Ray Kukulski moved to Georgetown as a young naval officer in 1967 with a few of his naval buddies and the group rented a house between M Street and the Potomac. After more than forty years of living in “lower Georgetown,” Ray has witnessed the massive changes that have occurred on the waterfront. When he arrived, the waterfront was mostly industrial: Geller’s lumber yard, the Flour Mill, Washington Gas and Light Company, and other offices littered the Potomac shores. Ray has since become a steady figure in the Georgetown community as a past president of CAG, ANC chairman, and a key spokesperson in the Georgetown Waterfront Park negotiations. In his interview with Beverly Jost, Ray goes into detail about the history of the Georgetown community and interjects anecdotal histories of specific buildings, people, and stores. His keen interest in historic building permits makes this interview a must-read to fully grasp the transformation of Georgetown as a working-class, industrial town into the family-friendly community it is today.
Beverly Yost: My name is Beverly Yost, and today is August 11, 2009, and we are at 1527 30th Street. And I am interviewing Ray Kukulski.
So, Ray, let’s begin and start at the beginning when you first moved to Georgetown.
Ray Kukulski: The beginning starts in 1967 when I moved into 1023 30th Street North West with three other guys as I was a young naval officer at the time. Georgetown was a different place then. Across the street from me which is now Jefferson Court was Geller’s Lumber Yard. Next door to me, which is now the Saudi Mission of Defense, was another part of Geller’s Lumber Yard, and the area south of K Street and to the east of 30th was just a big flat grassy area with a railroad siding that Geller’s used to load and unload lumber from the railroad cars that were brought in.
That railroad served not only the lumber yard but the cement plant which was on the site of the now Washington Harbor, cement and gravel plant, and then it ran up to service other buildings further along no longer standing, at the time I arrived. There were no parking meters. It was a pretty end of the era industrial place. Townhouses had been occupied previously, I found, by a lot of the local black guys who worked across the street at the lumber yard.
Genius, Leroy Mack, as I remember, would hear a voice on a loudspeaker all the time, and on Saturday morning at noon he’d hear the call of: bring all keys and all K papers into the office. Leroy Mack, genius, bring them in.
Beverly: Leroy Mack was an employee.
Ray: Yes, of the Geller’s Lumber Yard. He was one of the sub-foreman. The big white guy was named Mr. Ray Deaux.
Beverly: Mr. Ray Deaux.
Ray: Yeah, a French name. He was quite the character, but if you walked out of the house I lived in then, which is next door to where I currently live, there was a building, a small building, which was at the top floor of the lumber yard’s hardware store, and downstairs because the land sloped away it was actually grade level for the yard, was the office where all the paperwork was handled.
If you entered from the K Street side, 30th rose up and the level was flat. There was a building right at the K Street side, the north side of K Street, a two story wooden structure which ran all the way to Thomas Jefferson. It stored all the trim, millwork. So, if you wanted trim on a window, you went there and they showed you the various sizes.
The buildings next door to me were a paint shop and a mill shop where they did all the fine woodworking. The yard itself was basically just that. They stored large amounts of construction material and better building materials. Of course, things that were not weather resistant, insulation and sheet rock and specialties were stored inside that big building.
What is now The Foundry was just these all brick buildings which apparently was a foundry during the Civil War. I guess they made cannons. No, during the Civil War it was actually a veterinary hospital. There’s a picture I’ve seen of it. When I first arrived, it was a welding shop of Washington Gas & Light Company. WGL was the building at the northeast corner of 30th and the canal. That’s where the offices were.
Behind where the rest of the foundry building exists today was just an empty yard where they stored pipe and, maybe, a bone yard where they stored odds and ends of pipe. When somebody wanted a piece of pipe that looked like a certain drawing they’d reach out with a hack, cut it up and weld it and off you’d go.
The townhouses north of K were the same, and what is now the Latham Hotel was the gas station which faced M Street with the gas pumps coming down from M Street and the bays where the hotel is now… I remember Lady Bird Johnson gave an award because – it was actually in Time Magazine. They kind of invited old…. He got gussied up in the front of the parking bays, the brick arches would make great old Colonial.
Beverly: That’s interesting.
Ray: It was interesting. And where the bank is today, I believe it was an empty lot. Don Shannon told me it was the Union something Hotel that was torn down before I arrived.
So, those are the changes, the physical changes, that occurred. The townhouses have always been there. They were built in 1888 at the time with a building permit issued August 17, 1887 so I figured they were completed in the spring of ’88. The building permits for all nine costing a grand total of, ready, $7200 or $800 a piece to build. Metal roofs, of course, they had no electricity in those days, outhouse in the back with no indoor plumbing per se, there were probably sewers and water but not much difference.
And it was largely industrial, pretty much like Geller’s Lumber because the whole area was quite industrial. For example, the man who lived at the other end of the row, which was 1037, he said he bought his house in 1950 for $8000 as was, and that’s one house that’s still pretty much unchanged from its original trim and layout and such.
Next door to him was what is now the Venezuelan Embassy OAS was an empty concrete yard with a chain link fence around it. He indicated that it was, at the time he moved in in the 1950s, it was a storage lot for cranes, and they would park their cranes with the end of the boom over his roof, which always scared the hell out of him.
Behind him where James Place is today, which was also a concrete block between the rear of the townhouses facing 3rd and 29th and our townhouses. It was a coal and gravel yard. Our rear fence was the back of the U-shaped bins where they stored various grades of coal and gravel. They were approximately one foot thick posts with three inch thick boards so they could back a truck in there and dump the various materials.
Alex was his name, Stephen Alexander, indicated that there was a small structure directly behind his house and unfortunately, the Park Service would park their mules, when the mules urinated, so it was always a battle with the various tenants.
Later on, the crane company moved out, and Stollman Chevrolet stored its cars there. It was literally junk yard dogs because you’d walk by, the dogs would throw themselves at the fence barking at you. So, that was kind of what it was like in those days.
Beverly: So, Ray, what you’re saying is when you arrived Georgetown was still really an industrial waterfront.
Ray: South of them, that’s correct.
Beverly: South of them was industrial.
Ray: That’s right. There were a lot of warehouses, some still being used for arts places. As a matter of fact, actually, some of them are still going.
I remember several things. The rendering plant actually was in operation until probably the late ’70s. We had a block party when they left because if the wind blew the wrong way you’d get the smell. What they did is the carcasses of animals would be brought there and boiled down for fat. And where the paper mill is today there was a turret-like building because it was the Washington Flour Mill in operation at the time. There was a big sign painted on the silo which said: the objectionable odors you detect did not emanate from this facility because across the street you could smell the aroma when the wind blew the wrong way.
Beverly: So, tell me about the block party that was held when the rendering factory did leave?
Ray: Well, the neighbors got together and just celebrated because we’d lost that odor. It wasn’t that bad. You needed the west wind to blow down on us. In the summer time, of course, the wind is out of the south so we tended not to get it.
Beverly: Would you say you were one of the oldest residents living continuously on that block, as that block has changed, since 1967?
