Greater Greater Washington

Then & Now: Valley Place, a slice of 19th Century Anacostia

Valley Place SE stretches only two blocks in Anacostia, but the street maintains 5 houses (4 of which are occupied) that date back to Frederick Douglass' early morning walks through the neighborhood.


Valley Place SE in the late 1880s. Photo from the Historical Society of Washington.

According to diligent researcher and mapmaker Brian Kraft, the five houses in the above photo were built in 1885 by Henry A. Griswold, a prominent developer and President of the Anacostia & Potomac Railroad Company.


Valley Place SE today. Photo by the author.

This small, one-way street, despite being in the heart of Historic Anacostia, retains its bucolic charm. And just as they have for the last half-century, the resilient residents of Valley Place patiently wait for the neighborhood's renaissance to arrive.

John Muller is an associate librarian, journalist and historian. He has written two books, Frederick Douglass in Washington, DC, Mark Twain in Washington, DC, and also writes at Death and Life of Old Anacostia

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the resilient residents of Valley Place patiently wait for the neighborhood's renaissance to arrive.

Where exactly is this renaissance going to arrive from? Ward 8 leadership (Marion Barry) is afraid of outsiders.

by Scoot on Apr 23, 2012 2:02 pm • linkreport

Where exactly is this renaissance going to arrive from? Ward 8 leadership (Marion Barry) is afraid of outsiders.

I know it pains many of those who share your distorted view of W8 and the illogical connections of all things Barry. However, W8 is in the midst of its current "renaissance" thanks in no small part to the residents and those outside interested in its continued progression.

Did you attend the recent Lumen8 event in Anacostia? Oh nevermind, I'm sure you didn't. As that would mean actually not using Barry as a proxy for not traveling to W8. We've heard these tall tales before.

It's a wonder how all the development has occurred since Barry's time as the CM. Obviously, those vested interest weren't too turned off by Barry. I imagine this to only continue.

Go Anacostia!

by HogWash on Apr 23, 2012 3:55 pm • linkreport

Well, Go Ward Go!

by HogWash on Apr 23, 2012 3:55 pm • linkreport

Ward 8 that is

by HogWash on Apr 23, 2012 3:55 pm • linkreport

It's not Ward 8's progression that pains me, but rather, it pains me to see Barry working against the tide of progression in Ward 8 by being disparaging to outsiders, ethnic minorities, and people not perceived to be from "the ghetto". That's not my problem -- he didn't elect me and he doesn't represent me.

I can't speak for anyone else, but as a property owner and a tax payer in this city, I have a vested interest in Ward 8's progression and inclusion in the rest of the city. Yet the author's statement that residents are sitting and waiting to be saved by some sort of outside force of change is very curious.

by Scoot on Apr 23, 2012 6:50 pm • linkreport

@Scoot

People, just like neighborhoods, save themselves.

Arrive meaning happen -- which can and should occur "organically" from within. But in Anacostia, and other neighborhoods of Ward 8, it hasn't for decade after decade.

Not speaking for any area other than Anacostia but in speaking with folks who have been entrenched for years it's always something that's going to usher in change... the Defense Intelligence Agency, the green line, Metro's new HQ, St. Homeland Security, arts, etc. People hope something sticks.

I'm right with you change should arrive from within. Nothing curious about that.

by John Muller on Apr 23, 2012 7:08 pm • linkreport

it pains me to see Barry working against the tide of progression in Ward 8 by being disparaging to outsiders, ethnic minorities, and people not perceived to be from "the ghetto

The only "disparaging" thing I've heard were his comments about Asians and the piss poor job some of them do in running their businesses. So beyond that. You've lost me.

Yet the author's statement that residents are sitting and waiting to be saved by some sort of outside force of change is very curious.

But that means you don't really know anything much about what residents are doing to foster the change. This is where "education" must come into play. I got John's point and didn't think that he likened our "wanting to be saved" to Waiting for Godot. It simply made sense.

I don't know of people w/in any US depressed community who didn't look forward to the day something changed. The change always start from w/in and that's exactly what's happening in Anacostia. But the work would be treacherous w/o outside help.

The change is gradually occurring whether Barry is there or not. It's happening.

by HogWash on Apr 24, 2012 10:32 am • linkreport

But that means you don't really know anything much about what residents are doing to foster the change.

I actually do know what residents are doing to foster the change, which is one primary reason why the author's words jumped out to me... but perhaps it was just a matter of word choice. Remember, I'm not the enemy here, yet I seem to be treated as one. If you want people from other wards to come to Ward 8, please don't treat us as your enemy.

