The Georgetown Waterfront/Harbor is a very popular destination. In the summer, restaurant goers can eat outside and enjoy the massive fountain and patio in the middle. In the winter, people can still eat delicious, top-rated food inside and venture out to skate. The lights dance across the sky like stars, making it a magical place to enjoy a nice evening by the water. So many people come to enjoy the waterfront – college students, families, tourists, and dates. For such a crowded place, I’m surprised I’ve never witnessed a fight break out in the area. However, that’s just what Georgetownians are like: kind, genuine people.
In their book Black Georgetown Remembered: A History of Its Black Community from the Founding of “The Town of George in 1751 to the Present Day, Kathleen M. Lesko and Valerie Babb bring to light the African American influence on Georgetown, D.C. and how its past has influenced it today. Lesko and Babb compare the past with the present to show how racial populations have changed over time, and where they still show up today.
In the introduction, Lesko and Babb write about why they decided to write this book and the impact they hope it will have on the recorded history of the area. On page xxi, it’s written that “while the restoration of Georgetown has preserved its historic architecture, it did little to preserve the unique heritage of all its people, including the black community.” During the formation of Georgetown (and America, for that matter), slavery was present. This made it difficult for people to keep a written history of African Americans, therefore “this book is the result of people trusting one another – sharing their stories to preserve a common heritage” (xxi). Today, Georgetown is a very gentrified area. The vast majority of the population (besides the college and grad students) are white, upper-class families. However, in this book, authors Lesko and Babb give a voice to African American Georgetowners looking to share their stories.
Towards the end of the book, the reader can tell that it takes on more of a tone of resilience and resistance. The black families remaining in the area are ones who have been there since the very beginning, ones who have stood up to the relocation efforts of the 1960s. Lesko and Babb include two powerful quotes to conclude the book, both by African American residents. The first: “This is home. Even if my family is the last black family on the block, it is important to be here” (143). The second: “There’ll always be at least a good minority in Georgetown, and it won’t ever get to be all whites. The blacks will keep the houses they have, and we’ll keep our house and everything, and we will still be here. Because I feel special to have lived in Georgetown. I feel it’s a part of me” (143). Both quotes have an impact on readers, appealing to pathos. Overall, Lesko and Babb write an informative, effective book on the subject of Georgetown’s African American history.
Lesko, Kathleen Menzie, et al. Black Georgetown Remembered: A History of Its Black Community from the Founding of “The Town of George” in 1751 to the Present Day. Georgetown University Press, 2016, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt19x3h6j.
About failure, Samuel Beckett says that if you have tried and failed, it doesn’t matter. His advice is to try again, fail again, but learn from it. Fail, but be better. This matters not only because he’s a wise man and we should listen to whatever he has to say, but because everyone fails. To err is human, right? So this little mantra (“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”) can help anyone get by. The simplicity is beautiful; delicate enough for even the most dense person to understand, but precise and to the point. If it were written out more fully, for example “Have you tried at something and failed? It doesn’t matter. You should try again, and inevitably fail again. But learn from your mistakes and fail better,” then it wouldn’t have as much of an impact on readers. The pointed words and simplicity is what makes it so striking. If Beckett were to use question marks after the first two sentences, it could actually come off as more clear of a point, making it very clear he’s asking a question of the reader. If he were to include exclamation marks, it wouldn’t affect the meaning at all, just make it sound more positive and louder.
In A Portrait of Old George Town, author Grace Dunlop Ecker chronicles the history of Georgetown. Instead of telling the history through a factual lense, Ecker tells it as a story, incorporating moments of dialogue from Georgetown’s inhabitants. A Portrait paints a picture of the social history along with historic events that went down, as well as includes illustrations and photographs to take the reader on a journey from the eighteenth century up through the early 1930s.