Ray: Walter Garage, next door, who was one of my housemates way back in the ’60s still lives there and, of course, Don Shannon. But, other than us, I’m not sure anyone else has lived here that long. Barbara Knowles is still alive, but she’s now in an assisted care facility. She lived at 1031. Bob Stryer whose office was at 1033. He rents, is alive but no longer… he never did live on the block. So, I guess I’m one of the oldest living people around here.
Beverly: Right. Tell us what was where Washington Harbor is now and the new waterfront park. Describe what that was like in 1967.
Ray: Starting from the canal moving east, between the canal… Well, Rock Creek, the canal as she empties into Rock Creek at the canal just north of this. Just south of M and north K. You had the open area with the railroad siding where the lumber was stored. Flat cars or box cars would come in, and the fork lifts would go up the ramp and load stuff.
To the right of 30th was the cement plant. Large silos where barges would be brought up from the river and there was sand and gravel, and they would use it to make the cement.
As a matter of fact, in Hurricane Andrew in ’72, a barge broke loose from there loaded with sand, gravel, or whatever, and the city had to close the 14th bridge because at rush hour there, there was concern if the barge hit the bridge the abutments would have been taken out of the bridge. But, luckily it went right through the center and caused no damage, at least to that bridge. Because Agnes was the highest flood – it was a 75-year flood, I’m told. We’ve been through several 50s since then, but that was the worst.
Beverly: Did you have water coming up Thirtieth Street?
Ray: It came up as far as the fire hydrant just north of K Street. Now remember, I said Geller’s was still there and since that was on a level equal to K Street, they flooded – probably a foot or more of water. They were going over there, kind of to decide how far it would have come. It would have still been below the level of my lower floor, but not by much.
Beverly: What was the C&O Canal like then?
Ray: It was in operation and, of course, after Agnes, it was closed for probably several years, because of all the washouts. It took a long time to get the money together to repair it.
And they had the barge, which was the Georgetowner… Because it was closed, it was so rotted – it was a wooden barge; they just cut it up and hauled it away. And then the later one they built, but this, the newer one, was the whole hull bottom was foam. They put foam in there, so, if it leaked, it couldn’t sink. [chuckles] It was like a big cork. And after a later flood, they hauled it up to Great Falls, because that area was still wet. It couldn’t be used. And they kept it up there and renamed it, I believe. And they built a later barge which is unsinkable. It won’t rot out, at least.
Beverly: When you say operational, was it operational for tourists?
Ray: Well, it was like it is today.
Beverly: It was the same as it is today. You had the…
Ray: Right. The barge trips were going in. And I’m told it’s the largest interpretive program in the National Park Services. I’ve never been on board. They have people in costume dancing, singing and telling stories of how life was. Many people don’t realize, but entire generations lived on board those. There are three little houses. Remember the barge really had no bow and no stern. When it got to the other end, it simply – there were two rudders. You go to the other end. Now that’s the bow and this is the stern and then go the other way.
But, the three houses: one was the cook’s shed, the galley; one was the living quarters; and the other one was where the mules were housed. The mules only walked three miles an hour. So, any toddler, I guess old enough to walk could lead the mules, because they could walk three miles an hour. That was pretty interesting.
What else about that? I remember you could rent the barge for an evening party and bring liquor on board. We had a nice party where we all dressed up as a Renoir boating party. And that was kind of fun. That was probably 30 years ago.
Ray: I don’t know if they do that anymore. Things change, of course. And the canal many times was just dry, because of the damage caused by the early storms. And it was pretty grungy in there. Once I was riding my bike and not paying attention, I fell right in the canal. I went home and took three showers I was so concerned. It was so grimy and long ride.
Beverly: Ray, let me ask you, was there some kind of urban renewal when the foundry was built and all these changes happened. Tell me just about how the changes began.
Ray: Well, the first building to go in was the Monticello – I think they still call it that – on Thomas Jefferson Street. CAG was not really paying a whole lot of attention in those days. Anything south of M, you know, it’s a different world and we really didn’t care too much about it. And some people, like Don Shannon decried the fact that we need to pay attention and that’s going to change. And as I understand it – I know for a fact we are in what was called waterfront zone.
All the area south of the rear of the property line of buildings facing that down to the river from Rock Creek probably the Key Bridge W zoning and it’s the waterfront, which means it’s a mixed use and of various heights. For example, our block is W-2, you can build to 60 feet, whereas Jefferson Court is 90 feet.
Now, you notice the foundry shops facing the canal. Inland Steel owned all that property and the story was that they were able, because of their clout, to get the W-3 zoning. They had planned on building a hotel from Canal all the way down to the river’s edge and those little shops would be the anchor, if you will, because all hotels need a little place for notions and papers and newspapers and that kind of stuff, but it never happened. Inland Steel sold the property.
And this is interesting. The building, Jefferson Court, which runs from the rear of the foundry heading south to the north side of K Street and from 30th at Thomas Jefferson, designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, was built by Trammel Crowe, but the recordation tax on the sale of that piece of property was quite expensive. I have an article about this at home. What they did is they actually bought a piece of property in Springfield for Geller’s Lumber Yard, built in a lumber yard, and did a land swap to avoid the tax. Pretty fakey.
Ray: And built that building actually in ’70… Probably it was in early ’70… I’d have to think about the date, the building next door to me burned to the ground. I was away for the weekend and I came home really tired and I asked my next-door neighbor, “What happened?” And he said, “Well, we had a little fire.” I went to sleep, woke up four hours later and said, “My God.”
Because James Place now behind us, was an empty lot. The Fire Department apparently brought a fire truck up and parked it behind our houses. Put another one on 30th Street and because there’s a passageway there, used hoses to form a wall of water and laid water on the relatively flat roofs of our townhouses. So, the building burned down to the ground without really damaging our houses at all. Other than eight or ten inches of water on the lower floor which had the great advantage of never had a roach afterwards.
Ray: They just disappeared! I don’t know where they went, but didn’t really care…
Beverly: That’s funny.
Ray: … after that.
Beverly: Well, I kind of want to switch now just to ask you a little bit about the end of the ’60s. You essentially were in the Vietnam Era. What was that personality like in Georgetown? The Vietnam protests? The era of the hippies? What was that all about?
Ray: Well, I was in the Navy then. I had just come back from a tour aboard a destroyer out of San Diego.
Well, the Bayou was, back in those days, kind of a different place. It was always a place for activities, but later on it became, well big venue club more known places. Of course, it was torn down, they built the incinerator complex. At the time, the Cellar Door was still up on M and 34th which became the Philadelphia Cheese Factory later on. I’m told now it’s gone out of business. The Guards was in business at that time, I guess. It was called something else before that. They owned a similar place on 29th west side… I remember going to there, too. This was all 35 some years ago, so you kind of forget.
But, I was told that during World War II, The Guards was the finest whorehouse in Georgetown. The restroom was so ornate, if things were slow, the bartender would take women into the men’s room and back and forth to see all the fancy fixtures and such. Upstairs there were rooms which are now apartments. I’m told they’re all about the same size, oddly enough, because those were the rooms for the girls, you know.
