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Graffiti-covered warehouses by RI Ave. Metro buffed

The day has finally come. The warehouses by the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station have been buffed clean, continuing for years the inevitable trend, slowly sweeping across the city from the Red Line to downtown; the disappearance of graffiti.

Warehouses by Rhode Island Ave. Metro station no longer covered with graffiti.
Photo by the author.

To most, the bellwether of neighborhood change in the city is and always will be, rightfully or wrongfully, ethnicity. Through my eyes, however, it's graffiti. I read the winds of demographic change by literally reading the writing on the walls that align the Metro's Red Line, or lack thereof.

Earlier this year, the long-standing "BORF" tag was buffed from the Takoma Metro station by the proprietor of Visions Lighting, Inc. Little as ten years ago graffiti dominated downtown buildings. No longer.

Reached by email, Roger Gastman, a former frequent of the Rhode Island Avenue warehouse rooftops and author of Free Agents: A History of Washington, DC Graffiti, wrote, "I don't really have much to say—it's just part of what happens to all graffiti spots!"

With the mixed-use development of adjacent Rhode Island Row a new day is dawning for the neighborhood. For many decade-long riders of the Red Line adjusting to the new sights will take some getting used to.

And that's a good thing no matter how you look at it.

Graffiti strewn warehouses by Rhode Island Metro Station (Red Line) in summer of 2010.

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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These buildings are still an eyesore but it's definitely an improvement. More importantly, any indications that they'll ever be sold?

by Brooklander on May 10, 2012 3:51 pm • linkreport

Great! That looked terrible.

by NE John on May 10, 2012 4:17 pm • linkreport

A huge bugbear of mine is when compound adjectives are mistakenly not hyphenated. It's especially important in headlines where which words are subjects and which are verbs are often not clear.

Here's the rule: If an adjective modifies another adjective, you hyphenate the two.

In this case, "graffiti covered" should be a hyphenate. Otherwise the headline reads like a pair of sentences: "Graffiti (subject) covered (verb) warehoused by RI Ave. (new sentence) Metro buffed." So, Metro was buffed by/when graffiti covered a warehouse near RI Ave?

It's kinda a pet peeve, but it also makes it really hard to understand sentences easily.

Sorry to pick on grammar, but it matters!

by MDE on May 10, 2012 4:21 pm • linkreport

Further proof.... OBAMA HATES BORF

At least we still have the yellow robots on the crosswalks in downtown

by BO on May 10, 2012 4:22 pm • linkreport

I just took a picture yesterday of graf on a MARC train at Union Station. Broadway style? I'm no expert; but it looked cool. It ain't dead yet.

by rdhd on May 10, 2012 4:26 pm • linkreport

It's kinda a pet peeve, but it also makes it really hard to understand sentences easily.

I think most people (if not all) know, w/a doubt, understand what John is saying.

by HogWash on May 10, 2012 4:44 pm • linkreport

Good riddance! It looked disgusting, a classic calling card of urban decay. Artistic, sanctioned murals, works on canvas, temporary community art installations (call box art, pandas, whatever) are fine, but really glad to see this stuff removed.

by MrTinDC on May 10, 2012 4:59 pm • linkreport

I dont' feel that is an improvement. I didn't ride the red line often, but I also looked forward to seeing the art when I did. Now there's just boring brick and concrete. The graffiti added a needed splash of color. It will be back though.

by Jeff on May 10, 2012 5:35 pm • linkreport

There's a bunch of really cool graffiti under 395 at the corner of Virginia ave SE and 2nd Street SE, just South of Garfield Park. Also, what used to be some sort of ad hoc skate park has recently turned into a pretty legit looking skate park. I'm not a huge fan of graffiti. I like artistic-looking stuff, but HATE HATE HATE tags and personally find the big blow-up balloon words to be pretty unoriginal.

by LeFabe on May 10, 2012 6:20 pm • linkreport

My third quarter FY12 spray paint budget didn't account for this.

by selxic on May 10, 2012 9:22 pm • linkreport

Agreed that graffiti is a classic sign of urban decay. I've actually got to give a lot of credit to the new DC 311 smartphone app for helping the graffiti problem in Shaw - I've reported a couple dozen tags, and they have all been dealt with quickly and completely (and by quickly, sometimes it's been as little as the next day). Give it a try - when you can take a pic of the problem, stuff gets dealt with quickly.

by shaw_guy on May 11, 2012 2:05 pm • linkreport

The author made an interesting connection between the removal of graffiti when neighborhood revitalization is happening. Graffiti is a sign of decline wherever it appears. When researching DEFACING AMERICA - The Rise of Graffiti Vandalism, I learned that the common existence of graffiti in a neighborhood devalues property by 15%. See more at Graffiti vandalism hurts communities.

by Julius Zsako on May 11, 2012 2:25 pm • linkreport

[I think most people (if not all) know, w/a doubt, understand what John is saying.

Maybe I'm in the minority but I agree with @MDE. I reread the title a couple of times and then deduced a meaning. I read it exactly like MDE describes; as two sentences.]

by Tina on May 11, 2012 2:47 pm • linkreport

Thanks, Tina. It's amazing how one small hyphen can save a lot of people's brains a lot of effort.

by MDE on May 15, 2012 10:25 am • linkreport

So, the buildings went from decorated (ie, representing urban life) to Soviet architecture. This will make it easier to gentrify and stop the urban decay. Of course, urban decay usually means corruption and lack of services/employment for the poor and often kicking the poor out, but I do understand, that if you believe poor people are ranked lower than property,this would be a positive sign. Cheers to the white power groups who think this is an awesome development.

by treyd on May 15, 2012 11:38 pm • linkreport

It's not just the graffiti removal, it's the removal of the "ghetto palms" (ailanthus trees). That's a clear sign that the building owners are thinking about how their buildings are perceived. The graffiti will come back, but if they work to keep the weeds down - that's honest change.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on May 23, 2012 11:19 am • linkreport

@ Geoffrey Hatchard

In truth perception should not matter what matters is the function and nothing else. That the problem with society looks over function.

by kk on May 25, 2012 1:23 pm • linkreport

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