Greater Greater Washington

Posts by Kent Boese

Kent Boese posts items of historic interest primarily within the District. He's worked in libraries since 1994, both federal and law, and currently works on K Street. He lives in the Park View neighborhood, and is the force behind the blog Washington Kaleidoscope

Then and Now: Snow plows

Snow plows ca. 1925Snow Plows at RFK Stadium

Left: Ford Motor Company snow plow equipment ca. 1925 in front of the District Building. Photo from the Library of Congress. Right: DDOT snow plows in front of RFK stadium, November 5, 2010. Photo from the DDOTDC Flickr pool.

The image below, also from the DDOTDC flickr pool, shows a Caterpillar Loader used in snow removal efforts from February 9, 2010:

Snow Removal

Then and Now: New Hampshire and Rock Creek Church Rd.

3600 New Hampshire Avenue ca 19273600 New Hampshire Avenue 2010
The northwest corner of New Hampshire Avenue and Rock Creek Church Road, NW, ca. 1927 (left), and today (right). Historic image from the Historical Society of Washington, DC.

The houses located on the west side of New Hampshire Avenue from 3600 to 3612 were built by Joseph J. Moebs. Construction began in 1909. Upon purchasing the land from Ernest Steiger for $7,800, some speculated that Moebs would erect an apartment house instead of residences. This view shows the row from the southeast, at the intersection of New Hampshire and Rock Creek Church Road.

Lost Washington: Thompson's Dairy

Though one wouldn't know it by looking at Washington today, industry was once an integral part of the city's economy. The Thompson Dairy is one example of Washington's industrial past.

Thompson's Dairy ca. 1930. From "Book of Washington," 1930.

The dairy was founded in 1881 by John Thompson who had a dairy farm near Washington. Prior to 1881, Thompson would bring his milk to the city each day and find a distributor. When distributors were hard to find in 1881, he decided to become his own distributor and opened a business at Seventh and L Streets, NW.

Upon his death, his three sister's took over operation of the business which continued to grow and expand. By 1927, a new plant had been built taking up nearly the entire block bounded by 11th, 12th, U and V Streets, NW. At the time of its opening on November 7th, the plant handled 5,000 gallons of milk a day.

From Library of Congress collection.

The modern plant at 2012 11th Street, NW, consistently received numerous awards from the Health Department for the quality of their milk. To encourage the highest standards of milk production, the dairy offered incentives to dairy farmers to produce richer and cleaner milk. The dairy was described in 1930 as supporting a large fleet of motor trucks and horse-drawn delivery wagons to serve all sections of Washington and adjacent territories.

Over the years, the firm grew and expanded from 41 employees to 580 workers in 1965, making it one of the largest private firms in the Washington area. Dairy routes had also grown by 1965 to include 535 routes using a fleet of refrigerated trucks.

The Dairy closed in 1971 and the property was ultimately redeveloped.

Interior of Thompson's Dairy. Undated photo from Library of Congress.

Then and Now: Columbia Road @ Sherman Avenue

The historic image below dates to January 5, 1921, and shows the aftermath of a motor collision at Columbia Road and Sherman Avenue.

(Columbia Road at Sherman Avenue in 1921 and today)

The crash involved Battalion Fire Chief Timothy J. Donohue, who was injured, receiving a cracked jaw, several broken ribs and lacerations on his face, head and body. Donohue was 63 years of age at the time. He rallied and recovered from his injuries.

Donohue officially became Battalion Chief in 1916 after 32 years of service. By November 1, 1921, he had retired from fire duty.

Additional images below:

Historic images from Library of Congress

3577 Warder gets free curb cut despite policy, bad acts

There are days when I'm reminded that I live in the Wild, Wild West. Wednesday was one of those days as I received a phone call alerting me that 3577 Warder Street was getting a curb cut.

Yes, they had permits, and plans, and everything appears to be on the up-and-up. The existence of such documents in this case makes me scratch my head and wonder why developers are afforded permissions that the average resident is not.