Ray: So that was… Remember, during the War, Georgetown and D.C. was a very sleepy place. And Georgetown didn’t start to gentrify until afterward. And the reason it became gentrified is a lot of people came to be government workers. And they realized there were some beautiful old homes here in a transitional neighborhood that they could get for really low prices. And they bought them, fixed them up.
And, of course, that generation is pretty much dying off or has died off. So, you start to see the younger people moving in with children, which was unusual back in those days. Of course the kids were all grown up by the time I moved in. There were very few toddlers north of M Street in those days, but now you see a lot of them.
Beverly: Quite a few.
Ray: So Georgetown has changed. Especially the waterfront has changed incredibly, more so than any other part of Georgetown, I’d say. Physically, both physically and commercially, because it has gone from industrial to office. It’s really more of an office use. And, of course, you’ve got the mixed use complex on Washington Harbor which has entertainment, too.
Beverly: You were around obviously when Washington Harbor was built.
Ray: I was the ANC…
Beverly: Wasn’t that a controversy?
Ray: Yes, I was the ANC Chairman then and we were opposed to it, because the idea – we always wanted a full park down there. But, the City felt the income would be necessary and, as you know, our department was well-connected. That was how they finally got around what you could do. I remember testifying against it, because I’m an old sailor, and he had shown a little model with a sailboat inside of a little bridge. There was no way in hell you were getting a sailboat in there. I said, “Come on guys! That’s not going to work at all.”
Beverly: Did they have to get a variance to get that project…?
Ray: They actually did. They got the Mayor’s agent to approve it, because the Mayor’s agent was a woman who worked, of course, for Marion Barry. Her job depended on Marion, so she… The only way to get that approved was if it was considered in the economic interest in some way. And she so certified and they got the building permit.
That’s not the first design. The first designer, Arthur Cotton Moore, likened it to a beached whale, because it was such a massive structure. This one we used to call Disneyland on the Potomac, because of its fanciful design. But, Arthur Cotton Moore felt that it reflected all the various features of Georgetown – turrets and water and whatever. So…
Beverly: Do you remember around what year it was built?
Ray: Probably around ’80, in early 80s because the buildings went in order. Jefferson Court across from me was second, then the building next door was built, which is now the Saudi Ministry of Defense. Behind it is a hotel, the Georgetown Suites, and then Jefferson Court came after that. So, it was surrounded by construction almost as I moved in. And, of course, it was the era of huge amount of construction going on in the whole city.
You couldn’t get through to work and things were done pretty fast, so all these buildings had to go through major maintenance: tuckpointing, new roofs. A lot of the problems that were built into the buildings, so to speak, were discovered. For example, along Jefferson Court they have 78 units and 78 air conditioners, air conditioning condensers which are set right on the roof. So, they went on the roof and said, “Oh, my God,” and they set all those things loose. They should’ve put out steel beams above the roof. That wasn’t done.
It was actually the construction company or the building – the builder was the same crew who built Watergate. It was the – or the Vatican. [laughs] It was the Vatican holding company. You may remember that?
Beverly: I do. I do remember that. When you were on the ANC in the 1980s, how long had the ANC been around?
Ray: Well, it was ’74, wasn’t it? So not much. See, I got in in ’80. The doctor pursued me, he got me involved in all the city stuff. He convinced me I should run for office. And there’s a funny story I like to tell. Remember my name is Kukulski and I was running for the ANCs of in ’79, I guess. This nice Watski guy said to me, “Ray, with a name like yours, you’ll never make it in Georgetown politics.”
And, of course, I probably won’t get to be the Chair, so [laughs]. Georgetown has changed a lot because those were the attitudes. People were pretty waspy. That’s why CAG closed for the summer. Everyone went off to New England.
Ray: [laughs] We still maintain close enough for the summer, which is always thought odd because that’s when all the activity comes. You have to fight all the developers and all the construction going on in the summertime.
Beverly: Right. Any other controversies when you were on the ANC in 1980 to ’82?
Ray: Well, of course, the traffic. We had a lot of controversies about all those buildings because we contended there was – of course, the traffic and parking was the issue. Will there be adequate parking, the answer is “No” because there was a change in zoning.
Well, it was in the W Zoning I believe that we put in what we would – what some would consider inadequate parking for the use. The theory was if you had inadequate parking people would have to take mass transit. This is not New York is the problem, so things haven’t worked out well at all.
But, oddly enough, the vast majority, 90-some-percent of the legal off-street parking in Georgetown is south of it. There’s only a couple places north of it. And, of course, because of the Whitehurst, you really can’t get to it. That’s always been an issue for me.
Beverly: Well, now that you’ve mentioned the Whitehurst. Was the Whitehurst Freeway there when you arrived in 1967?
Ray: It was built in 1947. See, one reason it was built – people tend to forget about this and I tend to forget it too – it occurred to me while writing the paper. Remember the railroad is set right down the center of K Street and it came all the way to almost to the creek because it had a spur off the feed.
Now, on the GSA heating plat, the west heating plat, so it brought in coal and took ash out and brought the lumber in for the lumberyard. And I remember coming west on K Street. You cross the home bridge over Rock Creek. You see this big, bright light coming at you. It was a diesel engine with these massive headlights. And that thing would sit there, so one reason for the Whitehurst was to get people out of the conflict with the train which ran right in the middle of the street.
Ray: And the main sense when this is an industrial area, to me it makes no longer any sense at all because what it does is it prevents the connection in Georgetown of K Street to Canal Road. So, all traffic is forced onto M Street rather than being able to use K Street where all the facilities are. See, now it’s a destination for people. In the 50s, it was a place people didn’t want to go to because it was commercial. You had trucks backing in and out and you had all this activity going on. Not an easy type to get through during rush hour. Nobody wanted to go to it anyway on the weekends.
Now people want to go to Georgetown on the weekends and evenings. I always tell people, “Stand on the corner of Wisconsin there in front of the old Riggs Bank,” and we’ll let them know which bank. And look at the wall-to-wall traffic in front of you on M Street on Saturdays and Sundays. And look at the winters, there’s nobody on them or as if you could connect and is easy to do at a ramp from the existing centerline of Key Bridge down to 34th Street, you would get right down to all those parking facilities. That’s where people want to go.
And, of course, the big hue and cry was, “Well, if you take the Whitehurst out, where will the traffic go?” The answer is: it will go where it goes today. Where else can it go? It can’t go in the river. And people have already learned they don’t go through the Georgetown area to speak of. It takes too long to get there. You have to come back anyway because of Glover Archibald. So, it’ll go there.
But, the point is: during rush hour, it will make zero difference. If you think about it, it’s backed up today, almost all the way to Foggy Bottom during evening rush hour. Because the traffic light at the other end absolutely controls. If it were 20 lanes wide, you still would get no more cars through that traffic light, about 2000 an hour. So, up, down makes no difference in rush hour. You could do great things on east end, not much in the west end, because there’s simply no place to do anything. It’s so constricted.
