Communities are seldom stagnant or composed of a single element; instead, they are living, breathing, and ever changing reflections of the effort that we put into them. A grouping of office buildings will reflect the hard work poured out over their keyboards versus the aesthetic beauty of the parks where we spend precious hours of the time we have that is not owned by corporations. In some, often small, places, worlds and communities like this intersect and interweave with each other to create a knot of community so inextricably bound yet independent of each other we have no choice but to accept them as simply the oddity that they present.
There is an example of one of these oddities here in Washington D.C. just blocks from the White House. Thomas Circle houses a unique grouping of buildings at the intersection of Vermont Avenue, 14th, Massachusetts Avenue, and M, most notably the Westin, nee Vista, Hotel, National City Christian Church, Luther Place Memorial Church, and the striking statue of General Thomas himself. The things caught in this circle seem to stay; Luther Place Memorial Church was established in 1873, National City Christian Church was built in 1930, and the statue of General Thomas was erected in 1879. The Westin, which was only recently renovated in 1996 into its current incarnation, has a long way to catch up to its fellow neighbors.
This is not the only way in which the Westin sticks out from its aging counterparts. As discussed in this prezi, the Westin represents not an area of community, but rather an area of commerce. People travel to the Westin in order to stay and enjoy the sights and sounds of D.C., which to the tourist would all appear to be south of the hotel. There, of course, are the monuments and the ritzy restaurants and the acclaimed theatres. The real D.C. however, lives to the North, past that invisible line through Thomas Circle.
Considered the “gateway” to the popular neighborhoods of Logan Circle, Shaw, and U Street Corridor, north of Thomas Circle begins the areas where people of D.C. live and pursue their lives, not just their careers. This area is not as frequented by tourists unless they’re particularly searching for deals or were tipped to do so by someone with experience in the city. The nightlife, daily life, and real life all occur north of this transparent line, the real motor that keep the people who keep the Capitol running,1 resides here.
1 I understand and acknowledge the argument that the true motor of D.C. is the workforce across the Anacostia, my point is to highlight the difference in this specific area.
South of Thomas Circle is the D.C. of postcard material. The Washington Monument strikes up into the sky as the center point in the cross hairs of the Jefferson, the White House, the Capitol, and Lincoln Memorial. Here the cherry blossoms bloom to add appeal to the white marble below our feet. The townhouses line the street in strict progressions of monitored uniqueness. Things here are so clean it’s easy to forget that real people do exist here, not some fanciful Hollywood creation, but real people. They’ve made it so clean you can walk down the street and your eyes glaze over the people begging as simply a spot that the cleaners must’ve missed. Maybe they’ll catch it next time.
Thomas Circle is where these two spheres could begin to blend. The National City Christian Church has a history of pairing up with Luther Place to make organizations such as N Street Village, a nonprofit that works with single mothers, women living with HIV and AIDS, and terminally homeless women. This was started after Luther Place became a temporary homeless shelter during 1976, one of the coldest D.C. winters on record.
Where was the Westin in all of this? It wouldn’t be built for the next six years. In a place with so much history in service, community, and life the contrast between those who have, and those who have not is extreme. Why not let the Westin continue to be part of south D.C.? Because in its short life the Westin does have history. Even though they’ve been trying their best to erase their past; their past seems to be the only pertinent thing to our present. It is perfectly placed to embrace it’s past and start blurring that line between business and community. It takes a community to run a business, I think it’s high time for the business to give back to the community.
Here’s the secret of D.C. The real D.C. isn’t monuments or a corporate capital,
the real history of D.C. is not the graveyard of monuments that we’ve been taught to believe were specifically made to represent our history. The real history of D.C. is what’s happening and what’s happened in it’s very streets. Perhaps it’s initial point is not to enshrine our founding fathers as the rest of the U.S. may believe, maybe it’s to be a continuing homage to the history of America- a history that will always be under construction. The first time I went to the capitol building I noticed that there was little to no representation of women, Native Americans, or African Americans but are we not all a part of America as it is today? What if we challenged our perception of our nation’s Capital? What if when that capitol was designed it was designed to be able to change and represent the people that are living moving and changing it now? In a city made to display our history should it not display all of it? The real history of D.C. isn’t the statues, the history of D.C. is in its streets and its people- maybe they’re the ones we should start commemorating.
Wagner, James A. “Record Breaking Winter of 1976-77.” Taylor Francis Online. Weatherwise, 8 July 2010. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
“The Westin Washington, D.C. City Center.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Nov. 2016. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
“Thomas Circle.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Oct. 2016. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
“Major General George Henry Thomas.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Sept. 2016. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
“National City Christian Church.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 15 July 2016. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
“Luther Place Memorial Church.” Luther Place Memorial Church Our History Comments. Luther Place, 2011. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.