Jerry Logan limped down Adams Street NW, where he has lived all his 25 years, resting his weight on the walking stick that has been his companion since a recent spinal infection.
When Logan was 10, Delores Laverne Bailey, a neighbor down the street, took him in. His mother had died, his father was working two jobs and an older brother was working evenings. Bailey thought taking in the boy was a neighborly thing to do.
"She raised me with her four children," said Logan, who works at a luxury hotel. "Everybody on this street was like family then. People were very close.
"This street is like a small town. That's the way it was and still is," said Logan. "They don't like strangers. But if you move here, you become part of the family."
Today Logan is back in the house where he was reared, struggling with motor disorders that are the result of his illness.
After 23 years of sharing a house with a friend, Bailey is moving into a place of her own on Capitol Hill.
She wants, she said, "a place where my children can come to visit and bring my grandchildren to spend the night."
She said she will return to Adams Street periodically to check on Logan.
"I just wish I could have stayed around here or bought a house a long time ago," said Bailey, who once, after separating from her husband, worked two full-time jobs, one in a hotel and another cleaning offices at night.
"This has been a nice street," she said. "You know what I like about it? I can put my grandson out there and when I want to know where he is, all I have to do is call his name and a neighbor tells me where I can find him."
Adams Street, three blocks of Victorian and colonial row houses in a Northwest neighborhood called Bloomingdale, is a microcosm of all that is city life. There are good neighbors and bad ones, drug abusers, community activists, blacks and whites, children and seniors, those who live comfortably and those who struggle to live from paycheck to paycheck.
For many, the only common ground with their neighbors is this street they share.
"The soundest and safest neighborhoods are the building blocks of a city," said Carl Holman, president of the National Urban Coalition, which works to solve urban problems through, among other things, economic development and education.
"You talk about the importance of family policy, but urban life has been sustained through families and neighborhoods," Holman said. "It seems to me it's worthwhile for a city to try to hold on to as many of the solid, old neighborhoods as it can . . . to restore them not only physically, but return them to the kinds of places where people see themselves as stakeholders interested in security of the neighborhood."
Adams Street, for most of its residents, is that kind of place. Tucked behind Howard University and stretching between North Capitol and Second streets, Adams runs through the middle of a census tract in which more than half the 3,491 residents own their homes.
Nearly half the residents work in white-collar jobs; the rest of the population is split between blue-collar workers and service employees.
The average income for families in the tract ($29,558) is slightly lower than the average income for families in the District.
Bloomingdale, originally a white, middle-income suburb connected to downtown by streetcar lines, was transformed into a neighborhood of black, middle-income families as antiblack covenants were lifted in the 1950s.
Today most Adams Street residents are black, and are a mix of young professionals who are newcomers and older families who fought to have the covenants lifted.
Newcomers come looking for moderately priced houses and a neighborhood that hasn't lost its old-time charm to gentrification.
"There's a neighborhood feel on Adams Street that we didn't find on Capitol Hill," said Leroy Shifflet, who with his friend Owen Johnson bought a house on Adams that they are repairing.
Although they won't say how much they paid for the house, the men said it was a price they could afford on bartenders' salaries.
Realtors say prices in the area range from $65,000 to $125,000, depending on the condition of the house.
"We feel we're joining a neighborhood instead of a country club," Johnson said.
There is a saying on Adams Street that life there is so sweet that no one just moves away; they leave to go to nursing homes or to live with adult children because they've grown too old to live alone.
"Miss Susie next door had to go to a nursing home recently," said Everett O. Bailey, 89 (no relationship to Laverne Bailey), a retired carpenter.
"Miss Susie moved here three months after us."
Bailey and his sister, Julia Bailey Branch, 95, whom he simply calls "Sister," moved to Adams Street in November 1927.
The immaculate house is filled with solid old furniture, including an oak china closet Bailey made using a handsaw when he was a student at Cardozo High School in 1917. A living room mantle is loaded with fishing and skeet shoot trophies and family photos.
"Most of the houses, including this one, had a covenant saying they couldn't be sold to Negroes," said Bailey, known to most neighbors as a fisherman who gives away much of his catch.
Branch went to court to fight for her house and she won. For more than half a century she has polished and cleaned its wooden floors while Bailey planted rose bushes, tomatoes and string beans in the back yard.
After Branch suffered a hip injury, Bailey built a rail from the first floor to the second to help her walk up the stairs.
