Archive for the ‘housing’ Category

Neighborhood Arts

At 410GoodBuddy an art show documents the changes in a Washington,D.C. neighborhood over 145 years.  Three artists who live in the Truxton Circle/East Shaw portion of the city have united to create a very good art show that features, maps and city plans, drawings and etchings, and a large installation piece.

Truxton Circle transitioned from a rural area with the first sets of housing developments in the beginning of the 1870s. Unlike the Italianate, Second Empire and Queen Anne mansions surrounding Logan Circle, developers built row houses for the working classes in this area west of North Capitol Street and south of Florida Avenue, the city’s northern boundary.


One historian, an architect and a non-profit executive spent some of their spare time investigating where they lived. Their differing ways of visualizing the changes made the show very strong. They gained help in putting the show on through one of the area’s civic associations: the Bates Area Civic Association.


The images feature maps of the neighborhood, drawings of current and former residents and the installation replicating the fountain that became a neighborhood landmark from the early 1900s through the 1940s. fountain

The opening drew a large crowd that enjoyed the variety of what they saw.


There will be more to come with two neighborhood celebrations on upcoming weekends and artist talks.


Scott Walker Gets It

Even if you care not one whit about sports, this is pricelessly ironic: anti-union Governor calls for return of union referees.

Hey Governor, maybe now you can see that union workers are the best at what they do!!!

Stop your fights with the teachers, policemen, firemen, ambulence EMTs and other government workers. Let people join together and bargain collectively. For God’s sake, let people earn a living that they can actually live off of instead of having to work two jobs and sacrifice in a variety of ways.

Unbuilt Architecture

The National Building Museum has an upcoming show called Unbuilt Washington. The exhibition will feature large and small-scale buildings of all kinds that were planned but never erected.

Imagine that you are traveling into Washington, D.C., from northern Virginia. As you approach the Potomac River, you see the tall, craggy, medieval-looking towers of the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial Bridge looming in the foreground, largely blocking the view of the National Mall beyond. As you reach the end of the bridge, now you can clearly see the enormous pyramid that was built to honor Abraham Lincoln. Going around to the side of the pyramid, you note the odd, pagoda-like structure dedicated to George Washington—a design that was executed after the original obelisk had stood unfinished for decades. Surrounding these monuments are informal paths that meander through dense woods, which help to filter the noise from the two elevated highways running along either side of the Mall. Barely visible in the distance is the Capitol, a dignified but modest structure that looks rather like a classroom building at a liberal arts college, topped by a tiny cupola.


John Russell Pope, Proposal for Lincoln Memorial, 1912. National Archives.
Among the buildings not constructed in the city were several stadiums.
An architectural plan shows a large stadium on what has been used as the polo grounds of West Potomac Park. Click on the link below:
Another is the memorial to Theodore Roosevelt at the east end of the Mall.And one for the veterans of World War II.
Finally, there were great plans for Olympic Stadiums in Washington and Baltimore during the early 2000s.

Unbuilt Washington reveals the Washington that could have been by presenting architectural and urban design projects that were proposed but, for widely varied reasons, never executed. Such projects often exercised a profound influence on what was built and may offer lessons that inform ongoing debates about the design and development of Washington and other cities. What were the motives, assumptions, and cultural trends underlying such proposals? Why were these designs never realized? What was their impact on projects that were completed?

The physical character of Washington, D.C., that we take for granted today is the unique result of countless decisions, debates, successes, failures, reconsiderations, missed opportunities, and lucky breaks. To tourists and residents alike, the city’s greatest landmarks may seem so appropriate, so correct—it is hard to imagine that they could have turned out completely differently. But nothing in the built environment of Washington (or in any other city, for that matter) is predestined.

Royalty and Castles

How many of you imagined your self as a prince or princess as a child?

I enjoyed reading biographies and watching documentaries on the European royal families. Recently saw the movie, The Young Victoria on the flight back from Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg where I took trips to see various castles and fortresses.

In Ghent we spent two hours touring the Castle of the Counts which dates back to the 1300s. You can see the first part of the building to be constructed, then how they built around that part and expanded to take over more land and build the structure higher.

The museum shows you how boldface the methods of maintaining power were for these dominant families with displays of the torture devices.

The most glamorous castle we saw was in Luxembourg. The area of Vianden was historically involved in wars from the battles among fiefdoms in the Middle ages through World War II.

The sight of the castle looming on top of the hill is impressive.

This is the storybook castle according to a friend.

The bedroom shows that the count believed in the benefit of sleeping upright like most people did in the era.

The view from up top is really amazing.

This was the castle owned by one of the families that became the royals in the Netherlands. King William II sold it in 1820 and the place fell into continual disrepair. Although Victor Hugo stayed there in the early 1870s.

