At some point during the dedication of the Brookland Metro Station on Friday, a maple tree will be planted in memory of Bernard W. Pryor, the former Brookland civic leader who stood unyielding in the face of plans for a North Central Freeway.
Had there not been a Bernard Pryor, Brooklanders say, the residents of this quiet, stable, solidly middle-class community in Northeast Washington would now have a freeway in their midst instead of a sleek, convenient subway line near the Michigan Avenue bridge.
"Our answer has been yes to urban transit, no to highways," explained John Kelly, a Brookland resident for 27 years and projects director for an umbrella group about 40 Northeast organizations. "The subway is welcome addition to the community. We're not interested in high density development here. We're concerned about preserving and refining the quality of life that exists."
That intense drive to try to improve areas of their community without destroying its character was expressed over and over again in interviews with residents and merchants.
Walk into Brookland on a winter day, and it's almost as if you have left Washington. Brookland sits quietly and almost unnoticed in upper Northeast Washington next to Catholic University, an area of comfortable country frame houses with fireplaces, sitting detached on rollin hills. it is a solidly middle to oupper-middle income community, predominantly black, full of Catholic university students and faulty, retired teachers, and government workers, electricians carpenters, plumbers, and employes of local religious institutions, according to a Municipal Planning Office report.
Some residences, scattered throughout the neighborhood, are in a state of disrepair, and there are clusters of row houses here and there.
The Francisan Monastery is tucked into one of Brookland's corners. The dome of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception can be seen from its streets. There is even a green white-pillored completely round house at 1001 Irving Street NE.
Within walking distance of most homes are the 12th Street stores, located on Brookland's rundown "Main Street," where residents can buy groceries and baked goods, get their hair cut and styled or their television repaired, or buy any one of a dozen other goods and services.
Residents say they like the village atmosphere of their neighborhood. Indeed, while everyone interviewed said they think the new subway which opens Feb. 6 will help the community by providing a convenient way to get downtown and to work, they also fear that it will bring with it unwanted commuters who will park in front of homes and in front of the stores on the 12th Street commercial strip.
The Brookland-Catholic University station, located on the eastern edge of the university adjacent to the B&O Railroad in the shadow of the Michigna Avenue bridge, is one of several stations located on the route now extending from downtown Washington to Silver Spring.
It is expected to draw residents from a half-mile radius around the station, but particularly from areas east and north of the station, according to William T. Fauntroy Jr., an urban planner for the D.C. portion of the rail system.
Commuters who want to park and ride the subway will have to park on the streets, or else have someone drop them off. Because the station has no parking lot. Metro intially planned to provide 500 parking spaces adjacent to the station, but the Brookland community contended that would destroy the Brooks Mansion, a nearby historic landmark, and would encourage people to park and leave their cars.
By 1990, ridership is expected to be about 33,000 daily at the station, with 5,500 persons riding during the morning peak hours, Fauntroy said. The peak one-hour traffic is expected to be 100 cars and 159 buses in and out he said.
Brooklanders, ever wary, haven't waited for the opening of the Metro station to see if commuters park on their streets. Petitions with more than 1,000 signatures already have been filed with the D.C. Department of Transportation requesting a residential parking permit program, according to Robert Artisst, president of the Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association and an advisery neighborhood commissioner in the area.
In addition, Artisst, said, one hour parking meters may be installed on 12th street to discourage communters from parking in front of neighborhood stores.
Merchants and residents interviewed had different feelings about what the subway will mean to Brookland.
Friedrich Von Stauffenberg, who owns a bookstore at 12th Street NE where old and used books are sold and traded, said Metro may help local merchants by encouraging local residents to shop on their way home, but he doesn't does not hink it will lure communters to local shops.
"It (the subway) won't do us any harm, but as far as any real good, I doubt it," Von Staufferberg said.
"Why should they (commuters) get off the subway and walk two blocks up-hill when they can stay on the subway and go downtown?"
Odis Johnson, an architect and one of the owners of Cousin's Bar-B-Que, a carry'out shop on 12th Street, said, "We're gong to try to capture business because of the Metro."
The area around the station offers little potential for development, noted Nathan Gross, deputy director of the Municipal Planning Office zoning division.
