Between New York Avenue and H Street and 9th and 11th Streets, the blocks where the convention center would be built are a jumble of parking lots, cheap apartments, storefront churches, rubble-stream dirt lots, vacant buildings, gasuine stations, carry outs, liquor stores, rescue missions, courier services, an Elk lodge, palm readers and busy stores and small business attracted by low overhead.
There are according to the city, 127 properties owned by 67 owners. There are 88 households, made up of 35 famiresidential units. Of the people who live there, 109 are Chinese, 47 are white and 14 are black. There are 56 businesses in the area.
This is what a Washington Post reporter found on a walking tour of the blocks that would be wiped out by construction of the convention center.
From the Metro stop at Woodward and Lothrop's one of two subway stops expected to serve the center, it is a short walk to the corner of 11th and H Streets NW. The National Uniform Company stands alone there, the only building on tsmall, gray building, stretching to 10th Street, is a sea of parked cars.
Across 10th and down H. there are DeVito's Restaurant. Ron-Com photos and Chip's Printing Service . Mastergift, the Sensnous Boutique (with Inga's Hairdressers downstairs,) "Joe" Phillip's Police Equipment. Connection Optical Company. Security National Bank and a small parking lot. Facing south toward more prosperous block not dotted with vacant buildings.
Almost to the corner stands the Washington Lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, an officially designed historical building. Seventy years old, it is not as elegant as it once was but it is still distinguished. Large stone elk heads jut out from both top corners of the building. In front, block iron pedestals hold light globes topped by black iron antlers. One globe is missing from each Richard L. Hardding secretary of the lodge. "It was designed for a lodge with a ballroom on the top floor, and year ago , before World War II, it used to have a roof garden. I'd hate to leave the building.
As at other urban lodges of fraternal orders, attendance has been declining at the Washington Lodre "It's dropped from about 2,300 members 20 years ago to fewer than 500," said Harding. "Most of the members live in the suburbs but are staying because of their long-time membership." he said. The riots and attendant bad publicity for the area afterward hurt he said.
"It's a very nice building with some very, very exqusite appointments. It's very unique in its design," said Harding. "I don't know if we'll get money for replacement," he said. "You couldn't put a building up with the appointments and floor space for close to $3 million," he said. "But we'll be lucky if we get half a million dollars."
Harding said he thought the convention center might be a plus for the neighborhood and the city. "it would probably improve the downtown and make people come downtown," he said.
Past the lodge is more parking. On the corner, is the D.C. Laquor Mart, with a sign in the window advertisting Chinese wines and liquors. Around the coner on 9th Street, is the Sandwich Bar, specializing in fresh fried fish. North of the Sandwich Bar is the Bargain Bock Store.
"I think its the silliest thing in the world," said David Orenstein, who has worked at the bookstore 13 years. "I don't think it will draw enough people to ever brek even," he said of the propoesed center. "I think it will provide some work for construction workers suntil its constructed.
Orenstein sat through the arguments in 1972, when it looked likely that the city would build the Eiseahower Convention Center. Then, he said, the merchants hired a lawyer to look out for their interests. This time, there is no orgainzation yet, he said.
The book store, which buys and sells used books, has been in business for about 35 years, said orenstein. There are a handful of dirty books and magazines in the front of the store, but most og the stock is texts and former and current bestsellers. Copies of "Haywire," "The Age of Uncertainty" and "Power Inc.," which appear unused sell for aoout half-price.
If the center comes, speculated Orenstein, the book store owner might relocate or retire. Building the center might improve the neighborhood, he conceded. "Even things like the library have picked up the neighborhood," he said. "It picked up the neighborhood in two ways: There is better police protection and fewer drunks." (orenstein referred to the Martin Lutber King Jr Library.)
There is another book store next door, or so its windows indicate. "We will order any book in print - Rapid Serviec," said a sign in the window. The door is locked.
Next door is vacant building. Beside the vacant building is a vacant lot. The next building is a small Chinese grocery, the Wor Yick Company. Gan Honz Lee, the owner, said he would prefer a location in Chinatown. If he can be relocated there because of the convention center, he will be happy, he said."It's up to the government, what they do," he said.
Next door is Jim's Carry Out, and next to that a building shared by Ariam Leather Company and an adviser-reader. Parked in the display window is a motorcycle. That adviser-reader, Sister Nancy, is from Brooklyn.
She has been in her present location for more than two years and lives in back with her husband and child. "Sure," it will be hard to relocate, she said. "If they could do something good for 9th Street, it would be nice, but my rent is cheap. I'd hate to leave," she said.
Will the convention center succeed? "I don't know," she said. "I just read the palm. What the government does I have no way of knowing."