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My partner and I grow vegetables, flowers and herbs in our postage stamp sized front yard and a strip of dirt we have in the back yard. Several other neighbors use pots of various sorts to grew a wide range of things to make Truxton Circle/Shaw nice and green.

The BeneLux vacation we finished last week offered a great chance to see a wide range of gardens. Since we started in Paris we took a short excursion to Versailles. Later we went to Namur to see the Jardin D’ Annevoire and we ended the trip with the tulip farms and tulip gardens of Keukenhof.

Versailles is the classic royal gardens. Half the time there is spent ooohing and aahing over the palaces and places like the Hall of Mirrors (see below)

Since we were there early in the year not many flowers were in bloom. We enjoyed a barer version of the gardens.
We enjoyed the classicism of its alleys, statuary and water displays.

The long, straight lines, guiding the eyes. The mythology of the Greeks and Romans brought to life.

Then there’s the sheer power and technological control of water.

A garden in the south central portion of Belgium has been around for nearly 300 years. It has aspects of the French classicism in it but also throws in English and Italian style gardens as well. Its technology creates multiple waterfalls but all using the water from the area in a natural manner.

The Jardin d’Annevoire had been held in two families for most of its existence and there is still a private section to the public parks. The chateau on site is charming.

The gardens feature both land and water alleys.

The English garden uses the piped in water from a lake on the far side of the hill to create a terraced waterfall.

Like Versailles, Annevoire uses statutes of mythological figures in central positions in water fountains.

Keukenhof is the idea of area flower farmers. It is open for spring and is flush with wild colors. The gardens are enormous and also contain glass arcades named after Dutch royalty. These arcades feature orchids or another single type of flower, medal winners, and also demonstrations and exhibitions.

The colors often appeared side by side.

As impressive as all these gardens were, sometimes the most amazing sight is seeing the plants growing. We spotted many a tulip farm in the area and reveled in the richness of the view.

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The Value of Local History

The Washington DC Studies Conference this weekend drew several hundred people to wide ranging talks on stories of the nation’s capital.

Pennsylvania Ave around 1905

The event took place in the city’s Charles Sumner School, one of the first public school buildings erected for the education of Washington’s black community.

Sumner Museum & Archives


Presenters ranged from professional historians and architects to long-time residents. Historian Kathryn Smith opened the conference with a discussion of the need to tell local and federal DC stories together. Histories about local people and activities empower residents and convince the citizens in other areas of the country and the world of the value of the place.

Social and community history capture the stories of people in their everyday lives and give us a rich and deep sense of place.

Conferees told of the Berry Farm community and the Underground Railroad little known places.

I learned about the prevalence of particular kinds of crimes in the 19th century and about plans of builders to establish communities with the style of houses they built near the city’s Soldiers Home in the 1910s.

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Hearst Davies Home in Santa Monica

One of the adulterous couples in my Hollywood Bohemians book.,0,793374.story

Well, the property, not the house, which is sadly long gone.

Website has images

The compound where magnate William Randolph Hearst lived in grand style with mistress Marion Davies is being reopened as the Annenberg Community Beach House. Oh, if only the sand and sea could talk.
By Martha Groves
April 19, 2009
With its stately colonnade and sweeping staircases, the three-story U-shaped beach mansion in Santa Monica exuded grandeur.

Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst lived there in grand style with his mistress, silent-film star Marion Davies, and in the 1920s and ’30s they entertained such bright lights as Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Cary Grant and Gloria Swanson.

On Saturday, where entertainment royalty cavorted during Hollywood’s Golden Age, commoners are expected to turn out in force for the opening of a new public beach facility featuring volleyball courts, rooms for community and private events, a playground and the same elaborately tiled swimming pool where Davies splashed with Charlie Chaplin.

Years in the planning, the Annenberg Community Beach House fulfills a dream to turn a historic but long-derelict property into a public showplace.

“I remember having great days as a girl at the beach when it was the Sand & Sea Club,” said Wallis Annenberg, the TV Guide heiress and philanthropist whose Annenberg Foundation provided $27.5 million of the nearly $35-million cost to build and furnish the attraction. “I’m delighted that families from all walks of life will be able to enjoy our beautiful coast and make their own fond memories.”

If only the sand and sea could talk.

In 1926, the married Hearst assembled 15 beach lots to create a compound for his beloved Davies, whom he had met 11 years earlier when she was a chorus girl on Broadway. With Hearst as cheerleader, she joined the Ziegfeld Follies and then began starring in silent movies.

In 1928, they moved into their Georgian Revival main house, designed by a Hollywood art director and production designer named William Flannery, at what is now 415 Pacific Coast Highway. It was the largest of the Gold Coast beach houses, with 18 Grecian columns stretching across the back. The interior featured huge Oriental rugs, Tiffany chandeliers, 37 fireplaces and separate bedroom suites, connected by a hidden door, for Davies and Hearst.