But, evenings and weekends, you’d be able to get people in the middle of day, too, right down to those garages. You wouldn’t have those massive traffic jams. You’d have two streets through Georgetown to balance the traffic. And I tell people, “If you and I were in two cars on Canal Road entering Georgetown at 4:00 on a Saturday afternoon, and that ramp were there, I would go down that ramp, I’d be parked, and have my second drink at Clyde’s before you even got into Georgetown. And then you’d still have to find a parking place.”
Because you ask people, “Where are you going when you go into Georgetown?” They give you the name of a place, like Clyde’s or the bank. No, you’re not. You’re going to a parking place. Until you park, you’re nowhere. And, where’s all the parking? Along K Street. So, what do people do? They go into a residential area and they cruise around and cause more traffic. But…
Beverly: But in the past, they actually spent quite a lot of money improving the Whitehurst Freeway.
Ray: They had to rebuild it. It was falling down. See, bridges only last about 20 to 25 years.
Ray: I remember, because I testified at the NCPC hearing when the city went five to four not to object – because the D.C. government voted en block a block rather and they all went for it. They did what they Mayor told them to. So, there it is.
Beverly: So that issue is still ongoing or is it a dead issue?
Ray: Well, it’s a dead issue for the moment, but eventually it’s going to fall down. You can only keep a bridge together so long. Now that the park is there, it makes so much more sense to not have it.
You know, it’s just the people at Foggy Bottom were so concerned that if the Whitehurst came down, it would allow development in the Rock Creek Valley. The people from the Palisades were absolutely convinced that without it they would never get downtown.
So, what’s the issue? Well, you know, we would never get to our doctor downtown. We would never get to the Kennedy Center.” How many times a week – day do they do that? Actually, the time shown is like one point minute thirty-seven seconds it would take you longer. So, in the meantime, because you want to save a minute thirty-seven seconds, thousands of people every Saturday and Sunday have to sit in that massive traffic jam.
You know, people want what they want and nobody wants change. That’s the problem.
Beverly: Right. Well, why don’t we talk about-you were involved with the waterfront park – and I know that took many years.
Ray: I was not that heavily involved with the park that exists per se. That was Barbara Downs and others that did a good job. When you’re President of CAG as I was, there’s only so many things you can get involved in. And I got involved in city-wide issues, like parking and traffic, street lighting and those things that I thought were important.
But, the park took a long time. There were a lot of battles about the design. It goes back – for example, the Park Service was loath to take it over right away, because they would have to take it with all the leases that were there.
And you remember the Williamsburg Yacht? Dick McCooey, who then owned 1789 and F. Scott’s, had the rights to purchase the old Presidential Yacht, the Williamsburg. And his plan – and he got approved by the city – was to moor it just downstream of Key Bridge, put a parking lot on where the park is now. And it would have to build, per the Corp of Engineers, a breakwater, because the Corps was concern if ice came down the river, it would tear the boat away and cause some damage downstream, like hit a bridge. And finally, it got killed, because the Corp would not approve building that a breakwater.
But, the lease maintained and the parking lot maintained. So, if the Park Service was going to pick up the property, he would have to get this parking lot which they sure didn’t want in the middle of their park. And then DDOT decided that they would like to keep the land as staging when they redid the Whitehurst. And only after all that got done, I guess the lease ran out. It was just killed. They were able to pick it up and make a park out of it.
And the other battle, not the least of which is still ongoing I understand, about the boat houses. Because one of the issues is: it’s park land for everyone and to have a boat house which would be for the sole and exclusive use of one group, like, Georgetown University, for example, would not be consistent with the law. Because you know, Fletcher’s boathouse is, Thompson’s boathouse, anybody can use it, there’s a long waiting line but there’s no restriction on who can use it – it’s anyone who wants to pay.
Beverly: We haven’t talked about crime in Georgetown, which is another involved in. And how do you think that relationship between different races and socioeconomic groups and that kind of thing has affected crime in Georgetown.
Ray: Well, way back when, crime was not the issue, it was pretty quiet. People didn’t come to the Georgetown waterfront to steal much because they didn’t have a sense of people there didn’t have a whole lot of money. Although it was not as heavily trafficked, you didn’t have a lot of parking meters then, it was not a great destination. Other than the Bayou, there wasn’t a whole lot of reason to come down here on evenings and weekends. It as still industrial with a lumbar yard and that sort of stuff. It came in waves, you’d find I guess it was the 60s and such it was a place where suburban kids could come and dress as hippies and play hippie, they had a sense that this was kind of a neat area – like an east coast Ashbury. And then, I didn’t spend a lot of time of M Street actually. Although I digress a little bit so much has changed there. I remember getting my hair cut at an old barber shop, literally an old barber shop with wainscoting for three bucks. Today it’s like, I can’t remember where it was I think it’s where Bistro Francais. Now that place was I think it used to be the American clothing store it was a neat old place with a pressed tin ceiling and a fluorescent lights hanging by the ceiling and an old Jewish guy running it. And it you wanted to buy a pair of socks he’d reach up on a shelf and pull a box and pull out a pair of socks – and that’s how he’d used to be, way back when. Now when I researched my house I looked at the building permits back in the 50 and 60s and if you looked at the address of the plumber and electrician it would be 3250 M Street, 34-something M street, it was a highly industrial area. And I’m told that farmers would come across the river, across Key Bridge in the summer time, on the weekends, and they would get the tack gear for their animals, and they’d buy seed and that kind of stuff, and the wife would probably buy a polka bonnet as my landlady used to say and head back across the bridge. Maybe get a beer or a light meal at a pub.
Beverly: Now let me ask you then, was there actually a hardware store in Georgetown in the late 60s. Describe to me some of the establishments along M Street.
Ray: Ok, well remember I’m not talking about the late 60s and 70s. But Meenahan’s hardware store was a where the bagel store is now. Very funny, I was testifying at the ABC board about the liquor license, let me digress for a minute, Meenahan’s apparently owned the building and they made the mistake of selling it and of course the rents got driven up so high they lost the place and it got sort of strange because it went from being a true family hardware store to like you could buy not only nails and screws but you could buy cooking utensils and grass seed and everything you’d imagine would be in a hardware store. But toward the end it was a strange place where I remember being at the ABC board testifying, and we had lost Meenahan’s at the point, and I said “Georgetown has lost all it’s services because each place is turning into bars, it’s gotten so bad you can’t get a screw on a Saturday – uh uh uh nail, nail, nail, strike that!” It was actually on the record, I don’t know if they struck it or not, but it was quite funny.
But, so Meenahan’s was a hardware store, and what is now Dean and Deluca was actually an auto supply store, and I believe there may still be a picture of it in the CVS which was at that time was the, uh, the uh, the name of the theater there on the 2900 block of M Street was the uh, what that the Biograph, the Biograph. And then where, there was another motion picture theater on the corner of Prospect and Wisconsin which is now the Restoration Hardware Store. And now people don’t realize but what is now Georgetown Park was the repair shop for the street cars – hence those big doors. I just wrote a paper on the street cars and the history of street cars in the city and Georgetown was a very important communication point for the street cars. Matter of fact, there are three major facilities here: what is now Georgetown Park where they did all repair and painting and such; the Car Barn which is Georgetown University was designed to be like the Union Station terminal; and where the apartments on 2500-Q are was another facility for maintenance of street cars. And the reason it was such a nexus, because you would cross Key Bridge and go way out into Virginia where you’d go up the line up to Glen Echo where the Glen Echo Park was.
