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Kingman Park:
In the Stadium's Shadow

By James Ragland
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 01, 1992

It's a cloudy and cold day in January and James Woodall, a retired plumber, is standing on his porch watching occasional cars drive by and nodding hello to pedestrians.

"Looks like we're going to get some more snow," he said, pointing skyward, to a visitor.

His chumminess, he said, is typical of the Kingman Park neighborhood in Northeast Washington, where he has lived for more than 20 years. Woodall, 64, lives in a rented row house on 19th Street.

A few blocks away, Ronnie Dansby, 30, and his fiancee, Alma Floyd, live in a three-bedroom row house on 24th Street that Floyd's family has owned for more than 20 years. The couple hopes to raise a family there.

"It's a nice and peaceful neighborhood," Dansby, a supervisor-dispatcher for the Alexandria Transit Co., said of the community that stretches roughly from 15th Street to Oklahoma Avenue and from C Street to Maryland Avenue.

Now that serenity in the community—a smorgasbord of row houses, most of them two stories, and many with colorful emerald, red and mustard-colored awnings—is threatened once more.

Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke wants to build a 78,000-seat stadium for his Super Bowl champion football team on the periphery of the community, and Kingman Park residents are mostly opposed to the idea.

Herb Harris Jr., a fifth-generation resident of the community and president of the Kingman Park Civic Association, said the community is being invaded by public facilities. It is home to the D.C. Armory, D.C. Jail and D.C. General Hospital.

The community also is flanked by the East Capitol Street and Benning Road NE commuter corridors. And a drug treatment-correctional facility is under construction.

A new football stadium, which would be built near the Redskins' current home, Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, would cause more traffic, noise and parking problems on game days, Harris said.

A couple of years ago, Kingman Park streets were so overtaken by Redskins fans, most of them from Virginia and Maryland, that the District banned parking in the neighborhood for some RFK and Armory events and issued annual special-events car stickers for residents.

The Kingman Park Civic Association, which represents the community's 10,000 residents, has made it clear that neighbors don't want two stadiums in their back yards, Harris said.

Neighbors also are opposed to plans to redesign nearby Langston Golf Course to make room for 18,000 parking spaces at the proposed stadium, Harris said.

The federally owned course at 26th Street and Benning Road NE was built in 1934 by the National Park Service to provide blacks a place to play golf at a time when the city was segregated. Many blacks still frequent the golf course, Harris said.

Despite the Redskins' popularity in the region and the fact that the team has just won its third Super Bowl, Harris said the community is not likely to embrace Cooke's plan to build the larger stadium.

"The position has always been the same," he said. "It's not going to change."

Cooke and District officials for months have been reported as being close to announcing final plans for the $150 million stadium, to be built on the Oklahoma Avenue and Benning Road NE side of RFK.

At least one Kingman Park resident isn't opposed to a new stadium.

"I go along with that," said Woodall, 64, the retired D.C. Department of Public Works plumber who lives in a row house that he soon hopes to purchase, if the owner will sell.

"It's a nice neighborhood, always has been," he said.

Kingman Park is one of the District's oldest historically black neighborhoods. It also is one of the most stable neighborhoods in the city, said Don Denton of Dale Denton Real Estate Inc.

"There's not a whole lot of turnover there," Denton said. "It's an extremely stable neighborhood. The Washington Board of Realtors' computer only shows 25 sales over the past 2 1/2 years," he said.

The two- and three-bedroom row houses, most of which were built in 1928, generally sell for $80,000 to $90,000, Denton said.

In the early part of the century, Kingman Park was about the only community in the District where middle-class blacks could find homes to buy, Harris said.

"From what I've observed, very few houses go outside the family structure," said Harris, who lives in a two-bedroom apartment on Oklahoma Avenue. "It stays within the circle. I've got five generations of my family within a rock's throw of here."

Deputy D.C. Police Chief Ronald H. Christian, who is in charge of the 5th Metropolitan Police District that includes Kingman Park, described the community as a peaceful, low-crime area.

A large number of Kingman Park's residents are retired, many from government jobs, said Christian.

He said there are "no real crime problems, "except for occasional thefts of property and automobiles, particularly when hundreds of vehicles pour into the community for Redskins games."

Christian also said the two high schools, the junior high and elementary schools nearby also generate "a lot of foot traffic" in Kingman Park on school days.

Dansby, who said he has lived in Kingman Park for 20 years, said little has changed over the years, except that people are more cautious.

"You used to didn't have to lock your doors or anything," he said. "Now you feel you have to watch your back, but that's everywhere."

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