"Brookland has a country charm. It is a quiet, quality neighborhood that isn't known by too many people," Gross said. "There's very little development potential at the site. It probably will be as low density as any station in the city.
Gross-said one possible site for future development is a vacant area facing the station that Metro may some day use for a parking lot. A second is an area north of the bridge that has been suggested for a four-story commerical building with parking on the roof.
Gross added that such a use would require a zoning change, and he said the plan is "in abeyance" until there is a demand for such a facility.
Kelly, of the Upper Northeast Coordinating Council umbrella organization said emphatically that the community has "no interest in a four story commercial building" near the Brookland station.
"It would drain away from (the) 12th Street (merchants) like nobody's business," Kelly said.
At least one merchant has concerns over what rising property values near the subway may due to the commercial strip.
"It means my rent is going to increase," said Ken Gaddy, owner of Gaddy's Barber Shop.
According to a real estate directory, homes in the area near the subway station have sold recently in the upper-$40,000 and $50,000 range.
Bill Hennessy, a realtor associate for Shannin & Luchs, said he recently sold a two-bedroom brick rambler in Brookland for $65,000.
"Brookland is a very popular area," Hennessy said. 'I wouldn't call it super hot, but I've noticed more demand in the last five or six months."
Kelly's coordinating council has put together a map showing potential development "hot spots" in Upper Northeast. Those sites include Brookland, fort Totten, and Rhode Island Avenue, all which now have or will have subway stations. According to their, figures, in 10 to 15 years Brookland may have 240 more dwelling units, 760 more people, 360 more vehicles, 1,200 more daily vehicle trips, 350 more employes, and 65,000 more square feet of commercial space.
Figures for all the hot spots together "spell out the fact that Northeast D.C. cannot absorb all that is being proposed for it without suffering drastic consequences," the development map says.
In addition to fighting the freeway, another issue that has drawn Brookland residents together is the future of the Brooks Mansion, the huge, once-elegant Greek revival home located adjacent to the new Metro station. It is owned by Metro, and negotiations are under way involving the city government, Metro, and community leaders on its use. Proposals include rehabilitating it and using it for a regional senior citizens center, as a vocational facility for youth, or as a cooperative extension service center of the University of the District of Columbia.
The Brooks Mansion was built between 1836 and 1840 for Col. Jehiel Brooks, a lawyer and gentleman farmer. In 1887, the Brooks estate was subdivided and the area was given a new name in honor of the family - Brookland.
Mary Kelly, the great-granddaughter of Col. Brooks, still lives in Brookland, where she was born in 1908. And where her mother, Agnes Brooks, grew up.
The Brooks Mansion, which Kelly remembers as having "nice marble fireplaces and a beautiful staircase," is a historic landmark now, vacant, boarded up and deterioated.
Thirty years ago, Brookland was a white middle-class community with a few blacks. Now, the area is predominantly black.
Frederic Heutte, a music librarian at the University of Maryland in Colege Park, said he attended Catholic University graduate school in the early 1950s, and has not lived away from the Brookland area since.
"No way was I expecting to stay here," Heutte said, laughing. "I fell into this place during a period of great change. I saw Brookland go from 80 percent white to 80 percent black in a very short period. During that period of blockbusting and racial distrust, we managed to forge a good solid community. The freeway fight helped bring all of us together."
Heutte said he chose to stay in Brookland "because it has the flavor of a small community, but you have the conveniences of the city. It's a small village in a large cosmopolitan area."
Some of Brookland's elderly residents said that a number of the neighborhood blocks have deteriorated in recent years. Residents and merchants reported that there are minor carimes in the area, such as shoplifting and items stolen from front porches.
"When I first came to Brookland, it was a beautiful college town, like a little village," sighed one resident who has lived in Brookland since 1927, shaking her head. "Then it went down. This (the subway) may help bring it back. We're just sitting here waiting for it."
Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachusetts grew up in Brookland. Ralph Bunche, the former undersecretary-general of the United Nations' used to live there. patricia Roberts Harris, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, lived in Brookland from 1959 to 1965, and was active in the "stop the freeway" crusade. D.C. City Councilman Douglas Moore lives there, too.
And for all its outward tranquility, civic leaders Artisst insists, "It's not as quiet as some people would like to believe. You have residents here who will come forward when there's an issue. You've got a good fighting group here."