And there’s a funny story about that. I came to Washington as a tender young naval ensign in 1964. And street cars stopped in ’62 so the bridge was still… the railroads, the roads there were in good shape. One weekend I walked along it. I got as far as Cabin John Park and I couldn’t sense if it went on or not.
So, I went back to the office the next day and I asked this – we had a local black secretary. So, I thought, “She lives here. She’d know about this.” I said, “When did street cars stop running out to Glen Echo?” She says, “I don’t know. We were not allowed to go in the Park.” I never realized segregation was that big. You could take the street car, but what was the point? Because if you got up there, you couldn’t get into the Park, which was segregated. And during World War II, understand, that was really quite the place to go. For like a nickel or so, you could get all this entertainment, but if you were white only.
So, there was a lot of segregation, I was just kind of commenting. But, oddly enough, street cars were not segregated. The workmen were not. They didn’t have – we’d have both black and white workmen. They were sort of treated pretty much as equal. They didn’t have a problem looking down.
Beverly: Since we’re talking about race relations, and you were actually in Washington when Martin Luther King was assassinated…
Ray: … I was there for the riots, yes.
Beverly: … and what happened in Georgetown? What was the feeling in the city?
Ray: Well, it was…
Beverly: Was there fear?
Ray: Yeah, I remember watching on television. It was so weird. You were watching the events which were happening maybe a mile away and you could actually smell the smoke of the fires.
I was working over in Arlington, 14 North Courthouse, and I looked over the city and saw this plume of smoke rising. Wait a minute, I live there! So, I left work early to get home, and good thing I did, because they slapped a curfew on.
And I remember I had gone across K Street Bridge over Rock Creek to somewhere I was visiting a friend over in Foggy Bottom. I was walking back across the bridge and “Sir?” I looked around and this black paratrooper came out of the shadows. I explained, “I live here. It was OK to go on.” I said the officer had given me permission to do that. Really strange!
I went away with my car on the weekend and came back and had to show my ID to get back in. The place was pretty much locked down.
Beverly: So, there were barricades that you had to show to come into the city?
Ray: There were police checkpoints, yeah. But, they were manned by the paratroopers. They brought the army in, because there weren’t enough police. But, see, we were not affected at all by the riots. There’s no damage that I remember at all. But, was concern, because it was very close. Seventh is not that far from Thirtieth. If you understand?
Beverly: Right. Right. I also see that Henry Kissinger lived in Georgetown. Were you aware that Henry Kissinger lived in Georgetown when you were there…
Ray: I was much younger then and just not aware. Now Don Shannon would know. You had a sense that there were some important people living there, but you didn’t really know where or… Hey, when you’re in your twenties, that’s not the highest thing on your mind.
Ray: Later on, these become very important issues, but not at that age.
Beverly: Right. Right. So, when you first arrived, was Georgetown a friendly and welcoming place and ah?
Ray: I would say so. Because, remember, we were sort of down, out of the mainstream. Down by the waterfront and living in a semi-slum area [chuckles]. Because the houses really hadn’t seen a lot of growth.
Another side story is, of the nine townhouses, the middle six were against the building permits, were a company called Beckwith and Quackenbush – I’ll always remember that – bought these townhouses. Let’s assume they bought them for – Alec bought his for $8000 – let’s assume they got them for $7500 even. Renovating, which meant new roofs, heating systems, wiring 60 amp service, and new water lines, and sold them – ready for this? – the grand sum total of $19,500. That was in the late ’60s.
Because my landlady paid about $19,500 for the house I live in now. And another story is – an elderly couple now long deceased and gone – when they built Jefferson – James Place behind, I went over there and say, “Can I rent a parking place,” and the concierge said, “No, we don’t rent, but you can buy one.” “Oh, how much?” “Twenty thousand dollars.” “I didn’t pay that for my house. I’m not going to pay $20,000 for a parking place!”
But to give you an example, $800 to build a house in 1887. Alec bought his similar house in ’50 for $8000. Jane paid what $19,500 – Jane was the woman who owned the house before she passed, and I bought it from her in probably late ’60s. So, she already owned the place, probably early ’60s. And I paid $135,500 in 1978. That was top of the market.
Ray: Want to take a break? Let’s stop.
Beverly: Take a break. All right.
Beverly: Ray, lets resume. We were just talking about crime and how that went?
Ray: As I remember crime came in waves. Georgetown had a low point, I think in, it was probably the 80’s. Where the police would tell me where gangs of kids would come in and jostle people and try to cause fights ’cause it was kind of a seedy area. We hadn’t had a later Renaissance. Oh, the buildings were built. The shops were not doing too well so one problem. Georgetown Park opened, siphoned a lot of the smaller stores into it. We really lost a lot of services.
We started to see the loss of the nice Mom and Pop, oh the dress stores and the little boutique stores. I guess the world has changed a lot and it just wasn’t the attractiveness. A lot of bars came in – remember the Crazy Horse was still there where the Marines would come in and raise hell on the weekends.
Let’s see that it’s just not the nice place it is today and the cleanup Jack Evans and councilmen put a lot of money into redoing streets and such. Of course the Georgetown project made a big difference. And part of it was just probably some that the police were pretty hard to get the bar owners to understand that we have to work together.
That was one of the factors when I was the ANC Chair – business community and the residential community. We’d agree on topics in general like clean streets and safe streets. When it came to nitty-gritty of the law, not a lot got done. It was like the Congress said huge amount of government is wasted and just acrimony but once I got to be President CAG this was started by my predecessor, Barbara Downs.
We were so much better together. We got more, much more done so that helped a lot. The world changes all of the time so crime is up and down. Georgetown is a pretty safe area. You get the idea, murder, a couple of murders years ago on the canal just rather random. They know where some folks came in from the East side and say, “We want to kill a white guy.”
They were father and son but you can’t, you can’t protect against that. But by large, it’s a pretty safe area. The large crime now is theft from auto, not of auto because stupidly leave things worth.
They leave laptops and GPSs in their front seat. Of course people just snatch and grab. The other oddity I found out as the ANC chair. Some of the people over at 27th Street asked me if I would conduct a meeting on gays and I said “we have gays here?” But turns out that park was a real big gay haven. And the people complained because at night they would be offering services in their cars and just the neighbors.
Beverly: May I just ask which park that is?
Ray: This would be Rose Park, right?
Ray: The one along Rock Creek and the woman who came to the meeting was the, she worked, I guess for the Park Service or the school system. There was a building where the kids would come in the day. I’m trying to say day care and she complained, because in the morning she would find all sorts of drug paraphernalia and used condoms.
