Greater Greater Washington

Vacancy at the Parkway Guest House abandominium

Perched atop a hill overlooking historic Anacostia, tucked behind a new condominium development is an abandominium from an era the city has left behind and this neighborhood is trying to forget.


A sign for new condos lays on the ground, the Parkway Guest House abandominium in the background.

From the 1960s until the last decade the Parkway Guest House was a gathering spot for drugs, prostitution and all forms of illegality. During the 1990s it essentially became "a cheap crack hotel," according to activist William Alston-El. "This was the place you could go to die if you wanted to. They had so much drugs up in here it was crazy."

According to tax records, Stanton View Development LLC purchased this abandominium (SSL 5807 0008) and the empty land around it in January 2012 for an even $1,000,000. A placard on the ground announces the coming of 46 new condos at River East at Anacostia Park and encourages folks to reserve their units. The website, however, advertises a less ambitious development that has yet to break ground. For now, this cracked-out abandominium abides, stuck between time awaiting its next guest or demolition.

A look inside the Parkway Guest House


No Vacancy at the Parkway Guest House. All photos by the author.

On a recent visit Alston-El and I found the building wide open. As we entered through the front door we found two handwritten notes to the left of the pay window.

One, bearing the date "5-8-97," reads, "Excessive smoke will set off smoke alarms. Anyone caught tampering with these devices will be banned from these premises. Fire dept. Detective The Manager!!" Beneath reads, "NO DRUGS POSSESSION OF DRUGS OR USE OF DRUGS ON OR IN THESE PREMISES IS PROHIBITED NO WARNING MGR." A concentrated layer of dust covers the yellow phone books on the counter. Alston-El picks up a "NO VACANCY" sign.

We move through the house makings odds on which we expect to find more of, drug paraphernalia or antiques. In a back room former guests have left their mark on the wood paneling.


Graffiti inside the Parkway Guest House.

"'Pootah Boo' from that South Side MOB MUGGIN HARD DRIKIN HENNESEY BUSTIN Off the Roof At My enemies Watch em bleed Till Im 6 feet DEEP" was here. So were "Frank & Rita '92" who proclaimed their love by drawing an arrow through a heart and two smiley faces.

Alston-El points to the floor at an empty green drug baggie. "Yep, that's crack. Yeah, this is still the place you can come and do your thing only now it's better, no room fare for an abondominium," he says with a laugh.

Out in the hall a mirror reflects the emptiness and darkness of this place as we move towards the back of the vacant building and past another reception area. The intercom next to the rear door emblazoned with "Parkway Guest House" in black trimmed gold-lettering stopped working years ago. We hit the stairs to rooms 6, 7, and 8.


Rooms 6, 7, and 8 of the Parkway Guest House abandominium.

Upstairs, a narrow hallway leads past three rooms. Much of the ceiling in each is now on the floor. Through the windows, sun refracts off the siding of the Grandview Estates, a 46-unit complex that opened nearly four years ago alongside hopes of local economic regeneration. Further down the hall in room 8, the roof has given in.


The roof of the Parkway Guest House is starting to collapse.

"You don't see this sort of craftsmanship anymore," Alston-El says as he unwinds an antique Ruby Red Glass Globe Exit sign from a light fixture above. Were you to follow the exit blindly, you would go out the door and fall to the ground below.


The upstairs exit of the Parkway Guest House leads to the ground below.

For Anacostia and the surrounding neighborhoods of Hillsdale, Barry Farm, and Ft. Stanton, the initial step towards sustained economic revitalization can be a doozy. The contrast of a new condominium complex filled with young professionals side-by-side with a vacant building equally accessible and dangerous to roving populations of the area's homeless, substance addicts, and prostitutes will continue to be the prevailing paradox east of the river, from Talbert Street SE to Brandywine Street SE, until greater public and private investment is joined by robust citizen activism and wherewithal.