Although the average reader may skip over the dedication and go right into the story, this one is important to note. The book is dedicated to members of Ecker’s family: her mother, father, and aunt. However, what’s important to note is the last few lines, “All three of whom lived long, useful and unselfish lives in Georgetown” (v). This is relevant to the topic of the book because although it doesn’t outright say it, it implies that the type of people who reside or lived in Georgetown are ‘useful and unselfish.’ They are good people, who aren’t lazy or greedy. They lived long, fruitful lives in Georgetown. By including this in her dedication, Ecker is painting a picture of the type of people who lived there, and why Georgetown is so great in her eyes.
Like in most books, Ecker also includes an epithet. It is the poem “George Town Ghosts” by William Tipton Tablott. It consists of three stanzas, each giving reason why Georgetown was so great. The first introduces the reader to “the ghosts of Georgetown,” who recall old Georgetown with pride and nostalgia. The twelfth line, “The Federal City was its guest,” shows that the new residents of Washington (when it was first established as the capital, or ‘federal city’) were fans of Georgetown. The city “Threw wide its doors, and entertained with wines and viands of the best” (vi).
The second stanza describes the ghosts themselves, making them lifelike through descriptions. In Rock Creek, “congenial ghosts” – belles and beaus in “powdered wigs and faultless hose” – met in assemblies and danced the night away to a “spectral minuet.” On the water, “merchant ghosts” watched the weather, wondering if the winds would work in their favor “to speed their ships about to sail” (vi).
The third and final stanza takes the reader back to modern times (which one can assume is around the 1930s), with the lines “Still in the shaded hillside streets/A trace of old-time welcome greets/The passer-by who has a flare/For scenes of old. No longer there.” It finishes on a low note, saying that Washington has overshadowed Georgetown, which now only lives in its shadow: “The Federal City having grown/Until their boundaries overlap;/So that, deleted from the map,/Though once the Federal City’s host,/Georgetown itself is now a ghost” (vi). The purpose for Ecker to include this poem as the epithet for A Portrait of Old George Town is to show the readers that Georgetown, although maybe not as important anymore, was once a great town full of lively and interesting people.
In her book Remembering Georgetown: A History of the Lost Port City, author Missy Loewe includes a review of A Portrait, saying “Few neighborhoods in America can rival the rich history of Georgetown, and few are more revered by their residents or more popular with tourists ‘lured hither by the quiet dignity of the old-time atmosphere,’ according to Grace Dunlop Ecker, whose firsthand memories have made such a vivid contribution to the written records of ‘this dear old town of my birth where my parents, my grandparents, great-grandparents, great-grandfathers and one great-great-grandfather lived, and which I love so dearly” (141). A Portrait is so important because, as stated above, it describes a first-hand account of the social history of Georgetown. Anyone could research and write a factual history, but it is uncommon to find such an enlightening account of real people who lived there.
A Portrait of Old George Town is broken into fifteen chapters, each after chapter five documenting a different area of the town. The first five chapters describe the beginnings and structuring of Georgetown, then the original built environments (schools, taverns, etc.), then General Washington’s visit to Georgetown. The book also includes over 40 different illustrations of houses, people, and landscapes. The images help to bring the people described to life, as well as paint a picture of what Georgetown really looked like back then. There is also a map of the town which includes all the old street names (mentioned in the book) and the modern street names, dated to the 1930s. The map is helpful to refer to when reading the text, especially when specific places are mentioned. Also, it is helpful to have the map when looking at the images because the reader then can place the buildings in context and see where and how they work together.
The audience Ecker is writing to is anyone interested in the history of Georgetown, especially those who are more interested in what it would have been like to live there. It is a slightly difficult read, if only because of the language used. It should be read as a historical text despite the casual nature of the dialogue and stories. There is also a need to remember the context of the time it was written. For example, on the first page of the forward, Ecker writes “In place of the dignified houses of yore, of real architectural beauty, stands rows of cheap dwellings or stores, erected mostly in the seventies and eighties when architecture was at its worst” (xi). Of course, a modern audience may first believe that Ecker is referring to the 1970s and 80s, but she’s actually referring to the 1870s and 80s. One knows this because the book was published in 1933, so the terrible fashion and design choices of the late 20th century hadn’t happened yet. This happens again later on the page when Ecker writes “Not only of the physical side do I wish to tell, but I want to paint a picture of the kind of people who lived here, from the beginning up through the gay nineties” (xi). Again, Ecker is not referring to the 1990s, but to the 1890s.
