Essay 2: Mapping Commonplaces

In Ruben Castaneda’s book, S Street Rising, he talks about the cocaine epidemic in all over Washington, DC. Some of the addresses mentioned were places to find drugs, prostitutes, and other extreme things. For my class project I decided to use the address of  7th and O street Northwest. This building located in that specific address was built in 1881 and it is one of the three 19th-century public market buildings still standing in the city because of its gothic revival details. It was used as a community market when a group of displaced vendors selected the land after Boss Shepherd demolished the original Northern Liberty Market in 1872. By having all of the public in that specific area the land area began to rise as the new market was being constructed making the are more interesting. Serving the community soundly from the time of its opening, it gradually fell into disrepair and it became the market in Northwest Washington was a symbol of urban decay and dysfunction. Apparently without major structural problems, the building was emptied of tenants. several months prior to construction in anticipation of its transformation into an upscale shopping center when the unthinkable happened.

The building is part of the Shaw community and because of the years past this building had been developed into a Giant supermarket, which is a huge change because this is a more complex market that was before in the area. What was before the O Street market a place, where city residents stopped to grab some wings for dinner turned the are into a more vitalized and common grounds for the residents. Like Fleming talks about in his book City of Rhetoric that the communities in Chicago have a commonplace where people with different interest and ideals have a safe place to get together and can interact. Like those commonplaces, Fleming found around Chicago I believe that they also exist in the District of Columbia specifically, in this location in the Shaw area. There might be many more in Shaw, but after visiting 7th and O Street and reading about the past I realized that this might be one.

For the resident of Shaw this place isn’t just where they might spend time grocery shopping, but a place where it is common grounds. There Martin Luther King Jr. protested and shootings occurred. I think this community might change because of social interest and real state increases and some of the residents are forced to leave, but deep down when everyone looks or thinks about the O Street market they will remember all the good and bad things that happened during their time there or even be nostalgic about what happened to a family member before.

Essentially, I would like to talk about the gentrification process and focus my project on that because many of the residents of Shaw have been forced out of their family homes because of the increase of the land and the new “hip” places opening around. When I arrived to the place I noticed that to one side of the building is the Kennedy Recreation Center, which has been part of the community for more than 30 years now and also a park. But to the other side of the building a “modern-type” building stands with many others. As I walked by both sides of the Giant building I could notice the difference between those two streets. Where in one side there were people that appeared to be part of a less socio-economic class than from the newly part. In this part of the street I could only see old stores or many rundown buildings, but crossing I saw a lot of advertisements for new studio apartments in the City Market at O complex. The difference is very distinguished, which isn’t a good thing because residents have been pushed away. I plan to see how these new stores that have opened are attracting a new set of people and forcing the old ones to leave.

I can’t believe how this place that was known as the crack home in the 90s in now known as safe place to live. Just because new restaurants, coffee shops, stores, and apartment homes opened up makes it safer? To further our understanding of the phenomenon of “gentrification” I will focus on  Shaw, a neighborhood in Washington, DC. Using Reuben Castaneda’s narrative from S-Street Rising I am able to understand the neighborhood’s economic downfalls from the crack epidemic. Many journalists have accredited Shaw’s revitalization to a simple term, gentrification. However, after my visit, I realized the flourishing phenomenon could not be narrowed down to one mere word. In fact, it is a complex concept requiring understanding because it is not just occurring in DC, it is occurring in every major city in the United States and in my final project I intend to exhibit key places that have made Shaw change in this specific area.




Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *