graffiti April 5th, 2011
Holga photo of some hammer and sickle graffiti on a building around U St. NW. Who knew there were communists in DC??
Holga photo of some hammer and sickle graffiti on a building around U St. NW. Who knew there were communists in DC??
Is it just me, or can you can almost hear the sounds of jazz coming from this silhouette near 14th and U St?
Just waitin’ on you…
How can you not enjoy walking through this colorful alleyway at 1344 U St. NW? On the left-hand side of the image we see part of artist Joel Bergner’s mural, “Afro-Colombian Mural: Currulao y Desplazamiento”, which pays tribute to the Afro-Colombian culture in DC (especially around the U Street area) and also around the world. Through this three-story painting, the artist hoped to educate the public about human rights issues and the displacement of people related to the armed Colombian conflict. Here’s another angle of this work. Bergner also coordinates Action Ashe, which, according to its website is a project whose mission is “to create social change and celebrate culture through public art.”
Below is a video of the mural inauguration, which “opened” on September 12, 2009.
Some people think that the fear of clowns comes from not being able to distinguish their emotions. If a clown has a painted-on smile around their lips, how will you know if they are sad?? Isn’t this really just the fear of the unknown?
Today, it just might be another busy junction to many of the District’s pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers, but in the history of the District, the intersection of 14th and U Streets, NW has been center stage for many pivotal phases, a street corner that has seen renaissance, riot, and rebirth,
Sitting just within the boundaries of L’Enfant’s Federal City, the 14th and U Street area was originally heavily wooded with rugged terrain. Eventually, the land was cleared and converted to orchards and farmland when it was purchased in 1760 by a Georgetown tobacco merchant. The area stayed relatively free of development until 1862 when Congress granted the Washington and Georgetown Railroad Company the right to lay tracks for horse-drawn streetcars. The 14th Street line eventually developed into a major thoroughfare, connecting residents from Florida Avenue down to the Federal City.
Much of the housing that exists today in the 14th and U area was constructed by speculative developers during the forty years after the start of the streetcar line, a response to the housing demand following the Civil War, the growth of the Federal government, and the general expansion of the Washington economy.
In the late 1800’s, the area residents were a socio-demographically mixed group. With increased segregation across the city, the 14th and U neighborhood emerged in the early 1900’s as a “city within a city” for the black community. Howard University’s nearby location made the greater U Street area a logical home for the artists and scholars in the black community. In years between 1895 and 1920, the number of black-owned businesses in the neighborhood increased drastically from 15 to more than 300. The U Street neighborhood was, at the time, the largest urban African American community in the nation. Harlem took this prize from U Street in 1920.
During this renaissance period, U Street became known as “Black Broadway.” A famous quote states that U street was so grand that “you had to wear a tie” just to walk down the street. Duke Ellington, the District’s native son and jazz great, spent his formative years just a couple blocks from 14th and U, living on the 1800 block of 13th St. Still today, Duke looks down upon the metro entrance from his painted likeness in a U Street mural. The culture of jazz still lives on, too, in a number of jazz clubs such as Twins and Bohemian Caverns located within a few blocks from 14th and U.
For the next few decades, 14th St remained a tenuously shared boundary between the predominantly black residents to the east and predominantly white residents to the west.
The neighborhood’s dominance in the African American community began to wane in the 1960’s when racially restrictive real estate covenants were declared unconstitutional. With this ruling came many more housing opportunities for blacks in other parts of the city and surrounding jurisdictions. The exodus of professional African American families had already began over a decade earlier, and the courts decision, amongst other contributing factors, further exasperated the trend of both blacks and whites abandoning the city proper.
By the mid-1960’s, the glitz and glamour of “Black Broadway” had worn thin and 14th and U had deteriorated into an open drug market and drug trafficking nerve center of Washington, DC. Dr. King’s assassination on April 4th, 1968 was the spark that ignited riot in the already volatile greater U Street neighborhood. Within hours of Dr. King’s passing, a crowd gathered at 14th and U Street. Originally peacefully requesting that businesses close down out of respect for King, the crowd eventually grew agitated and turned riotous, starting with a brick thrown through the window of the of the Peoples Drug store. In the four days of rioting that followed, over 1,200 buildings were burned, three-quarters of which were stores, creating damages in excess of $165 million (in today’s dollars). The human toll of the estimated 20,000 rioters was twelve dead, over 1,000 injured, and more than 6,100 arrested. In the days that followed, Stokely Carmichael, of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, petitioned police for special permission to allow Ben’s Chili Bowl to remain open after curfew, giving food, shelter, and protection to the people working desperately to restore order from the chaos. The devastation of the race riots left a lasting scar not only on this area, but on the entire city’s collective memory.