The concentration of abandominiums from single family homes to apartment buildings to the Parkway Guest House presents a portfolio that with the right leadership, partnership and vision presents as much opportunity as challenge. Now that restaurateur Andy Shallal has announced his plans to open new franchises in Takoma and Brookland, it seems a logical location to begin expanding east of the river would be in an abandominium such as the Parkway Guest House.

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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

Comments

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Really appreciating the focus on the DC people don't always get to see. Keep up the good work.

by Phil on Apr 9, 2013 2:42 pm • linkreport

@Phil +1

I'm actually not familiar with this location, thought I knew everywhere EOTR. Where is code enforcement?

by H St LL on Apr 9, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

Probably not much that can be done other than taxing the hell out of owners that sit on blighted property. Not only does that generate revenue for the city, it tells investors that you can't just sit on nonproductive land and wait for it to appreciate.

by Alan B. on Apr 9, 2013 2:59 pm • linkreport

@H St LL - This is at the top of Talbert St., next to/behind (depends where you stand) the condos that are already there.

by SW,DC on Apr 9, 2013 2:59 pm • linkreport

It appears to be on a "pipestem" lot, behind the new development, so it's not really visible on Google Street View. Speaking of GSV, I see what looks like an abandoned construction project at the corner of Howard Rd and High St SE. There are single car garages with no curb cuts (one is right in front of a crosswalk, too). It screams "Stop Work Order", but I don't see any paperwork tacked up. Anyone know the story behind this?

by Frog on Apr 9, 2013 3:10 pm • linkreport

Yep, John does a pretty superb job w/these kind of findings. It's always good to know what's available.

But.....

For the life of me, I can not figure out where these "River East" communities are located. Apparently there's one near Anacostia Metro...but where? I can't imagine they're referring to Sheridan Station and CityHomes. I live near there and am totally confused trying to map these locations.

BTW, what's up w/these developers websites? All three leave a lot to be desired..floor plans and all.

by HogWash on Apr 9, 2013 3:36 pm • linkreport

I think you posted the wrong link for the development that is supposed to be coming. The one at Anacostia Metro looks like it: http://rivereast.com/anacostiametro/index.html. Supposed to be similar to what's already there.

by Anna Costia on Apr 9, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

I don't see my other comment, what can be done to get this "abandominium" out of my community. It's outside my window and I'm tired of looking at it. I'm particularly disturbed to learn it's still used for drugs. The only thing I've ever seen in there is the neighborhood cat. Any recommendations for getting this atrocity torn down? Thanks again for the look inside.

by Anna Costia on Apr 9, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

@AnnaCostia, exactly "where" is the development? I've tried to figure it out but can't...

by HogWash on Apr 9, 2013 4:21 pm • linkreport

I suppose you could report it as a blighted building to DCRA vacantbuildings@dc.gov. I doubt they are unaware. I'm actually curious whether or not they typically even respond to such reports. Probably more likely to get something done through your ANC?

by Alan B. on Apr 9, 2013 4:31 pm • linkreport

Hogwash, its really just a house behind the development. Hard to find. http://goo.gl/maps/XJAFe

by Alan B. on Apr 9, 2013 4:32 pm • linkreport

@Alan, oooohhhhh, that makes more sense now and I do know exactly where that is. I was thrown off by the other images...

Thanks dude!

by HogWash on Apr 9, 2013 4:50 pm • linkreport

@Alan B.

Wow, that street has a fabulous view.

http://goo.gl/maps/WtCGz

by Nick on Apr 9, 2013 4:51 pm • linkreport

In a perfect world, you'd tax the Hell out of such a property, then seize it when the taxes went unpaid. Of course, any such policy would meet with political opposition, as it would be portrayed as an attack on "less fortunate" DC residents.

by oboe on Apr 9, 2013 4:56 pm • linkreport

I saw this a few weeks back running up Morris (DC's best training hill :) ) and wondered what the deal was. Thanks for the info.

by Marty on Apr 9, 2013 5:30 pm • linkreport

Nice to see GGW cover something like this. It's a nice break from the constant transit advocacy.

Maybe some don't see it like I do, but crime and social issues are what make DC an unliveable city for many.