The issue of a curb cut at this property was first brought before ANC 1A in September, 2009. At that time, their request was denied due to there being no room for a driveway on the property, the close proximity of a street light, and the loss of two public street parking spaces in the community.

Newly poured curb cut at 3577 Warder.

After waiting a few months, the builder next proceeded to raze the home that was originally on the site. Being a singe family wood-frame home, it was one of the earliest homes in Park View.

DDOT Public Space/Parking Permit

The destruction of the property was done without a raze permit, the subsequent work was halted due to lack of permits and inspections, and the announcement of the building clearly stated that parking would be available. Though the City was alerted, clearly no one cared. The voice of concerned neighbors and the ruling of the ANC 1A commissioners certainly don't seem to have been considered.

So now, after the developer has been denied his curb cut, inappropriately razed a building, and is in process of building new condos without community input, he's able to go to the city and claim economic hardship because his project lacks parking and this will make his property less valuable... and he get a permit.

What's worse, the permit clearly shows that the developer didn't have to pay a "public inconvenience fee" and DDOT waived the $11,122.21 deposit.

All I can say is WOW. I hope DDOT will waive the deposit of each and every Park View resident that needs to repair a stone wall or get any other type of permit from DDOT. Allowing this project to get a curb cut is a travesty and only encourages other developers to flout the law and build whatever they want.

Bruce-Monroe won't stay a park, might not be a school

As the Washington City Paper reported, DC released an RFP to redevelop the former Bruce-Monroe school site on July 26th. The RFP could lead to a new school on the site, but also opens up the possibility of other uses that fund school improvements off site.

The stated long-term goal of the property has been to build a new Bruce-Monroe school, yet significant obstacles—most notably money and the economic climate—have prevented this to date. The option of modernizing the historic Park View school, where Bruce-Monroe students currently attend, has met with significant resistance from some of the parents and teachers at the school.

Proposed site plan for Bruce-Monroe. Image from DMPED.

Recognizing that it could be five years before shovel hits dirt, city officials decided to develop an interim use for the property. Their initial approach was to spend $500,000 on an area parking lot. This idea also met with fierce community opposition, ultimately resulting in a commitment of $2M to create a community park.

The interim park is scheduled to open on July 29th, and already includes sod, some trees, two basketball courts, a tennis court, two tot-lots with playground equipment and a small parking lot. A building is to be built in the second phase of the project to support educational programs.

Interim park site plan. Image from DMPED.

The high price tag for the park led some to speculate that DC might keep it as a park permanently, but this RFP makes it clear the park isn't permanent. On the other hand, it's possible it won't become a school again, either.

Though the RFP clearly has the educational needs of the community as a priority, developers have the option to submit proposals that don't include a new school as well as ones that do. In the event that a winning proposal is focus primarily on the commercial aspect of the property, the RFP states that funds generated from the conveyance of the property to the developer would be used to "fund school improvement at the off-site Bruce Monroe Elementary School at Parkview."

This clearly brings the modernization of the Park View school back into the mix. This is significant since a renovated Park View has been rejected by approximately 30 to 40 of the parents of the 414 students who attended the school this year.

Its impossible to see which way this issue will go until proposals start to roll in. Its certainly possible that a new school will arise on the site of the old. Yet, each twist and turn seems to include an additional challenge for that vision.

Those interested in reading the full RFP, as well as the contents of the four appendices, can do so by going to the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development's Web site.

Then and Now: The Times-Herald building

The Washington Times/Washington Herald building in the 1920s (left) and today (right).
Historic image from the Library of Congress.

The Washington Times, later to become the Times-Herald, was first published March 18, 1884. It was started by Frank Lerch. The Times was eventually sold to Aurthur Brisbane, William Randolph Hearst's chief editorial writer, in May, 1910. The Washington Herald was started on October 8, 1906, as a morning newspaper. After a succession of owners it was sold to William Randolph Hearst on November 19, 1922. The historic image above likely dates to shortly after that time and shows the Times-Herald building at 1307 H Street, NW.