I don’t know that that’s going on much anymore. Haven’t heard about that and also…
I’ve heard of a humorous story. I was walking, went for a walk one evening after dinner and there’s a bus stop at the corner of 30th and what’s it, Dumbarton or something where the bus runs at N Street maybe? I forget. And I saw a bunch of gay folks there. And I talked to the cop about it, he said, “Yeah, the N State Department is tight.”
But that was sort of the attitude back then. That seems to be all gone now. So there was another woman complaining, her house faced, I believe it was N and was a bit of a, the garage was recessed, the daughter’s bedroom was right above that recess.
And she’d find guys discussing services and prices, which she was rather upset about. Hard to deal with those kinds of things so that’s another problem I think. it’s just because it’s so much more accepted you don’t have to be in the closet so to speak so that may just away for that reason.
Beverly: I see two issues there, the openness of accepting gays.
Beverly: But also Georgetown is a kind of a destination from your bad doings.
Beverly: I guess, Georgetown has always had that reputation, the bars and a little bit of the wild behavior.
Beverly: It’s part of Georgetown, isn’t it?
Ray: Yeah. A townhouse behind me before they built James Place which then became a noise barrier 60-foot building. It went over, turn you voice, a wild party going and kids listening. What are you complaining about? This is known to be the party central of the area. Listen kid, you may think so, but I live here.
I’m not very happy about it.
Beverly: Ray, all in all, the lower part of Georgetown below M has had its own life, hasn’t it?
Ray: It’s different, I always say, two things I call. There are four parts of Georgetown. Very distinct, the East Village, which of course is north of M and east of Wisconsin Avenue, is a different place from the West Village because the University overwhelms in a sense in the area. You have all the kids with the trash, the noise, the party, the illegal parking, all those issues. That’s big there.
The East village are much quieter but the park is an interesting factor because it’s so easy for criminals to get in and out. The police would tell you that. You could get out of the park, do any sort of a quick job and get back in and get lost but it’s much, much quieter.
Then you got the business district which is Wisconsin, M, and maybe a block or two on the other side where there’s overspill in curbs and you got the waterfront. I prefer to call it the waterfront area rather lower Georgetown and remember once I was at.
A Christmas party at Georgetown University and what’s her name, previous Chair, Linda Greenan introduced me to Father O’Donovan. This is Ray Kakulsi. He lives on the lower Georgetown. Lower Georgetown? What’s that, lower Lombovie or something but the waterfront, please the waterfront but each has its own character.
The waterfront, these are the only truly mixed used commercial residential. Now, there are residences above the office, the building is not MStreet but they’re pretty minimal. There’s far more people living down in Georgetown there’s not only the old townhouses but yet James Place with 78 units, Washington Harbor, you got the Flour Mill, the Paper Mill now and you’ve got the new 3303 which 330, what is it, Water Street and to Anthony Lanier.
Beverly: Right. Anthony Lanier made a big change in Georgetown, didn’t he?
Ray: He did.
Beverly: When did that all come, start?
Ray: He started?
Beverly: When did that begin?
Ray: Oh God, I was President CAG when he was battling to build the incinerator complex. And that was interesting because he wanted the city wanted, I guess I objected too much having movie theaters there. And one reason is, that side of the building has 30-foot ceilings so that the first unit of condo would be overlooking, above the water’s level. And if the theaters didn’t win, what do you do with space like that? Other than a main health facility in and the problem was, he had planned on, I think he had to deal with Lowes, let’s say, to spend $35 billion. That would have cost, outfit the what, 14 theaters, the seats, the equipment, yeah, dah, dah, dah. At that time, I understand Lowes and those big guys had bought up a whole lot of small, those theaters throughout the country and realized as often as, these guys aren’t making us any money, let’s get rid of them.
How do you do that? You got to file for bankruptcy because the paper bags, they didn’t need to do. That way, they can divest themselves, these not performing leases and exit that, say in five years. In the meantime Anthony now…
He’s stuck with a $35 billion bill to outfit the theaters. Of course everybody wanted it so Mary Mottershead who was his deputy throughout the idea that, wait a minute. If we build one more floor of condos and sell it for $5 mil a piece, you got 35 million bucks. The only problem was it violating the zone.
It was a long battle with CAG but I realized that this is not, we’re not going to win this one so what’s the best deal we got? Let’s get the court to write an order, which is restrictive, no one else would pick it up, that’s where we’re very concerned about that if Anthony broke this barrier and that’s one of the big concerns of Georgetown.
We have so few protections you don’t want anybody to break this. Then, if you get it, no, if they got it, I want it too and pretty soon you have no protections.
Beverly: What is exactly was the protection though that they would get?
Ray: Height limitation.
Beverly: Height, so they were able to go higher and to have more condominiums.
Beverly: And they got the exemption?
Ray: Yeah. Now, one of the issues is the height limitation is based on the footage of the building. Now at first, Anthony only owned the property facing South Street. He didn’t own the phased part where the theaters are today, when he first got it.
And he proposed to CAG a bill, a plan which, it looks pretty good to us because it wasn’t that high because it’s based on height of the existing incinerator. But when he bought the lower part, he could now use his measuring point, the South Street which is considerably higher than K Street and all of a sudden.
Wait a minute how does the monster get there? That’s the answer. The building from the rest of the north and the north side is much, 40 or so feet higher than the south side but he’s able to get even higher to build that last floor of the parts so that was that thing.
Beverly: Do you remember the Flour Mill being made into condominium? What was where the Flour Mill?
Ray: The Flour Mill, it wasn’t the Flour Mill.
Beverly: Do you remember the Flour Mill?
Ray: Yeah, I remember it showed the sign, it said the objectionable odors, that was, and there still the Flour Mill, they’re just ending its use but it was the Flour Mill up until probably in the 60’s or so.
Beverly: Do you remember the Paper Mill also, was the paper mill there when you?
Ray: It was there but don’t remember it much.
Ray: But it didn’t look like this today. I guess one of the problems of one of those complexes, the buildings, they made very small apartments. They tried to put as many in there as possible. It was like, an ANC Commissioner owned one and he rented it out which I kind of hope, these people never leave it.
Somehow, I found these 3/4-sized furniture and he put a double bed in there, either you couldn’t get out on one side or past the wall or. Yeah, everything was so tiny, would max in use.
Now, another thing is, an interesting book, first new copy except the ones that the Georgetown I wrote, it’s still there about the alley dwellings of Washington.
This is a common problem. The lots were very, very deep in Washington. I’m talking about Center City in Washington, Capitol Hill in Georgetown and the alleys were hard to access. They didn’t necessarily go all the way through, sometimes, you end it off. For example, off 30th Street, form a U.
What people would do is they would build low rent housing in back there and rent them out to basically the indigents, to the black people that live in the area. And there was no communication socially between the house facing the street and house facing the alley, pretty squalid.
As a matter fact, there’s a famous picture you see in many books of an alley, these wretched dwellings and you looked out the street, there’s the Capitol. I mention this because west of Wisconsin Avenue, south of Canal is, I always know this, Cecil Place, no, that’s the, is it Cecil Place?
Beverly: Yeah, that’s a Cecil Place there.
