The bass drums and trombones of marching bands echoed through two Washington neighborhoods on opposite ends of town yesterday, each trumpeting the speeches and prayers of thanksgiving for two markedly different ceremonies.
In the oft-forgotten, sometimes desolate far Southwest corner of the city, and at K Sreet and New Jersey Avenue NW, in the distant shadow of the Capitol, two Washington communities celebrated the realization of their dreams.
In Southwest, at the once-abandoned and dilapidated Elmwood apartment complex at 100 Danbury St., five tenants became homeowners. In Northwest, at Bible Way Church, Bishop Smallwood E. Williams and his flock were realizing a dream of their own --- laying the cornerstone for a brand new temple, to be built adjacent to their church building.
The five families in Southwest were buying their building after a year-long battle with their landlord. They attributed their success to preserverence, determination and the city's Department of Housing and Community Development, which came through with a $1.7 million rehabilitation loan.
"This part of the city usually is forgotten," said Barbara Burns, treasurer of the Elmwood Tenants Association. "But we were determined to become homeowners. If you have the determination and you work for it, you can get it."
At the Bible Way Church, Williams attributed the church's more grandiose success to the Lord. "Faith! Faith! Faith!" Williams, ornate in white suit and gold-trimmed cape, shouted at the 3,000 faithful gathered at the dedication. "I knew God would make a way."
God seems to have been making a way for Williams for some time now. The minister pointed with pride to the I-395 highway, which conveniently curves around the Bible Way church anmd the new temple, a curve he refers to as "The Bible Way Bend ."
"I needed highway-moving faith," Williams told the crowd. "And God gave us that faith."
He then pointed to the church's other properties, which dominate the landscape -- the high-rise Golden Rule apartment building with balconies on every floor, the parking lot, and the Golden Rule food warehouse and shopping center on K Street. "I thank God," Williams said. "God helped me do that."
After a sermon and a chorus of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," the District of Columbia Elks Club band led the parishioners and church supporters to the foot of the new red-brick temple for more prayer, more thanks, more music and finally, the actual cornerstone-laying ceremony.
Earlier, at the Elmwood apartments, now the Elmwood condominium, the speeches were shorter as tenants took turns fighting back tears when they stepped to the podium.
Last year, city officials described the Elmwood Apartments, at Danbury and South Capitol streets, as one of the city's worst examples of "walk-away," or property abandonment by a landlord in Washington.
Most of the windows were boarded, and the heat, water and electricity were cut off for nearly nine months.Out of 200 tenants originally in the complex, only the five families remained. They banded together, determined to save their homes.
One of the five, Jesse Williams, remembered, "I had to go across the street to a friends's house to get my water."
With help from the city's housing department, which made some repairs and gave technical assistance, and with a loan from the Washington Federal Savings and Loan Association, the tenants began using their rent money to pay bills and make repairs, and they took classes in property management.
Now the tenants are buying the rehabilitated condominiums, at prices set twice their annual salary. The remaining units will be sold at market rates.
"It's a testament to the stick-toitiveness and the togetherness of these tenants," said Housing Director Robert L. Moore. "These five families stayed together as a family of one."