Eighteen years after the riots burnt much of 14th and U to the ground, the neighborhood was still without notable revitalization or recovery. The rebirth of this area, that is still underway today, was jump-started by a $50 million dollar investment in a new municipal building by then-Mayor Marion Barry. This building, the Reeves Municipal Center, is located on the NW corner of 14th and U and is named after local lawyer, Frank D. Reeves. Reeves, a graduate of Howard University, was an accomplished civil rights lawyer who worked on Brown v. Board of Education and was the first African American to serve on the Democratic National Committee. The area was further catalyzed by the construction of the Green line Metrorail in 1991, with stops that provided better access to the neighborhood.
The Reeves Center, despite being a source of rebirth, has not been without tragedy. On February 13, 2005, a person was stabbed to death following an altercation and two women were assaulted on the dance floor at night club Club U, which operated on the weekends out of the Reeves Center’s glass atrium lobby, As one of the women was being brought to an ambulance outside, shots were fired in an effort to kill her. The nightclub was shut down, and no longer operates out of the Reeves Center.
More recently, the NE corner of 14th and U has seen significant restaurant and nightlife development. Many of the establishments in the area pay homage to great African American creatives. Popular bookstore and eatery Busboys and Poets is named after Langston Hughes, (it’s spinoff Eatonville for Zora Neal Hurston), and bar and restaurant Marvin is so named in honor of Marvin Gaye. Patty Boom Boom, a Caribbean carry-out/bar/lounge, recently opened and construction is underway on music and arts club, Cuckoo Marans, and upscale steak house, Café Society. 14th and U’s revitalization has also brought hundreds of new upscale condominium and apartment residences to the immediate area. Just this past winter, 14th and U, was briefly thrust on to the national stage after a DC police officer brandished his weapon during a mass snowball fight.
Though tough economic times have slowed development across the city, it appears that 14th and U will continue to prosper from the revitalization of the greater U Street area. In due time, 14th and U will again be home to three streetcar lines – a major infrastructure investment that will continue the neighborhood’s renaissance. For all the changes that the neighborhood has seen, it is often still known for great jazz and half-smokes.
For a more in depth history, check out the Cultural Tourism brochure here.
I was sitting next to this fire truck on my way home yesterday, while stopped at a light, and decided I liked their logo — what looks like a slime-covered number nine. Though maybe it supposed to be ivy. I tried looking up the U St. corridor department on DCFD.com , but couldn’t find anything about Truck #9 in particular. Though I did come across pages for a number of the other departments. Like Engine 20 , which not only has an awesome webpage, but also appears to be Terp fans.
At the Masonic Temple in Alexandria last night Dr. Donald Shoup held a lecture on his recent book, “The High Cost of Free Parking.” Dr. Shoup has caused quite a few ripples with findings and has been called everything from the “Rock Star of Parking” to “Anti-American” (guessing the second one might have come from somewhere in Michigan).
