersby. When the weather is nice, the extraordinarily wide sidewalk on the Sixth Street front will provide ample room for outdoor seating.
Hear ye, barkeeps and baristas: this is your chance!