Both newspapers were purchased by Eleanor Patterson on February 1, 1939. Patterson owned the papers until her death July 24, 1948. The Washington Post purchased the papers in March 1954, and publication of the paper was moved to the plant at 1515 L Street, NW.

Then and Now: Minute Service Station No. 1

As the area north of Farragut Square transitioned away from its residential roots the area built up and changed quickly. The northwest corner of 17th and L Streets, NW, gives an indication of the speed of that change.

Filling Station 17th and L, NW17th and L, NW 2010

The historic image above shows the site in early 1922. The filling station under construction was designed by R.F. Beresford for the Washington Accessories Co. in 1921. In looking at the image, the Dome of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle is clearly visible.

As shown in the following photographs, by late 1922 the filling station was completed. In the final image taken sometime after 1925, L Street Garage, also by Beresford and built in 1923, occupies the site west of the filling station and the Mayflower Hotel obscures the view of the cathedral.

Historic images from Library of Congress.

Beautification coming to New Hampshire Avenue median

Petworth residents who walk along New Hampshire Avenue will have noticed that the medians on the blocks closet to the Metro station have recently been mulched. However, according to area resident Jeff Green, there are much more exciting plans in the works.

The medians on the 3900 block of New Hampshire Avenue (between Randolph and Shepherd) have finally gotten approval to move forward with plantings between the trees. Work is scheduled to commence on July 10.

The project was made possible due to a grant from the ANC 4C for the plant material. Tom Cater from Petworth-based Terra, Inc. will be donating the mulch.

Buckets and funnels are also available to anyone who is willing to adopt 2-3 trees and water them on New Hampshire Ave. during the summer months.

Depending upon future funding and community support, the long-term plan is to increase median beautification by about one to two blocks per spring/summer. Volunteers for either can get involved by sending an email to

Profile of planned plantings between median trees.

Plan view of plantings between trees, indicating yucca, Russian sage, creeping juniper, coreopsis, and sedum.

DMPED unveils new Bruce-Monroe interim use plan

Thanks to additional funding, DC's Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) has added a second basketball court, two tot lots, and more landscaping to the park that will temporarily fill the site of closed Bruce-Monroe Elementary School in Park View. There will also be a small parking lot due to zoning requirements.

Click to enlarge. See also this Site and Utilities Improvement Plan from DMPED.

When a revised design was presented to the community on March 31, 2010, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) only had $500,000 to work with and only truly proposed building a tennis court, basketball court, and installing a security fence around the property.

On May 26, 2010, Councilmember Jim Graham announced that an additional $1.5 Million had been secured for developing the site. At last night's Georgia Avenue Community Task Force meeting, DMPED project manager Andre Byers presented an updated plan that also dates to May 26.

The area along Columbia Road is already being prepared for the athletic courts.
In addition to the original tennis court and basketball court, as second basketball court has been added as well as two tot lots and a parking lot for visitors to the park. While DMPED's original proposal to make the entire site a parking lot was successfully defeated by well-organized neighbors, Byers stated that zoning required the parking spaces included on the plan, even if the site was being used on an interim basis.

Work on phase one is scheduled to be completed by mid- to late-July. The initial development will not include water or lighted courts. The only lighting that will be in place will be for security purposes.

An area will be reserved for a future urban garden, and the athletic courts have been relocated along Columbia Road to free up the northwest corner of the property for a farmers market. Due to zoning restrictions, only the property along Georgia Avenue can be used commercially. The remainder of the property is zoned R-4 residential.

The second phase will include water and lighting for the entire site. There will be no designated lighting for the athletic courts. Programming and permitting for the second phase will occur while the initial development is underway, and may even begin before the first phase is completed.

Finally, a building of some sort will be located at the center of the property to support educational programs and other community needs. Whether it is a trailer or permanent structure does not appear to be settled at this time. When pressed on how the $2 million was to be used, Byers responded that it was all allocated for construction, development and programming.

The current budget does not have specific line item allocations. Once completed, the site would be operated by the Department of Parks and Recreation, and maintenance costs would need to come from them.

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