Project II: Mapping Commonplaces

Over the course of this semester, I have done extensive research on the Shaw/U Street neighborhood in Washington D.C.  I begun research on this area by visiting a location selected from Ruben Castaneda’s book S Street Rising.  The location I chose was The O Street Market, which was recently renovated into a Giant Supermarket. While visiting this site, I photographed it’s interior and exterior, and observed the surrounding area.  For my final project I created a presentation to illustrate my commonplace’s connection to the Shaw neighborhood.  I also created a google map to locate places connected to my commonplace.


Below are links to each part of my project

Interior Archives

Exterior Archives

Annotated Bibliography

Final Project: Mode 1

Final Project: Mode 2

Final Project: Analysis

Project II: Mapping Commonplaces Analysis

Through researching and visiting my site, I discovered strong racial and class tensions between members of the Shaw community.  As the Shaw neighborhood undergoes rapid development, older residents feel as if they have lost their voice. Looking through testimonies of residents, and scholarly articles, I discovered there has been a shift in the identity to the neighborhood to the dismay of its older residents.  What was once considered the center of African American culture in Washington D.C, Shaw has seen an influx of affluent white residents.  I discovered that all members in the community connected through the celebration and preservation of Shaw’s African American culture.

For my first mode, I looked at how my commonplace could be found at specific sites, and how these sites have evolved over time.  Through research and my own understanding of Shaw, I found that my commonplace is connecting through history.  I made a prezi as one of my modes to illustrate my commonplace as Shaw has evolved over time.  Through the use of pictures, videos and text, I created a loose timeline of events. As the presentation progresses, the viewer can see Shaw’s African American origins, urban decay, then the area’s revitalization.  Pictures found in my research are used to help the reader visualize these changes and the shift in Shaw’s identity. I also use quotes from residents in the area to express the attitude of different groups regarding these changes.  To represent my common place in this prezi I included examples of where my commonplace can be found in the neighborhood.

For my second mode, I made a google map.  I thought that a map would be helpful in representing my project because my commonplace relates to places in the built environment.  Each point on the map correlates directly to places mentioned in my prezi presentation.  


Because my commonplace is abstract, I thought it would be helpful for my audience to see a map of places where my commonplace is materialized in the built environment.  Both modes, follow three examples of where my commonplace is.

I identified The O Street Market (now City Market on O) as an example of where commonplace is used by the area’s new residents.  The O Street Market is considered a historic site in Shaw, and was a place for everyone in the community.  As part of the area’s redevelopment, the old O Street Market has been transformed into a Giant Supermarket catering to the area’s new population.  However, developers maintained the markets original historic structure connecting the old and the new.  I also used Carter G. Woodson’s home as an example of my commonplace through the lens of Shaw’s older residents.  Carter G. Woodson is an essential figure in Shaw’s history.  The National Park Service has been restoring his home into a place where residents can come to learn about African American history.  This historic site allows for older residents to teach newcomers about the history of the neighborhood, and engage with one another.  Another example I use is Howard Theater.  Howard Theater was considered the center for African American culture in its formation.  As the area is revitalized, the famous theater has been renovated and reopened.  The historic theater is now a place for all members of the community to come together and experience Shaw’s culture.


Through mapping these locations, I wanted my audience to see how divided groups can find common ground.  The African American population of Shaw is becoming increasingly marginalized in a place that was once their own.  In order to help bridge these two groups, I found that they can connect through preserving Shaw’s history.

A Glacier the Size of Manhattan


This is a link to a video I recently watched, where you can see a glacier the size of Manhattan break off and descend into the ocean.  The video is time lapse but this catastrophic event happened within the span of 75 minutes.  This relates to the class because as we talk about the built environment we should also consider the natural environment.  If we don’t start protecting our Earth we will have nothing to build off.

Shaw was once D.C.’s “Black Broadway.” Pictured here: newsboys and others in front of the Howard Theater, with Cab Calloway’s name on signs, c. 1936

This is a picture of Shaw near my site back when it was known to be “Black Broadway.” Government sponsored projects have drastically shifted the demographics of the Shaw neighborhood.



This is a mural painted near my site, showing the neighborhoods appreciation for its African American heritage.  Although the government has put funding towards development projects that have been known to displace African Americans in this area, they should also put funding towards projects like this so Shaw’s older residents know it is still their neighborhood.

Old Market

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 31: FILE, The exterior of the O Street Market at the intersection of 7th and O streets, NW in Washington, DC on August 31, 1978.
(Photo by Ken Feil/The Washington Post)

This is a picture taken of my site in 1978 before it’s renovation.  This was a time when my site was located in a center of crime and violence that the government turned a blind eye to.