Ecker includes many different references in her book, including letters from generals and other townspeople, other books and historic texts, and gravestones and other plaques and markers. When reading, one can tell Ecker has done her research. She includes name after name of tobacco shippers, postmen, merchants, store owners, wives, business owners, children, doctors, and more, creating a full account of all people who were of any importance living in Georgetown. It is interesting to read of the deep connections the people had with Europe at the time because most of them still had strong familial connections overseas. Ecker talks of boats going back and forth carrying goods from Amsterdam, England, and Scotland. On page sixteen, Ecker even begins to list the names of specific ships that originated in Georgetown in addition to advertisements in The George Town Weekly Ledger for shiphands.
One of the more interesting sections of A Portrait of Old George Town is where Ecker is mulling over the original naming process of the streets. At the time of print and today, the streets running horizontally are named after letters in the alphabet. However, they originally had much more descriptive names. Ecker writes each thought she has, making the lists of street-names much more fun to read than if it was simply a list. For example, she writes “Just above Water Street, running west off High Street for a short distance was Cherry Lane (now Grace Street). What a pretty name! Then a fashionable residence, now a slum” (21). Ecker also writes a lot about Gay Street:
“But the street that intrigues me most is Gay. There were two of them for a while, the one that is now N, and another, way up near the college, which was renamed in honor of General Lingan, after his tragic death. Who was Gay Street named for? It wasn’t a local celebrity, for Baltimore also had a Gay Street, still has, way down in its old section. There was somebody the people of that generation admired and wished to commemorate. Could it possibly have been John Gay, the poet, who in 1734 in his ‘Beggar’s Opera’ had hit such blows at Robert Walpole, the Prime Minister of George II? These people were British subjects, you know, when these streets were named” (22).
Although these names mean little to nothing to the average casual reader, it is still very interesting to read about Ecker’s thought process while writing. It may look at first to be all over the place, but it really adds to the historical context she is trying to make. By hearing her thoughts, the reader can see what she’s thinking about while reading, and how she comes to certain conclusions about why she believes streets are named what they are.
On page 23, Ecker gives an account of many of the advertisements Georgetownians were writing. This is relevant to the topic because it shows what the townspeople were interested in and what was on the forefront of their minds. One reads “my wife, Mary McDonald, has left me without any just cause or impediment. She is about fifty years of age, lame in her right leg and snivels a little. It is supposed she went off with one Robert Joiner, an ill-looking fellow. If she returns to the arms of her disconsolate husband, she shall be received and no questions asked” (23). At first glance, one would believe this is an advertisement for a lost pet, not a lost wife!
When I visited Georgetown, I spent a lot of time pushing through crowds. It’s still a very popular destination, especially on a Saturday afternoon when the temperatures first hit 70˚ F. Although I had originally made plans to go ice skating on the Waterfront, my friends and I had to ditch that idea when we saw that most skaters were swimming. Instead, we walked around M Street and people-watched. When watching the people around me, I first tried to distinguish whether they were visitors to Georgetown like myself, or residents of the affluent community. The majority were well-dressed adults – on dates, running errands, being tourists, or showing their kids around. It was interesting for me to compare what I read in A Portrait about Georgetownians and my actual experience with them. A common stereotype is affluent, white, young families or college students. However, when I genuinely payed attention to the crowds outside PNC Bank, waiting to cross at Wisconsin and M, I noticed a wide variety of people. There were Indian men singing praises and handing out flyers for their religious group, adding to the mix of different languages already being spoken.