Ray: There’s another street too. It was in the Alley Dwelling Book and talked about how, remember this area was very industrial, very low life, if you will. And there was malaria, there were drugs, there was prostitution, there was alcohol and it kind of was made that. You have the outhouse trouble is the outhouse simply pour down the house before you because it’s downhill.
It was a really, really bad area. The Congress passed a law against it and a lot of it was torn down. Now, that street is much, it is a very neat place. There was, little buildings that goes back to that time.
Now, it’s very gentrified and high end not like the muse over in Foggy Bottom, what is it, Hughes Muse? Its 25th Street, if you go down 25th and K, turn right, you see this little alley. It goes back to a little courtyard, this is all, they were stables and now they’re Queens Anne Quarters now used the same way, they’re now.
Ray: Nice little houses so the area has changed and thirdly, now so attend today CAG function at the City Tavern. But I would point out that, I get focused on this, the C&O Canal not only was the transportation source but the water provided power for the mills. What is now the apartment there was, it was a mill and it powered the street first because there used to be trolley, actually like cable cars like in San Francisco in Georgetown.
It was one of the two large ones. It housed the power plant for using waterpower but once the Canal stopped in what, 1924, 1925, it was like Pepco pulled the plug. The mill stopped there and there was no motor power and these people had to get jobs. And of course, there was no mass transit, you had to walk to work so what do you do but develop new industries. It was quite a fascinating story of Georgetown. Are you familiar with the name Boss Shepherd?
Beverly: Tell us of Boss Shepherd.
Ray: Congress controlled the city from 1802 and it was decided to put it here until 1874 when they decided to give us own rule. And Boss Shepherd was, he was a Commissioner of Prost and he was Chairman of the Commission and was charged of building Public Works. The city at that time was in terrible shape. There were no sewers, no roads, no water.
It was a swamp and the Congressman moved out of here so he went ahead and issued contracts to put in the sidewalks and all these trees we’re so proud of, the ones that still remained and paved the road. Unfortunately, he gave most of the contract to his buddies back in the city.
Congress fired him and took the control back over. We didn’t get home rule again till 1974 so it’s 100 years and Congress controlled the city, almost stole its life from the secession in 1802 until 1974 except for those three years. But Boss wanted to spend a lot of money south of them so these streets were cobblestone where north of them there’s brick.
And if you see when they do a repaving job or I think, right on 29th and about Olive, the pavement has come off with the asphalt where you still see the brick. Brick streets, this is an old area from there and a number of street cars ran till 1962 right up M Street and they went up along O and P and out to Glen Echo along paralleling Canal Road.
Beverly: Is the issue of making the sidewalks larger on Wisconsin Avenue still an issue?
Ray: There’s people that like to but the only problem is, Georgetown prefers if it will always as I’ve said, it’s a stride to major commuter route from downtown to, because of the bridges, you can go through Georgetown and go south of McClean all the way east to Silver Spring. And people had to get through it and that’s the problem.
We don’t have as much control over our road now if we’d like because we have Maryland and Virginia. Imagine as Anthony wanted to do, take up a lane in traffic in order to give you more sidewalk space route.
Maryland and Virginia would never stand for that. It was not going to happen. Oh, I remember, when I, up until I don’t know long ago, there was a reversible lane on M Street. And it was only like four lanes out, two lanes in and then it reversed in the evening but that was dangerous with people there often, there were no good ways to sign that. We didn’t have the overhead lights with red X’s and green lights one so that was taken off.
Beverly: They got to plan out their date because when you were living here was the Bicentennial in 1976, do you remember anything about the Bicentennial?
Ray: No, it was big but nothing really strikes that I have personal knowledge of it.
Ray: No. I’m sorry I don’t.
Beverly: OK. Are there some other areas that we haven’t covered that we might want to talk about?
Ray: I think we pretty much covered the massive change in the physical structure of the waterfront area. And the people have pretty much stayed the same. It’s been, yeah, the government workers have passed on. I wish there more government workers and people come and go on.
And I remember most of the people but that’s all I can think at the moment and more may come to me but I guess in a nutshell, we’re talking about an area which is gone from industrial, its last legs when I came in. For example though, where the whole waterfront was especially where Georgetown Park is now was filled land because that was and I see maps of this, where the breakwater, here walked along the front of the Washington Harbor.
That would have been fill land because there were finger capers where the ships would come in. See, up until the river silted, you could actually sail from the Pool of London all the way up to the Potomac and dock here in Georgetown. And the old post office, as you know where the post office is, was the Custom House where you’d pay your taxes. That’s what this old, historic building.
Yeah and Don Shannon tells me, if you look at our block with nine houses and more than the most one, the stoop is one brick thick, I have five stairs. They said the reason for that is, in order to keep the horses from dragging wagons up on the Humpback Bridge, they changed the level so it would be one smooth run-up. And that’s why, like his house, you have to go down the stairs to get to his front door.
That’s another factor, what Shepherd did, see, it wasn’t until 1895, I believe that, let me back up. Georgetown precede the city of Washington. Alexandria was 1749, Georgetown is 1751. The Congress didn’t decide to locate the capital in this area until after 1790 something or other. It was not, until 1902, they actually chose this site.
What we know as Washington DC today was called the County of Washington and was given back to Alexandria, Arlington Country, was the County of Alexandria with the legal entities of Alexandria and Georgetown, its own legal area. And the city of Washington was the third area, the rest all being counties.
And the city of Washington encompassed Rock Creek on the west over to Florida, Glover Archibald Park to Florida Avenue, then called Boundary Road and then down to the Anacostia, down again.
That was the city of Washington its legal entity, Georgetown was legal entity and Alexandria and the rest were county. It wasn’t until 1842 they retroceded Alexandria to Virginia because the theory was going to become slave-free and nobody wanted.
The Virginians didn’t want that. But in 18, under Boss Shepherd, they combined the city of Washington, Georgetown and the county into what we now know as Washington, DC. It eliminated our charters but we kept our ports and we were not required to conform our street system with the rest of the city.
That didn’t happen about 1895 and I remember when I first came to Georgetown, little black signs under the current green signs giving the name like George, like M Street was High Street but it was Bridge Street rather. Wisconsin was High Street and 30th was Gay Street.
And those are all long gone and often I wish the CAG would do something and put them back and it’s nice to know that in our history. I mentioned that because Boss Shepherd decided that all east-west streets would be maintained in the same level and the west side of the streets would be changed to accommodate.
If you walk along N, I remember the house that the Kennedys lived in you all go up above these stairs because that was a hill. And others you go down so when they changed the level of the streets that wherever house was, stayed.
And you’d change your front stoop to match the street. That’s another reason they would have changed it but I don’t think N ever changed and those are built on bedrock. That’s for the purpose of the post. I would say that Landing came filled once the river silted up.
There was no need for the harbor anymore for deep-drive vessels so they simply filled it in which typically what you had to do. You look at the old map to see where the water line was?
And where it is today, a little understandable. And so that’s another major change. I know I live in the delta we’re in Rock Creek and it’s all filled in and they built the building and the store. And down the [inaudible] we found chicken bones and oyster shells because, remember, there were outhouses.