As for Barry, I don't wish to recount the various embarrassing comments that he has made (and then doubled down on) regarding Asians, "gentrifiers", gay people, virtually anyone perceived to not be "ghetto" enough to survive in Ward 8, and so forth. Those comments are out there for everyone to read (or ignore, as the case may be) at their leisure.

by Scoot on Apr 24, 2012 12:50 pm • linkreport

Remember, I'm not the enemy here, yet I seem to be treated as one.</

I don't think you've been treated as the enemy but nor have you presented yourself as a friend. I offer the notion that people from other wards shouldn't treat us as if we're the enemy.

As for Barry, I don't wish to recount the various embarrassing comments that he has made (and then doubled down on) regarding Asians, "gentrifiers", gay people, virtually anyone perceived to not be "ghetto" enough to survive in Ward 8, and so forth.

Not "ghetto" enough? I assume you're referring to some statement Barry made claiming that only "ghetto" people are welcome in W8. I've never heard such but I assume he must have.

I think those who are supposedly turned off by Barry's embarrassing comments already had little to no interest in W8.

by HogWash on Apr 24, 2012 3:27 pm • linkreport

I think those who are supposedly turned off by Barry's embarrassing comments already had little to no interest in W8.

I think that's a bit extreme. I have a great interest in Ward 8's success. The better Ward 8 does, and the more successful its residents, the healthier the city as a whole will be. That seems to be the trend as the ward sees an influx of middle-class residents. (Imagine if Ward 8 were a net revenue contributor rather than a major drain?)

And yet I also think Barry is an embarrassing raffish old grifter. The two are not mutually incompatible.

by oboe on Apr 24, 2012 3:45 pm • linkreport

I think that's a bit extreme.

I don't think it is. However I do believe the idea of refusing to "engage" in W8 because of Marion Barry is extreme and rather irrational.

And yet I also think Barry is an embarrassing raffish old grifter

Although he's not an embarrassment to me, I do agree that he's a raffish old grifter.

by HogWash on Apr 24, 2012 4:18 pm • linkreport

However I do believe the idea of refusing to "engage" in W8 because of Marion Barry is extreme and rather irrational.

Yes, that idea is extreme and irrational, which is probably why it doesn't have much basis in truth. You just said yourself that people who are turned off by Barry's comments already had little interest in Ward 8. So which is it? Are they predisposed to have no interest, or is Barry turning them off? I'm sure that taking offense to xenophobia, racism and homophobia is not incompatible with seeing the Ward thrive. It's even a bit strange that those who are self-styled as the biggest supporters of Ward 8's success are willing to tolerate, ignore, selectively forget, or even defend Barry's words and deeds.

by Scoot on Apr 24, 2012 4:39 pm • linkreport

@Scoot, I think you might want to revisit your initial post suggesting that the "renaissance" is not going to happen as long as Barry is "turning off" outsiders.

Now unless, Where exactly is this renaissance going to arrive from? Ward 8 leadership (Marion Barry) is afraid of outsiders. means something other than the success of the renaissance being dictated by Barry's presence...then your initial point was both extreme and irrational

by HogWash on Apr 24, 2012 4:55 pm • linkreport

I lived on Valley Place in the 30s & 40s. We weren't looking for change; things were fine! Yards were neat, people knew each other, there was no fear on the streets day or night. Even if these were depression days, there was a general feeling around of happiness.

by Bill Deckelman on Apr 29, 2012 4:37 pm • linkreport

My grandfather Elgar Clare Mead ran Mead's Modern Market on Nichols Ave. He lived on Valley Place but I do not know the address or how to find it. His wife was Alice A. Mead. My mother was Alice Theresa Mead Wilson. I lived in the house with them during WW2 while my dad, John J. Wilson, Sr. was in Europe. My parents were married at St. Theresa's.

by LORRAINE CHALKLEY on May 29, 2012 6:22 pm • linkreport

Bill, Did you know my grandparent's the Meads and their 7 children, my aunts and uncles? Also, my mother's best friend was Abby Hammock and she was alive until several years ago. She lived on Valley Place with her mother who passed away one Christmas Eve. She came to my mother's house to tell them that her mother had died. She was quite young at the time. Abby ultimate married my dad's best friend, John Meenehan.

by LORRAINE CHALKLEY on May 29, 2012 6:29 pm • linkreport

My grandparents, Lucy and Harry Knott lived on the corner of Valley Pl & High St from at least 1919 til the early 1960's. I lived on Maple View for my first 5 years. Anyone remember the Knotts? St Theresa's was also their church.
H Leo Knott Fuel Co. was my uncle's.

by Bev Davis on Aug 4, 2012 4:49 pm • linkreport

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