Four other houses were occupied by Davies’ family, long-term guests and more than 30 full-time servants. All told, the complex included 110 bedrooms and 55 bathrooms.

In 1945, after 17 years of memorable merrymaking, Davies became embroiled in a property tax dispute and sold the compound to investors for $600,000.

Hearst died in 1951 and Davies a decade later. By then, the property had gone through many iterations. At one point, a hotelier added three buildings. In April 1957, pieces of the main house — shingles, columns, interior fixtures — were put up for sale. Soon after, the house was demolished.

The state bought the land in 1959 and leased it to the city of Santa Monica, which in turn leased it to the private Sand & Sea Club (where Annenberg was a member) from 1960 to 1990.

During the 1994 Northridge earthquake, a brick chimney crashed through the roof of the northernmost house, known as the Guest House, the sole remaining structure from the Davies era.

Restoring the heavily damaged pool tiles and rehabilitating that mothballed house, national landmarks designed by famed architect Julia Morgan, were just two of the tasks facing Frederick Fisher & Partners, the Los Angeles architects.

“A strong idea came to me early on, to create a ghost of a mansion,” Fisher said. In front of the pool he placed a colonnade of 16 white concrete columns to stand in, as it were, for the house.

Behind them is the Pool House, with changing rooms, bathrooms and built-in cabana areas lined with wood stained in muted colors found in the pool tiles. On the second floor is a glass-enclosed event room (for yoga classes, among other activities) and an open terrace overlooking the pool. Next door is the Event House, with public meeting rooms and space for art exhibitions.

Midway along the existing boardwalk, a new walkway runs perpendicularly across the wide beach to near the water line. The Guest House, set within gardens and terraces, will offer interactive exhibits about Davies, Hearst and Hollywood, with a soundtrack of laughter and tinkling champagne glasses.

Fisher said the project was especially meaningful to him because he spent time at a community beach while growing up in Cleveland. When fire destroyed the wooden beach club, his father, an architect, designed the replacement.

At the public unveiling on Saturday, Cirque du Soleil performers will inaugurate the pool with a “First Splash.” Families will be invited to fly kites, take volleyball lessons and watch sand sculptors. No parking will be allowed that day at the site, but a free shuttle will carry visitors from the Santa Monica Civic Center. A bicycle valet and bike rentals will be available.

Once the facility opens for business next Sunday, access to the beach and most of the facility will be free. Beginning in May, a pool day pass will cost $10 for adults, $4 for children and $5 for visitors 65 or older. A family pass for two adults and two children will be $24.

Davies would have been delighted to see the property put to such use, said Kay Pattison, a Santa Monica Conservancy member who has volunteered as a docent at the beach house.

“We’re going to bring her out of the shadows,” Pattison said, “and put her back in the sunshine on the beach where she belongs.”

DC Development Collapses: Stimulus Project

The Poplar Point Development Project worth $2.5 billion dollars is shelved. Clark Construction pulled out of the project because of the economic circumstances that the US is in.

This project had designs to reinvigorate an area of DC that has suffered for years without businesses, restaurants, and other parts of what most Americans consider an appropriate life style.

The project also could have included a new stadium for one of the city’s successful sports franchises, the DC United Soccer team. The development would complement the new Nationals Stadium (professional baseball) and the new stores and businesses planned for that side of the River.

Howe about including this as part of the stimulus program–new jobs during construction and a range of housing and businesses in a part of the city that desperately needs both.

Hang ‘Em High

or at least get a portion of their earnings back.  Madoff and the others are criminals. Put them in the old Clint Eastwood westerns.

See this column today about the economy and the Wall Street financiers.

Can they be trusted to look out for the best interests of the people?

Congress needs to put a serious stick to the second stimulus package.

Empty Schools

There are many empty school buildings in Washington, DC as there are in urban areas across the nation. Most have not received the proper maintenance and updating over the last seventy-five to hundred years so they need lots of work.

Last year, the DC School system put several buildings on the block for development. In the Shaw area in Ward 5, we had three schools available for re-development. The neighborhood association met and submitted its list of top uses for these buildings. Then we heard nothing.

Meanwhile, the Post editorial board is noting that the school buildings are up again. They are advocating for their use as charter schools.  Interestingly, there were only a few people in the association interested in using these abandoned buildings for that use. Most of us wanted a recreation center, stores or restaurants, even housing of various income levels. Since the economic downtown, it is very unlikely that any developer can be found to convert these buildings for any of the uses that the neighborhood wants.

The City Council members wrote off the interests that the neighborhood submitted. They are waiting for responses to the RFP request for proposals and then want the chosen developers to go out to the neighborhood associations and solicitour opinions. Ie the developer comes to us and tells us what they are going to do with the building.