ANACOSTIA is often pictured as almost a model of all that's wrong with urban living - poverty, high crime, crumbling housing, public frustration and despair. But there's another Anacostia that most people don't know about - or at least they didn't until a few weeks ago when several neighborhood organizations made a presentation to the Joint Committee on Landmarks of the National Capital, asking for a large portion of the Anacoatia area to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Some parts of Anacostia have already received historic designation. Cedar Hill, the home of Frederick Douglass, is the most notable example; the Uniontown area in Anacostia - founded in 1854, and this city's first suburb - has also been cited. Now Anacostia residents want the historic boundaries expanded to take in other historically significant and architecturally interesting sites. These include Griswold's subdivision - an area begun in the 1880's, noted for its large homes and gabled architecture - and sections of the old Nichols Road and Good Hope Road, major business districts in the late 19th century.
The presentation made by the Frederick Douglass Community Improvement Association to the Joint Committee detailed the strong interest of residents and community organizations in preserving and improving the area. They recognize the historic and architectural importance of the area. And they also view historic designation as a means of preserving the best parts of the community, while serving as a lever for obtaining public and private money to continue neighborhood improvement. Once that money is secured, community organizations and private citizens could renovate their own homes and shops - and interest others in doing so. That strikes us as just what neighborhood preservation and development should be all about.
The Joint Committee usually shies away from reconizing the effect its decisions may have on community restoration and growth. But by bestowing historic designation on a part of Anacostia, the Committee has an opportunity to recognize some of the city's historic treasures while encouraging thoughtful development. Anacostia is ready and willing for that decision to be taken.