Shoup’s discussion centered, as the name of his book indicates, on the real cost associated with free parking, particularly free street parking, and the benefits that communities can see by using performance based pricing for the parking. As nothing in life comes free, he argues that free parking is only free to us in our roll as drivers, but that we pay for it in all other aspects of our lives. This means that we are paying increased taxes to maintain parking, paying for the distorted urban form and degraded sense of place that comes along with auto-centric planning, paying for it through the increased burden the environment, paying for it through increased housing costs that are bundled with parking spaces, and paying for it through lowered redevelopment/reuse of older buildings due prohibitive parking requirements. To compact these many woes and to use parking as a positive generator for change, Shoup recommends three key reforms that he has seen work in communities across the country:
-1: use performance based pricing for street parking which will leave 1-2 or 85% of spots on all blocks available at all times
-2: return all revenue generated from parking in a community directly back to the community to increase public services
-3: reduce off street parking requirements in zoning
The use of performance-based pricing is possible now due to new technologies in the parking meter world, namely digital multi-space meters. The new meters can be adjusted to have different rates for different times of day, or for different lengths of stay on different days of the week. Because the meters are flexible in their set-up, city planning officials will be able to experiment and eventually hone in on “sweet spot” for pricing. This is not an immediate process and does require significant attention by planning officials, but it is a process that will pay huge dividends once completed. The “85% at all times” benchmark ensures that no matter when you come to park, you will be able to find a space and you will pay market value for that space. Managing parking in this manner insures that no time and energy (personal and petrol) are wasted cruising for spots and the fair market value price adjustments help to bring in more revenue during peak hours of usage — without overcharging during “off” periods. This approach can work for commercial streets which would be 100% metered and residential streets that would only require payment of the meter if the parked car did not have the appropriate zoned parking sticker.
Dr. Shoup found that initially many businesses were strongly resistant to a change from free street parking to metered street parking in front of their establishments. They thought that it would be bad for business and that they would reap no benefits. These feelings changed once the concept of keeping the money in the community for public services and improvements is introduced. One it is realized that benefits such as increased street cleaning, graffiti removal, alley improvements, overhead wire removal, plantings and street furniture in their immediate community could be achieved strictly through parking revenue, without an increase in taxes, business and community members became the biggest advocates.
In Old Pasadena, one of Shoup’s case studies, the institution of the meters and performance based parking rates raised $1.2 million dollars over the year for a 15-block area (roughly $80K in improvements and services PER BLOCK). Old Pasadena business owners even began to publicize the efforts through signs stating “Your Meter Money is Making a Difference” and listing out all the services that were being provided. Old Pasadena businesses have seen regeneration in business instead of a decline and life has been brought out to the streetscape.
The reduction in the code minimum parking will allow developers to build parking at a market dictated instead of code dictated rate. Removing the additional burden from developers will free up more money for design, streetscape improvements, etc. Additionally, Dr. Shoup states, it will allow for more adaptive reuse in old buildings that are currently restrained due to parking availability.
There are certainly areas that will be slow to adapt to these sort of ideas and changes to how we look at parking. The storage of automobiles will continue to trump the pedestrian experience for many communities, but this idea can have some foot-hold in more progressive cities and towns, particularly ones with good alternative forms of transportation and a walkable urban grid and scale. San Francisco is working to establish performance based parking around the city, and I believe that Washington, DC could benefit greatly from a similar policy. This is particularly true in mixed-use neighborhoods such as Adams Morgan, 14th/U St, and Dupont Circle where the neighborhood is amply served by public transit, parking as at a premium, and often residents are unable to find available spots on the residential streets due to people visiting the adjacent commercial establishments. Realizing this missed revenue stream can help to fund many of the streetscape improvement projects that are on the table waiting for funding and make the neighborhoods cleaner and safer places to live, work, and play.
Great lecture and another book to add to the reading list (hopefully on some BID and DDOT reading lists as well).
The above picture was taken in Adams Morgan with an Olympus XA2 35mm camera.
It’s the day before St. Patty’s Day… hopefully this photo gets you seeing and thinking green.
albus cavus (who we have written about before and is generaly awesome) is doing the painting of Eatonville, the yet to be opened restaurant on 14th St….
…Eatonville is owned by Andy Shallal of Busboys & Poets fame. B&P is named after Langston Hughes (the “busboy poet” from his time at the Wardman Park Hotel in the 1930′s). Eatonville is named after renouned author Zora Neale Hurston (Eatonville was the Florida city where she grew up). Hurston is a graduate of Howard University and is best known for “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”…
…various artists (w/the occasional little kid spray paint helper) are busy completing all of the artworks that will adorn Eatonville’s walls…
…artists are working in a variety of styles…using stencils w/hand detailing for what looks to be a Warholesque series,…
…some with ladders in precarious positions….
…HERE is a site about the events that they are hosting this weekend in the space (party on Friday and public viewing on Saturday). Check it out!