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Our house, which sits just inside DC’s Takoma Historic District, will turn 100 years old next month. I have lived here, on and off, for more than forty years; first with my parents, now with my husband and children.
Takoma is one of the neighborhoods in which mid-20th-century residents formed the group “North Washington Neighbors, Incorporated” to create a bulwark against block busting and white flight as the District desegregated. This spirit of diversity drew my parents here in the summer of 1968. I was two and a half.
My parents met at Stanford University around 1960. My dad is a light-skinned black man, raised in Pennsylvania by highly educated parents, from whom he wanted to escape by moving to California. My mom is a white woman of Irish and French-German descent, raised in the sun and celebrity of Los Angeles by parents who disowned her for marrying an African American.
Our family arrived a year after Virginia’s law against interracial marriage had been overturned by the United States Supreme Court.
Since then, the neighborhood, the house and the family have experienced radical changes. My parents separated in 1974, and the children stayed in the house with Dad while Mom moved to Capitol Hill to go to law school.
In 1976 the Metro opened, with a station five blocks from our house. In 1977, my mom graduated from law school and moved back into the house with us kids. She cried when the rent increased from $325 to $375 a month; a huge burden for a single mother of four on a government attorney’s starting salary. In my memory, that is when she started lobbying the landlord to sell her the house, which he did in 1979.
My siblings and I left to attend school while my mother stayed. As bedrooms emptied, she filled them with African refugees, idealistic volunteers and others who needed an affordable room. Summers, and the odd year or so at a time after undergrad allowed me to reconnect with neighbors who had watched me grow up.
I moved to New York for graduate school and met my future husband. We came back to this house to marry. I baked our wedding cake here.
In 1997, we moved in with Mom to finish our degrees and lower our living expenses. My sister and niece joined us in 1998 for several months while searching for their own house.
By then, after thirty years of tenderly and single-handedly painting porches and walls, cleaning gutters and raking leaves, my mom was ready to offer the house to my sister and I, the only two children in the District. My husband was thrilled. I wasn’t. Five years in Brooklyn had me longing for downtown walkability. I didn’t want to live in the same old neighborhood in the same old house. We bought it anyway.
My sister moved to Shepherd Park; Mom bought an apartment in Southwest. I called in the contractors to make this house my house. Now, my daughter insists the house will eventually be her house, much to her brother’s consternation.
In early 2002, the granddaughter of the original owner was visiting the area and knocked on our door. I gave her a tour. She sent old photos. The first photograph of the house’s completed interior is dated November 19, 1911. Thanks for the memories.