Another vacant building and a small parking lot are next door. On the corner of 9th and I, there is a large vacant building. The windows and doors are smashed and the floor is littered with debris and glass. On a recent afternoon, a fire department ambuiance was parked nearby, and ambulance attendants carried out a cut-up middle-aged man on a stretcher.
"He's what you call one of your neighborhood drunks," said a nearby police officer. "We carry two or three of those out of there a week."
Across the street is a Scot self-service gasoline station, patrolled by two lazy-looking, large blond dogs. Further up 9th is the Washington Eagle Restaurant, painted black and identified only by a small sign. The patrons are mainly homosexual, and signs at the entrance suggest "Leather-Levi-Western preferred" and "All purses checked at bar."
Inside, the bar is cool and dark and recently decorated. "We put five years of sweat and blood into it," owner Donald Bruce said. When he took over the bar, which he leases, the building was filled with rubble, as old photographs attest.
"I'd hate to see the convention center come in," he said. "I know it's a bad area, and I'm probably the only one (who doesn't look forward to the center), but I've got 60 people working for me. If we can't relocate, the guys are going to be upset."
Besides the bar, Bruce also owns the Eagle in Exile, a disco, across the street and nearer Mt. Vernon Square. The disco, newly painted beige with darker trim. is where the Boondocks bar and a low-rent hotel used to be. It would not necessarily be torn down to make room for the center.
"I think it's going to be a white elephant," Bruce said of the convention center. Bruce said he put large sums of money into reclaiming the building because he was told that the convention center project was dead after the attempt to build a center nearby in 1972 failed.
"I've talked to a couple of people from the Redevelopment Land Agency, and they said they're going to do their best for us," he said. "I don't see how I can get the money I put into it and still move," he said. "Maybe I'll be plaasantly surprised. (The idea of leaving) breaks my heart.
Next door to the Eagle is Staff Builders, a temporary employment service advertising for drivers, warehousemen, packers, maintenance men and other semi-skilled or unskilled workers. Men and women sit inside on folding wooden chairs.
Next comes Willie Shoe Repair, then a vacant building with John Wilson for City Council signs in the windows, and a vacant lot. On the other side of the lot is the Man's World Peep Shows featuring "complete male entertainment" and decorated with blinking lights. "It's going to hurt everybody here," said a man who works there. "It's going to screw me out of my job."
On the corner with New York Avenue is a large building that houses German Hi-Fi Center. Upstairs on the New York Avenue side is something called the Over-the-Road Club, with a two-way mirror set in the door.
New York Avenus is dotted with church-related buildings. There are the St. Jude Spiritual lated buildings. There are the St. Jude Spiritual Church Office, the Life Church of Good Hope and the Grace and Hope Mission. "The Light of the World is Jesus," proclaims a sign outside.
The Grace and Hope Mission, an immaculate, three-story red brick building, is part of an interdenominational mission group run entirely by unmarried women. There are 13 missions dotted around the Atlantic seaboard, some of which have been forced to move before by rurban renewal. The Washington mission is run by two women who live above it.
Four nights a week there are services, with two sandwiches served afterward to anyone who wants them. Three nights a week, the two women go out on other projects, including open air service in shopping centers, said superintendent Mary Fegley. "We have a portable organ, and the women play trumpets," she said. They also take a free will offering to help carry on the work of the mission and offer children's programs.
The mission, which the group owns, has been in Washington 20 years. It ws the last mission opened and the "pride and joy" of Grace and Hope Mission founder Mamie E. Caskie, Fegley said.
There are also vacant buildings and lots, small businesses such as National Stage Lighting, and larger businesses on New York Avenue, such as W.R. Winslow Paints, which has been there for more than 50 years. "This was the original store, where the business started," said manager J.W. Hudson.
The company now has about 15 stores in the metropolitan area. "This is the only large one left downtown," said Hudson. "If we have to relocate, we're going to try to find another location downtown."
There are other buildings where former commercial space has apparently been turned over to ther uses. One is the Kevin House, a rooming house where outpatients from St. Elizbeths Hospital make the transition to living on their own. (It is privately operated hospital.) Lace curtains cover glass doors and in a former display window are a mixture of real and plastic plants. In the center is a silvery aluminum Christmas tree, and to the right a magazine rack with 5-year-old magazines in it.
"Relocating would be a problem," said manager Vashti Springs. "We like the area. As far as the patients are concerned, everything is so convenient - the buses, the churches, the theaters and the idea of being downtown and so forth," she said.
