Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Before There Was Harlem, There Was U Street

Ben's Chili Bowl anchors the famed center of African-American life in Washington, DC on a stretch of U Street NW from 7th St to 18th St NW. It survived the riots, the construction of Metro down the street, and continues to serve late into the night. Curiously, the owners, who are devout Muslims, don't eat their own product.The Lincoln Theater was once and again is a center of DC nightlife on U Street. Back in the day, the best Motown musicians performed here.Sadly, gentrification is coming to U Street, and while the crime is going down, the fun is going down along with it. An infamous incident occurred while I lived in DC; the developer's computer generated mock-up shown to the public contained only white people walking U Street out in front of the proposed building.Residential turned to commercial as the street became full of shoppers. I bought my leather coat at one of these stores nine years ago this spring.Read about the street in this prior approved Wikipedia article. The phrase people still use is, "Before there was Harlem, there was U Street." Artists and poets flocked to the street decades before the Harlem Renaissance.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Stupid Hedge, Kalorama Heights, Washington, DC

Seven years ago I complained to the District about this hedge blocking the right-of-way for the disabled, and still, nothing has been done.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Walsh Mansion, Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, DC

The Walsh Mansion, now the Embassy of Indonesia, is one of the most stunning grand houses in Washington, DC. Read about its history here. There is actually a mansion in St. Louis, near the corner of Kingshighway and Lindell, that looks very similar; see it here in my old post.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Heurich Mansion, Dupont Circle

The amazing Heurich House was the home of the brewing magnate Christian Heurich, who was the successful founder of the largest brewery in Washington, DC in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The Kennedy Center is now built on the remains of the brewery. However, the house survives, and much to my delight since leaving DC, has become an historic house museum again backed by a foundation.Brownstone, sculpted or rusticated, dominates the front elevation.The details of the rusticated, Romanesque Revival architecture is remarkably intact, if slightly eroded from the weather./The tower dominates the corner site, with a salamander, a traditional bane of fire, crowning the tip of its roof.The side elevation is less formal, with red brick instead of rusticated brownstone.The conservatory is actually more of an eclectic classical revival design. The interior features stunning woodwork and stucco work, and the formal rooms are in a Rococo Revival style, with intact ceiling paintings bedecked with flying putti.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dupont Circle: Blaine Mansion

Massachusetts Avenue, stretching out from Dupont Circle in Northwest, is filled with the Gilded Age mansions of the most eminent residents of Washington, DC in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries. The fountain in the center of Dupont Circle is still a gathering place for the neighborhood.The Blaine Mansion was the first mansion to go up on the Circle in the 1880's, supplanting nearby Logan Circle as the center of the city's wealthy residents. It is a cool building, and I apparently was so busy looking at it that I didn't notice that it was being converted into condos with a new addition.

The back, facing P Street NW, has a very cool early Twentieth century storefront addition, built when apparently the mansion was converted to a boarding house. I was very upset to see that a small hardware store, and the Third Day, the coolest little plant store had been gentrified out of existence. In their places was a generic, chain pizza restaurant. I'm not sure it was a chain, but it sure looked like it. I found myself wanting to scream at the patrons of the restaurant, asking them if they knew what great people's dream had been ruined by the exorbitant rents the new condo developers surely asked the small businesses that had been here for decades.

A Blog detailing the beauty of St. Louis architecture and the buildup of residue-or character-that accumulates over the course of time.