WHEN THE DISTRICT QUASI-LEGALLY SEIZED & DEMOLISHED AN ENTIRE QUADRANT OF THE CITY, BECAUSE…REASONS?

1937-southwest-dc-housing

Max Morris owned Frank’s Department Store at 712 Fourth Street SW, as well as the hardware store next door.  It was a few years after World War II; the economy was humming along, and the neighborhood was bustling.  So Morris was understandably puzzled when the government decided to use the then-untested law of “eminent domain” to take both of his properties, tear them down, and give them to a private developer for “redevelopment.”  Morris sued, lost, and appealed to the Supreme Court.  (When Morris died, his stepson, Samuel Berman, took up the case.)  Eventually, the Supreme Court upheld the city’s right to seize the two stores, a decision that, in just a few years, led to 99% of the buildings in Southwest being razed to the ground. WHEN THE DISTRICT QUASI-LEGALLY SEIZED & DEMOLISHED AN ENTIRE QUADRANT OF THE CITY, BECAUSE…REASONS?

LOOKING BACK AT DC’S MOST GENTRIFIED ZIP CODE

When a recent study found that 20001, right here in DC, was the second-most gentrified zip code in the entire nation, my first thought was, “they must have miscalculated, because no other zip code could be more gentrified.”  I should know – I was there for more or less the entire process.

I moved into 20001 in 2003. My girlfriend and I rented a bedroom in a two bedroom apartment on 6th Street from a recently divorced 29-year-old New England society type who’d spent the previous decade living on a school bus with her ex-husband. (The owner of the house, a retired World Bank employee, lived in Ethiopia.) After work – she was an office temp – she’d come home and write poetry at her desk, eating antidepressants out of assorted sample packs she got from her doctor. She told us the neighborhood was bad – she had two large dogs “for protection” – but really it just seemed deserted. There were nice cars parked on the street, Jettas and Volvos, but I never saw the owners. They stayed barricaded in their houses, day and night, waiting for their property values to increase. LOOKING BACK AT DC’S MOST GENTRIFIED ZIP CODE