Finding down the street, another display window is filled with succulents, a chrysanthemum, a large gardenia, fern and an avocado plant. The front door is covered with a locked metal gate. On a side door, "Rose Hotel" is painted over and a few Chinese names are painted dimly on the door.
"I don't see there being any great loss of this block to the center if business are given a chance to relocate," said Curt Collins, who works for National Stage Lighting, also on New York.
Toward 10th Street is Eagle Electric, a busy lighting fixture store. On the corner is Lee's Used Ford Sales, which also has several small pieces of property within the area where cars are parked, protected by chain link fence topped with strands of barded wire.
"They say they're going to help us and give us all the assistance we'll need," said manager Sam Battista. "They would have to find a big place to match what we've got here," he said.
Across 10th there is a small, triangular park with a few trees and four benches. Onthe corner of 11th and I there is the Capital Hotel and the Hi-Line Liquor Store. Down the street are a Burger Chef, another parking lot, and Mrs. Nancy's Palm & Card Readings. Mrs. Nancy is Sister Nancy's cousin, Sister Nancy said.
In the same building with Mrs. Nancy, Song's Wigs is located. Next door is Hall's Watch Shop.
Tenth Street and 1 Street cut across the proposed site. 1 Street is a mixture of businesses and old row houses used as apartments. Chinese children race up and down the street with water pistols, making small talk with the men who work for Greyhound Package Express. The Salvation Army's alcoholic rehabilitation center and a Pepco substation are also on 1.
Walking from west to east, you pass the A. Melville Cox insurance company, the Pewter House, which sells gifts, novelties, candy, fireworks, jewelry, toys, sweat shirts, hats, film and comics. Farther down are the District Shade Shop, various parking lots, the American Disinfectant Company and the Pepco Sinclair Substation. Built in 1929, the substation is decorated with a large stone plaque commemorating the event, with a bas-relief about three feet high og the Capitol on one side and of a power plant on the other.
On the other said of Greyhound Package Express Shippers, there are the row houses turned into apartment buildings. "Sometimes they think about moving and think we won't be able to find a place to stay," Chum Moy, 13, said about his parents' feelings about the center.
His family of seven rents two floors in a red brick building, where they have lived about seven years, he said. "It's probably a good idea for the city, but not for us," said the boy. "We have to move away. It's hard to find a place for a big family."
The city, whcih has organized support for the convention center in the Chinese community, hopes to relocate displaced Chinese families in a large housing development planned for the site of the former Wax Museum, with 300 subsidized and 700 non-subsidized apartments, or in a housing project for the elderly that the city hopes to build at 6th and H Street NW.
"Between the two programs, permanent relocation is going to be less of a problem than interim relocation," said Ben W. Gilbert, the city's director of planning.
Continuing down I, there is the American Mosaic Building in a handsome red brick row building decorated with mosaic. There are more apartments and a few row buildings apparently used for offices.
Across the street, the Salvation Army operates the Harbor Lights Corps alcoholic rehabilitation center next to Marty Melton's Adcraft Advertising. The Salvation Army building is a red brick building with a drawing of a lighthouse on the front. "Erected to the glory of God and the welfare of mankind," says a sign on the front.
Inside the building, the air is full of stale cigatrette smoke. There is a dormitory upstairs and another building a few blocks away, where the cause it is summer, there are only about 25 residents in early July.
=It's a little easier to find jobs and a little easier to sleep out" in summer, said Capt. James Fortney.
Those who come into the rehabilitation program are supposed to commit for 90 days. Although they may not reverse lifelong alcoholism in that time they are decently fed, clean and have a decent place to sleep for the interim, Fortney said.
If the program has to be relocated, the Salvation Army hopes to stay in the asame general area, an area thick with people in need of rehabilitation, said Fortney. Some of the homeless who wander the area have lived and worked in the city for a long time, said Fortney. Others are just off the bus. A surprisingly large percentage, given the area's downtown location, are white.
Walking back, west on the north side of 1 Street, there is a rubble-strewn dirt lot, a boarded and padlocked row house, another row house, parking, and house with signs for the Franklin Duplicating Co. and Atlantic Fireproofing Service, and some other house that look as if they may be residences. At the end of the block is the Washington Telephone Federal Credit Union, where a sign instructs members to show passes to enter.
Walking down 10th Street, the west side is all parking. On the east side is a building with a sign for Fuller & D'Albert Inc., but the building is padlocked. Next door is Buell's Electric Autolite Service, with parking in front.
There is one more business, the For-Ward Liquor Store, near the end of the block. Just before that, there is a row house. On the basement door is a store-bought sign that says "Keep Out." Underneath a hand-lettered sign says. "Thou Shalt Not Steal . . . extracted from The Commandments."