A Portrait of Old George Town is important to read today because it helps one to understand how Georgetown was formed socially and physically. Author Grace Ecker wrote it to be not only a history of Georgetown, but also a history of the people who inhabited it and how it has evolved over time. The book chronicles “their work, their play, their thoughts and their beliefs,” creating an accurate depiction of what life in Georgetown was like in the 19th century when Ecker was living there (xi). A modern reader can use this source to compare and contrast the current social context of Georgetown with Ecker’s depiction of historical Georgetown. How have the residents changed over the 200-plus years? By reading A Portrait, one can grasp how they have by comparing their own experience in modern Georgetown with Ecker’s account of the historical one.
Ecker, Grace Dunlop. A Portrait of Old George Town. Richmond, 1933.
Mould, David, and Missy Loewe. Remembering Georgetown: A History of the Lost Port City. Arcadia Publishing, 2009.
1. When Mary makes her famous chicken parmesan dinner, Jim likes to eat chili.
Because I started my sentence with ‘when,’ the first clause isn’t independent (it can’t stand alone). Next up, we have the first subject and verb – ‘Mary makes.’ The ‘when’ makes it so that the action of Mary making something leads to another thing happening; in this case, ‘Jim likes to eat chili.’ This phrase is allowed to stand alone because there’s no subordinate conjunction attached to it.
2. For Fleming, then, composition courses, which traditionally have asked students to write aggressive, opinionated arguments, should instead have students listen, learn, and respond. In other words, work to compromise to resolve issues rather than just end with a one-sided argument. In our projects, we are just adding to the public discourse by researching and responding rather than harshly arguing our own opinion.
3. That clip definitely made me think about why I don’t often raise my hand in class. It effectively appealed to pathos; when he started crying I almost teared up too. Personally, I thought about women specifically and how they are often looked over in conversations. When a young girl raises her hand in class, she’s seen as a know-it-all. When a young boy raises his hand, he’s simply seen as smart. There shouldn’t be a stigma in knowing the answer and wanting to share or get recognition in knowing it. I know it’s a real thing because I too have a hard time raising my hand in class because I don’t want to a. be humiliated if I’m wrong, b. be seen as too smart or a show off, or c. be seen as out of place, especially because I’m not usually one to talk aloud in class. I’m glad that this professor takes initiative in teaching his students to not back down and always raise their hands, always contribute to the discourse even if they may be wrong. No one should be afraid to voice their opinion, especially if they’re just answering a question asked of them in a classroom setting.
We often walk around without giving the things around us much thought. For instance, I walked right into a guy this morning because I was only paying attention to my phone. Despite this unfortunate occurrence, I didn’t learn much. Similarly, the same thing happened with a light post a few hours later. Nevertheless, I brushed off the second encounter without much thought. However, I did realize I need to pay more attention to my surroundings when walking through campus. As a result, by walking around oblivious to our surroundings, people aren’t able to notice the small things in life, let alone people or light posts. Thus, pedestrians should not only pay attention to their surroundings, but also things they may not have noticed any way. As this essay will detail, although many scholars of human interaction have addressed the idea that as society picks up pace, we spend less time paying attention to the broader world around us, these ideas have rarely been discussed in the context of specifically cell phones as a distraction.
The American University website is definitely targeting potential students. Specifically, it targets students who are more interested in their life past college than the college experience itself. A quick scroll down shows two statistics, showing off how many grads go to graduate school and participate in internships. It also includes a list of the top five employers of AU grads. I’d assume the authors of the website did this on purpose because AU wants highly motivated students. The rest of the topics vary from student testimonies to current social media posts. I believe that the website does a good job in attracting the types of potential students that the school is interested in.
Verbs are bolded, while subjects are italicized.
“The sun came up a baleful smear in the sky, not quite shapeless, in fact able to assume the appearance of a device immediately recognizable yet unnameable, so widely familiar that the inability to name it passed from simple frustration to a felt dread, whose intricacy deepened almost moment to moment . . . its name a word of power, not to be spoken aloud, not even to be remembered in silence.”