We like to pretend these issues don't exist.

We seem to be in denial over them way more than many other American cities are.

Particularly newcomers. Some seem to measure their hipness by how rough their neighborhood is.

Usually that attitude changes after the first mugging or other serious incident.

But I don't see that attitude in other American cities.

by Hillman on Apr 10, 2013 6:49 am • linkreport

@HogWash: RiverEast at Anacostia Metro may also be referring to the development they are planning between Mathews Memorial Terrace & St. E's East. That location is probably a bit closer to the Metro than the one by Grandview Estates.

Either way, the website leaves a lot to be desired and doesn't inspire much confidence in when these will be delivered or the quality of what will be delivered. I tried finding information on their completed projects (Ventura Woods, Gannt Acres, Sable Point, etc) to no avail. Has anyone heard of Stanton View Development and know anything about their track record?

by PG2SE on Apr 10, 2013 7:23 am • linkreport

@Frog I've been meaning to look into re: strange building at Howard Rd & High St SE. It is awful. Will try to follow up before someone else does. I heard at one time it was being used by contractors to store their equipment. Neighbors say an older house was knocked down to build the awfulness years ago and they haven't seen much activity at the new place since it went up. Everyone said it was awful. Last time I looked into it was last summer.

by John Muller on Apr 10, 2013 7:39 am • linkreport

Wow, that street has a fabulous view.

Only in DC is a view of nothing at all a "fabulous view." The cathedral looks OK through the haze I suppose.

by MLD on Apr 10, 2013 8:20 am • linkreport

Thanks for writing about this 'eye-sore' that is overdue for demolishment. It needs to go ASAP if not yesterday!

by Jala on Apr 10, 2013 8:47 am • linkreport

@MLD; "Only in DC is a view of nothing at all a "fabulous view." The cathedral looks OK through the haze I suppose."

City of Magnificent Distances.

by charlie on Apr 10, 2013 8:55 am • linkreport

After looking at Alan B.'s Google Maps link, I'm at a loss as to why the building is even still there. I doubt that its presence is an amenity that Stanton View Development is marketing to prospective condo buyers. Are they worried about environmental impact from demolition or something (like asbestos or some such)?

by iaom on Apr 10, 2013 9:29 am • linkreport

@MLD; I always thought that a view of the river, the Capitol, Washington Monument, and "cathedral through the haze" was a pretty decent view. I'll give you that "fabulous" may be a stretch but I don't see how one calls that a "view of nothing"

by SXSE on Apr 10, 2013 9:57 am • linkreport

you should also look at 2247 Shannon Pl Se. The back is just plywood. There's a stop work order up from a couple months ago but yesterday I saw someone come out the front door into the boarded-off front yard...don't know if it was the owner, a squatter, or what.

2245 was on sale a while back and I actually considered it--it's a nice flip with a rentable basement--but when I saw what was next door I didn't pursue it. Too easy to have the building collapse/be infested/get burned down. PIVS shows that 2247 has required a "wall test" since 2008. Interestingly, PIVS indicates both places have the same owner, some guy from Bowie. I can't find it on the OTR database so don't know how it's taxed.

by sbc on Apr 10, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

@Nick, I meant to say that everyone likely won't believe the view is fabulous since the last time John posted similar pictures...they were roundly criticized as being much ado about nothing. I see we have a repeat of sorts today. Trust me, if you lived at the top of that hill, no one who visited you would ever claim you have a mediocre view. I agree, the view is amazing....

@Hillman, GGW covers issues like this all the time..and not just those written by John.

Maybe some don't see it like I do, but crime and social issues are what make DC an unliveable city for many.

I'm sure a small number do see it that way. The rest of us believe that crime and social issues are what makes "parts" of DC unlivable for many. The population increase over the past few years makes that case quite clearly.

We seem to be in denial over them way more than many other American cities are.

I disagree w/this in full. BTW, in how many American cities have you lived?

by HogWash on Apr 10, 2013 12:40 pm • linkreport

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