She timidly greeted the realtor and prospective homebuyer at the door and, clutching the collar of her quilted blue housecoat tightly around her neck, led them up the steep stairs to her second floor apartment.
As the two visitors walked from room to room, opening her closet doors and inspecting her fireplace, the elderly gray-haired woman, Lottie McClintock, put a hand to her mouth and tears welled up in her eyes.
"You aren't going to sell this place now, are you?" she asked the realtor. Then she turned around in the kitchen doorway, hid her face and began to cry. "I don't want to move," she said. "I want to stay in this neighborhood."
McClintock has had her apartment in the 1500 block of Eighth Street NW for only about a year. Before that she lived in a house around the corner that she had rented for 21 years.
"The landlord told me that I had to move for six months while he made repairs," she recalled. "He fixed the place up, but he sold it."
Now, like many of her new neighbors on Eighth Street, she waits and worries about imminent eviction. Already there has been substantial rehabilitation of the turn-of-the-century Victorian and Federal style houses on the east side of the street. On the west side, where many renters still live, litter is strewn about yards and sidewalks.
"I can't even afford to buy a loaf of bread, much less pay more rent or buy a house," said 75-year-old Jesse Griffiths, who rents down the street from McClintock. Griffiths, a retired construction worker who lives with his wife on social security said he is too old now to worry about the changes that alarm many of his neighbors.
A friend of his, Thomas Green, who rents a room at 1548 Eighth St. NW, said he feels "pressure building up" and expects speculation to cost him his home.
"I know that the white people are coming here, some are here already," Green said. "I rent a room that I haven't fixed up like I have before with plants, carpeting and a little paint. What's the use? I could be forced out any day, just like I have been before."
Norma Davis, a mother of five on welfare, feels she is one of the lucky ones.About a year ago her landlord told her that he was selling her house and she would have to move -- unless she could make a down payment of $7,500.
She said she had no money, no assets even beginning to approach that amount, but she wanted to stay and she decided to fight. She wrote letters to practically everyone -- the city Council, Congress, the president. A newspaper columnist wrote about her situation and an anonymous donor sent her the $7,500.
"I bought this house for $19,500 and I've been offered much more than that," she said yesterday. "I got three letters last December and lots of phone calls from realtors wanting me to sell. Everytime I get one, I just want to scream."
Blondell Bennett, 37, who lives in a $120-a-month two-bedroom house across the street with her husband and five children, said she has trouble getting repairs, but is glad to have the house even so.
She may be forced out, she said, but what can she do?
"All we can do is sit tight and hope for the future," she said.