This sentence isn’t a comma splice because after the first phrase (“the sun came up a baleful smear in the sky”) none of the rest are able to stand alone. Therefor, they each just add to the first phrase like a list.
**I really enjoyed this commonplace. I look forward to other assignments like this in the future. I also enjoyed the second ‘highly suggested’ reading about time. I took a religion class while in Greece last summer that focused on the idea of chronos and kairos, so it’s definitely a topic I’m interested in.
United States Commission of Fine Arts. Georgetown Architecture; Northwest Washington: District of Columbia. no. 10, vol. 6, [U.S. Govt. Print. Off], 1970, Washington.
This source is a collection of documnts describing the architecture of Georgetown from 1967-1970. It includes fourteen different significant buildings to the area and describes their exteriors. It gives background saying that the reason most buildings are true to their original style is because in 1950, Georgetown was made a Historic District by an act of Congress, so each structural change in the area must be overseen and approved by the Commission of Fine Arts. There are also pictures that go along with some of the descriptions. The descriptions also bring up the history of each architectural style and design choice, saying that certain houses are more influenced by 18th century Europe. Also the documents show the progression from the 18th to the 19th century, and how different styles popped up in Washington over time.
I plan to use this source to compare certain current buildings with how they looked when they were originally surveyed for this document. It would also be interesting to try and find pictures of historic Georgetown to compare even earlier accounts of what the structures looked like. I would also like to see how the growth has progressed. This source only talks about the fourteen most significant buildings in 1970, so I would like to research what has changed since then.
Ecker, Grace Dunlop. A Portrait of Old George Town. 1933. Richmond.
This source is a non-fiction account of the history of the physical area and people of Georgetown from the first settlement in the 1600s to the early 1930s. The author, Grace Dunlop Ecker, wrote it to be not only a history of Georgetown, the city in which his family has lived for generations upon generations, but also a history of the people who inhabited it and how it has evolved over time. The book includes “their work, their play, their thoughts and their beliefs,” creating an accurate depiction of what life in Georgetown was like in the 19th century when Ecker was living there (xi). In other words, A Portrait of Old George Town describes what it was like to be a “real Georgetonian,” (xii).
With this source, I will compare and contrast the current social context of Georgetown with Ecker’s depiction of historical Georgetown. How have the people changed? Has the reputation of the town changed? And of course, how has the evolution and growth of the layout of the built environment changed the people, if it has had any effect at all?
On the corner of M St and Wisconsin lies PNC Bank, a beautiful old stone building. The most stand out feature is the golden dome. It reminds me of a church, mostly because the only other golden dome I’ve seen is at the Basilica at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. Next time I go back to Georgetown to research for my Built Environment paper, I definitely want to check out the inside of the bank. I would love to know the history surrounding it. Was it always a bank? Who designed it? Was it one of the first things built on M street, because the architecture is so different from the other buildings?
One of the things Georgetown is known for is its picturesque streets and architecture. The buildings line up perfectly so as to look like one long strip, however each is painted in a unique way so that each stands out and holds its own in line. What comes to my mind when looking at the colorful buildings and storefronts are European streets where each house is painted a different bright color. On a beautiful day like today, I would have loved to see more venders out and selling things on the street. Although this picture doesn’t show it very well, the blue sky provided a beautiful backdrop to the view.
Here’s a view of the historic M Street strip in Georgetown. On the left (with the golden dome) is PNC Bank. There’s an Urban Outfitters, various cafés and restaurants, and even a food truck. Georgetown is always a busy place; there’s pedestrians and cars everywhere. One of my favorite activities is people watching, and Georgetown is a great place to do it. The main demographic are tourists, so a person can catch a variety of languages being spoken. Because it’s a more affluent shopping area, most people walking around are dressed very well, aside from the occasional student running an errand or working out.