Knock on the door today and a white couple answer, the man in dress slacks and shirt as if he has just returned home from work. Behind the couple are two young children and a barking dog.
The evolution of Barry’s old block is the story of Washington’s transformation from a city that was overwhelmingly black to one in which blacks are barely a majority.
Few neighborhoods have been more at the center of that seismic shift than the streets surrounding the 1200 block of E Street NE, where newcomers and old-timers marvel at and grapple with their ever-changing landscape.
Long after Barry moved from the neighborhood in 1979, the blocks surrounding his old home were dominated by African Americans. As recently as 2000, the population was 84 percent black and 12 percent white, according to census statistics. But by 2010, there had been a dramatic retrenchment: Blacks made up 44 percent of the population, while whites accounted for 47 percent.
A shifting neighborhood
Vestiges of the old world are still visible: a faded and peeling Neighborhood Watch Area sign on the lamppost near Barry’s old place; rusted security bars over windows and doors; a shuttered shop at the corner of 13th and D streets.
But evidence of change — and greater affluence — is ubiquitous. The liquor store now sells imported beer. There are carefully tended forsythias and hyacinths blooming in the yards and Subarus and Mini Coopers parked on streets lined with freshly painted houses. A vacant lot once commandeered by vagrants and drug peddlers is now occupied by a condominium building.
The neighborhood’s newest amenity opened Friday at Kingsman Field: a dog park with a gravel, canine-friendly surface, poop-bag dispensers and red cans marked “pet waste.” Newly laid bricks are engraved with tributes to the likes of “Pepper and Senor Poopy Pants” and “Spike the Wonder Weimaraner.”
Three years ago, when she moved to the neighborhood from Arlington County, Kristen Thor, 33, said her friends said, “ ‘Oh my God, you’re moving to the ’hood!’ ”
“The area has really changed,” said Thor, a postural therapist who is white. “You see lots of young professionals, people with their kids. You didn’t see that when I first moved.”
Joanna Willis, 64, an African American nurse who has lived on E Street for 34 years, said she recognizes the neighborhood’s improvements. “The upkeep is better, there’s better trash service, street cleaning, police protection,” she said.
But she feels something is missing. The woman she knew as Mrs. Pernell occupied the house to her right, and Mrs. Pernell’s sister, Cora, lived in the house a couple of doors over on the left. Both are gone, she said, and she’s not sure who replaced them.