Wearing blue-and-white "I'm an Anacostian" buttons, members of the Frederick Douglass Community Improvement Council last week asked that their neighborhood be designated as part of a new district to be called the Old Anacostia Historic District.
At a hearing of the Joint Committee on Landmarks of the National Capital, Loraine Bennett, a resident who spoke in favor of the new district, called Anacostia a place of "front porches and verandas, a place where life has not been relegated to the back yard and the patio. A place of brick sidewalks, trees, narrow streets and small tidy yards framed in wrought iron."
In order to preserve the character of their neighborhood residents are asking that the joint committee enlarge and rename the existing Uniontown Historic District, upgrade the enlarged district from a Category III to a Category II landmark, and recommend it to the National Register of Historic Places.
Category II landmarks are considered more significant than Category III landmarks and are more likely to be included in the National Register of Historic Places. If the historic district is placed in the National Register, buildings in the area will become eligible for restoration loans and grants through the National Park Service and will be protected by District of Columbia delay-indemolition ways.
The original historic district includes Cedar Hill, the home of Frederick Douglass. It also includes Uniontown, one of Washington's first suburbs. INcorporated in 1854, Uniontown was originally inhabited mainly by artisans and laborers who worked at the Navy Yard. Uniontown's small, frame cottages were priced to appeal to the working classes.
The proposed historic district would also include Griswold's subdivision, an area to the south of Uniontown. Begun in the 1880s, this area contains larger homes, many with wrap-around porches and peaked gables. The enlarged district would also include commercial areas along Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.
However, Suzanne Ganzchinietz, an architectural historian on the staff of the joint committee, recommended that some blocks of Good Hope Road be excluded from the historic district. These blocks, said Ganschinietz, "contain structures of a later commercial character and for the most part can be defined as intrusions which are detrimental to the scale and quality of the historic district."
William Washburn III, representing the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation, said that to exclude the commercial area would be to open it to further intrusions - buildings not in keeping with the character of the area. John R. Tetrault, assistant director of Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc., which makes loans to Anacostia tenants to buy their homes and to homeowners who want to upgrade them, called the Good Hope Road commercial area "the heart of our village."
Bennett, who moved to Anacostia from Capitol Hill two years ago, said that the village atmostphere of the area was due in part to the friendliness of the old family businesses in the commercial area.
Elaine Hall, president of the Frederick Douglass Community Improvement Council, which filed the application for historic district status, said that the designation would boost community pride.
"Anacostia has poor public relations, but it's a very good place to live," she told the joint committee.
No witnesses appeared to oppose the historic district. The joint committee is expected to announce its decision on the matter late this month.