And people really lived with their trash in the back but it was built up with a lot of yard so if you really dig down and find all kind of stuff. But it’s only a bedrock quite a ways down because that’s all where the rock creek alley would have come up.
Beverly: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Do you feel at this point in the year 2009 that the Waterfront Park is completed and that has made a huge impact?
Ray: It has. It’s really changed, parking lot and this bad area to a very, it’s a big attraction. People love it and I’ve always wanted a Park but my God, you see people out there relaxing and sunning. And I’m waiting for the rest of them to get done, between 31st and Wisconsin and here.
And I would always opposed to the concept of putting anything extra because one, it should be passing till it floods. And I always asked the question, if you put up awnings and such, who’s going to pay the repair when they have the floods, with the whole under water.
Beverly: The one thing I don’t really know what’s going is by Washington Harbor. They’re moving so much earth so that was an agreement when they built that Washington Harbor and now that’s going to be.
Ray: Part of the park.
Beverly: Part of the Waterfront Park.
Ray: What they’re doing because I’ve walked down there is, they’re sinking, remember those stones stairs down at the waterfront? That’s what’s happening. They’re building the foundation. A big pile of dirt would be the filler they put back after they build the new breakwater’s support. If you go down there today, you’ll see a large of pilings that they would drilling to support the stairs and that should wrap it up. I guess, that should, at some time this point, they should be good but well out in spring.
Beverly: But I guess one other thing I might ask you is just ask you the Swedish.
Ray: House the Sweden?
Beverly: House the Sweden and that took a long time to.
Ray: It’s actually the third proposal for that site. The Bass Shoe Family first proposed to build there, oh God, when I was in the ANC, probably `80s. They got approval, couldn’t make a go of it. The reason is, people don’t realize but there are two buildings.
The reason for that is, theirs was called was the Paper Street. If you would look between the buildings and the trees, we’re out by Rock Creek and you go right down, it’s the actually, Virginia Avenue. Virginia Avenue extends on Paper all the way across 30th, little ways in so they couldn’t build on that Viewshed as it’s called so they have two buildings. The problem was neither of the buildings would be large enough in terms of income to support the cost of the building and such.
As it gotten more better around because the buildings are connected to underground for the use like the one kind of plant with garage. They also had the flooding problem. Now what happened way back in the `80s, there was a deal cut because there’s a Height Eastman along the canal. The deal cut was the park service would let them build higher, set back a certain distance.
In return for landscaping, the what you call the Bern which is the land from the face, southern face of this house in Sweden down to the river and also the west bank of Rock Creek which they’ve done that. That was worth, I’m told, $5 million and you’re talking about just to start off. You’ve got a lot of constraints and the second contractor, again, couldn’t go make a go of it, the one Novak, father and son of LANO development.
I believe they also did the Manor Hotel, got the Swedes involved because the Sweden have deep enough of the pockets to do it. Now, what’s interesting about that building, if you walk at the front door, originally, the entire building was owned by the House of Sweden which is Commercial Venture. If you know to the right side, is the commercial open to the public.
The left side, if you went to the lobby is actually the embassy which now maybe turned over to the Swedes because usually the land under embassies are considered the country’s land, not American.
But they have condos up on top and I think like 10 or 12 that are rented by the year but only if you’re a company doing business, a Swedish company doing business in America like IKEA. Spectacular view from the top and the ultimate is really new bridge right down south along the river then east or west rather to Key Bridge that you both from Kennedy Center to Key Bridge, pretty close.
The other building is an office building 2000 and I’d never quite understood this. Both buildings have the same address, 2900 K and to make it even more odd, I was working with, in fact he’s your board, which is, he was the Minister, Council General Minister. Any rate, they wanted to have a K Street address. And I said, you first of all, you don’t face K Street.
They really wanted it because that’s a tavern older, the K Street lobbies were not great step but nobody wanted one. I found out how to do it and if you pay enough, you get it done and they did. The official address on the records was 901 30th, which makes total sense, but they wanted 2900 K Street.
The problem is there are two buildings with 2900 K Street. And the other funny part was, it was a Swedish architecture firm they designed it, they didn’t put a mailbox in there so they could never get their mail picked up.
Because the post office will not pick up the mail if you don’t have a designated mail drop. You have the, for example, the foundries to the restaurant and the foundry building, now the first floor is an office. It was a California company that did all the architecture, didn’t put a cloack] The funny name you want to know was in the winter time, it gets cold and you got to put your coat somewhere.
Little funnies like these come up over the years.
Ray: But going back, parking has always been an issue. Transportation has always been an issue. The bad part about this, looking back, I left ANC or CAG rather in 2003, it’s now 2009 so it’s years later. The same battle we fought, the same objections and it’s just so difficult because everybody wants, they want and don’t give them in.
If you’re sitting on a city wide parking committee, here’s a real problem for people. You get a homeowner, says look, I need parking in front of my house because I have health care giver.
My father is elderly and the nurse has to come. Then, another person, I need parking for my housekeeper.
She comes once a week and the teacher says, I need parking because I have to drive to work to be a teacher, you need me. And you look up and then the workman, I need a workman’s permit because I worked on. That’s all good and fine, it’s all valid reasons probably but you’d add up all those exemptions, they far exceed the available parking.
And so, how do you balance the paucity of parking with the great demand for need. It’s not simple solution and nobody wants to agree with much of anything, a little DDOT, now it’s going for better solutions. I suggested to Dan Tentallini that he did this, it’s on this covered report that came out. You could, DDOT knows, they control parking management scope.
They know where the parking places are. They put the signs up. DPW or DMV controls the number of license plates. You could have a gross sense, take a block and say, how many vehicles are registered in that block and how many of these parking places are there? If they have a map, it’s on the cover or choose to be on the website. If you look at the city, in kind of scroll yellow.
It means that you excess of capacity for the demand. You go up to the Northwest up to Northeast, you have these single-family dwellings, as a matter of fact, I had reported it like I said, I used to visit a lady friend. And I drove to her house and parked on the street and there were no cars on the street on the street because nobody had off street parking.
But she so there were two cars in the whole block. You don’t need restrictions there but you come to center city and you got this chocolate brown. I had a much greater demand than you have capacity then you have gradations in there. It just shows one size will not fit all.
The issue of people up in the Northwest saying they demand on a Visitor Parking Pass to park in front of my house, I don’t need one to park for their house doesn’t make any sense. You see, you get all these, you have to look at reality why these stuff was passed in the first place. A lot of issues like that.
Ray: Why should the people in Hillendale get parking, get guarantee passes? I can’t park in front of their house but they can park in mine as we work all day. It doesn’t make any sense, but politics plays to it.
Beverly: Parking is always going to be an issue.
Ray: Always, they used to say about the three T’s in Georgetown, trash, trees and traffic.
Beverly: That’s very good and maybe that’s a good place to end.
Ray: I hope so. Thank you very much.
Beverly: Thank you very much Ray.
Ray: You’re welcome.
Beverly: Thank you very much.