Washington D.C. represents arguably the most powerful city on the planet and under this filter has been undergoing some tremendous internal change. Transition has been an inherent characteristic in the nation’s capital over much of the past century. Although D.C. as a whole is growing into a new entity it is comprised of a collection of distinct neighborhoods. Like any major metropolitan area there are difficulties for each of these communities. For the section of northeast DuPont between 19th and 14th street, the change has been formative and intense. As seen in the map, this community only comprises a small space of the greater DuPont area, but has a rich cultural base. This foundation in has grown independently within the city. While the transition at some points have been forced, these citizens have forged ahead to create their own definition of Washingtonian culture. Entering the 20th Century was a different dialogue entirely for northeast DuPont compared to entering the 21st century. Over the course of a century however, these citizens have maintained one vital quality: INDIVIDULAITY.
The entrance to the early 1900’s can be seen as a milestone in the greater timeline of the history of northeast DuPont and the source of the individualist attitude. Historically the neighborhood that lies between 19th and 14th above the circle is predominantly black. During the late turn of the century many prominent African American citizens made their way to this city. Great names such as Frederick Douglas and Alain Locke were both at one time a resident of these same streets. Locke, who also served as a professor at local Howard University, is credited with the title of “Originator of the Harlem Renaissance.” His book The New Negro was the source of a dialogue which would later act as a catalyst for inception of the modern civil rights movement. However, with all this accomplishment came backlash from the individuals holding DC back from the city we know today.
Within these streets lined with renowned Wardman Row houses, were hate violent and racist hate crimes. Innocent people attacked only because of the color of their skin were at the worse end of one of the darkest times in the city’s history. While today we assume that police officers would work day and night to apprehend criminals if such an act would be committed today, but that was simply not the case less than 100 years ago. As in the case of John Schanks, a blatant murder in 1933, some wrongdoing does go unpunished. The white citizens that killed a resident of 1618 S Street, were never found by the police even with eyewitness accounts of the violence. This was unfortunate but indicative of the way city officials viewed this zone. A “pocket” in a much larger DuPont community. A structural separation of these citizens from the rest of the DuPont neighborhood.
The crack epidemic that took over DC in the 1990’s was vital to the way we see this area today. Sweeping drug raids that incarcerated dozens of individuals and “helped” the area also took those who made the space what it was. The community grew from what it had inside and then was taken out of the control of its residents. This time was in some ways equivalent to a cultural purge.
Much of the DMV area saw found these raids as a progressive reform to clean up an incorrectly perceived area. However, the neglect felt by citizens of the northeast corner of DuPont had a profound effect. While black excellence that was exuding outward, little was being done to help inversely beyond the drug problem. Aid instead came internally from its residents. Expanding businesses as well as a growing music scene turned the once overlooked space into a hub for modern DC culture. Venues like the Black Cat and more recently the U Street Music Hall have been hosting artists like Black Lips, who’s song “Can’t Hold On” can be found here, to retain the authenticity they have pride themselves on for so long. The incorporation of diversity has opened opportunity for small restaurants to make a name rather than being overshadowed by a chain store. The small corner of DuPont has the resolve to stay true to the values it has held in an effort for progress and does not seem to be changing any time soon. This neighborhood has thrived through adversity and simply because they now hold the approval of the city does not mean they haven’t been Washingtonians this whole time.
For the first “mode” I chose to create a time map which can be viewed using THIS LINK. With the location being as succinct as it is, many vital areas and events exist only footsteps from each other. In this way I can not only represent the scope of the historical context, but give an understanding to its physical size as a residence. The time map also provides a guide to see where the space is in the modern day and the opportunity to go find it for yourself. Experience is crucial to understanding this neighborhood and if I can provide you with a map, I suggest you provide the experience.
The second half of the multimodal map consists of a juxtaposition of the two entrance trolley pictures. Its often said that pictures are sometimes more powerful than words could ever be to explain them and I think this is precisely the case with the DuPont Streetcar System. The 1940’s were a powerful time for industry, but not all parts have seen success. In the case of the trolley system, the ability to reintegrate the space previously deemed a failure into the larger community as an artist space gives a feeling of reunion with the past. In this way you can truly see the continuation of the city from one century smoothly into the next.