"She told me not to bother 'cause she wouldn't be here much longer," he said, laughing. "That was six years ago."
Still, as a reminder of his own mortality, Bailey points to a short bridge painted green that runs from the back porch, across a dip in the land, to the level top of the yard.
"I've built that bridge three times in my lifetime because it has rotted," he said, adding nonchalantly, "I might not see it rot again."
He spends many of his days in the garage he has rented from "Miss Susie" since 1958. That's where he keeps his carpenter's tools, fishing rods, fishing hats, fishing awards, and a freezer full of his latest catch, including an 8-pound salmon he "spent $1,000 catching" and is preserving "as a keepsake."
Branch and her husband, the late Hayes L. Branch, both worked as managers at a local dry cleaners while rearing three daughters on Adams Street. Because of bad health she is staying temporarily with her youngest child, Laurette Henley, on South Dakota Avenue NE.
"Blacks lived on half the block but the rest of the street was middle-class whites who worked as taxi drivers and government workers," said Henley, a retired District schoolteacher. "We all got along fine, but we never did that much mingling.
"It was so safe then you could play in the alley," she said. "We could walk down the streets as late as 8 or 9, going to the Safeway, the High's or the five-and-dime -- and nobody would bother you."
Branch remembers that many years ago McMillan Reservoir was a city park and "a colored band called the Millers gave Friday evening concerts." She counted on her hand five families who have lived on Adams Street for more than 50 years.
"I loved that street. I was proud to live there," said Henley.
Some houses on Adams Street are known by names rather than numbers. There is "The Pumpkin," a house accidentally turned bright orange by painters who mixed their colors wrong. An assistant U.S. attorney lives in a coral and gray house dubbed "Painted Lady," after the colorful Victorian row houses of San Francisco.
It seems there were always whispers about "Miss Pearl's house." Then on May 10, 1986, there was a shootout at the white Victorian-style house at 60 Adams St., once the home of Pearl Cooper, who had since died. Cooper's two sons, Robert and George, and another man were slain. Police said the men were robbed of heroin and about $7,000 in cash.
"The Palace," the huge vacant corner house once the show piece of the neighborhood, was taken over by squatters who stayed more than a year and stripped the house of its precious woodwork before they left. But one of the most memorable events was when prostitutes moved into a house in the 100 block of Adams.
Sylvia Heath remembers well the days of the prostitutes. "I would see women in red shoes and red shorts walking the streets 10 a.m. in the morning," Heath said laughing. "No one around here dresses like that; we're too conservative for that. We thought about picketing the damn place, but then I came home one day and the street was full of police and fire engines and the house had burned to the ground. That was the last of the pimps and prostitutes."
Nine years ago she and her husband Horton moved from McLean, against friends' advice, to Adams Street, where Heath said they now live "happy as clams" in their white Victorian house with royal blue trim.
They left behind a spacious condominium with a neighborhood golf course, tennis course and swimming pool.
"I feel that I'm on the best part of the best street in the city," said Horton Heath, a former editor at the Drug Enforcement Administration who now works as a self-employed translator. His only complaint is that there is no public park in the community.
They've lived through renovations, including a month without a kitchen or a bathroom. They've endured a flooded basement and suburban friends that questioned their sanity.
But now they have amenities they adore: hardwood floors, skylights, a brick patio outside the back yard carriage house.
"We love every inch of this house," said Sylvia Heath, who after encouraging several people to buy in the neighborhood decided to become a real estate agent. Residing with the couple are Monk, a mixed sheep dog Sylvia Heath says is "Catholic" because he came from a monastery, and Miss Adams, a timid cat named, of course, for their street.
"We have the advantage of a strong middle-class community that was here before we came," said Heath, a recipient of some of Everett Bailey's fresh fish.
"If you're a stranger and walk down the street they know you're a stranger. It's a built-in security system," he said.
The story of Adams Street reminds Holman of the neighborhood where he grew up in St. Louis and of some of the neighborhoods he has seen in his travels throughout the United States as president of the National Urban Coalition.
"In my neighborhood, we didn't have to just deal with parents if we did something wrong; we had to deal with neighbors. Any neighbor could say 'Don't do that.'
"Now we have some neighborhoods where mothers don't talk to each other," Holman said. "I hope the old neighborhoods won't be seen just as historical relics of the past, to be preserved physically by the preservationists.
"They should be seen as something we can build on, because without them, there is no city."