It will take an act of Congress to bring Ann and Phil Truluck home delivery of their mail.
Or, more exactly, a non-act.
The story began last January, a month before the trulucks moved into a renovated warehouse facing an alley between 11th and 12th streets NE and Constitution Avenue and Fast Capitol Street on Capital Hill. The construction went smoothyly enough, and the 1 1/2-story, turn-of-the-century horse barn and taxi repair shop they bought for $30,000 was transformed into a modern three-story home worth upwards of $200,000.
But because the house faced an alley and had no access to the street, the Trulucks had no address. Without an address, the Postal Service would not deliver their mail.
Phil Truluck remembers the beginning: "One day I stopped the mailman and asked him if he could deliver my mail. He told me, 'No way, that is not an officially named street.' 'But,' I said, 'you go right by my house.'"
After going "around and around with the post office," Truluck learned the same thing a post office spokesman told a reporter this week: "If this man would get a street address from the city, we would start delivery with no problems. But he's probably getting a hell of a runaround from the city on getting the name."
So Truluck, executive vice president of the Heritage Foundation, went to the National Archives to find a name for his alley, one with "some type of historic significance." After several dusty days of mucking around in the archives, Truluck decided he neede a professional. He called in Ruth Ann Overbeck, of Washington Perspectived, inc., a firm offering "historical and preservation-related services."
Overbeck took over the search, an odyssey that led her to the Maryland State Historic Association in Baltimore and the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis. She finally decided on Walter Houp.
Houp met the qualifications, Overbeck says.He was the first patentholder on the land, under a patent given him by a representative of Lord Baltimore in 1687, when Washington was still part of Maryland. Referred to as a "gentleman" in historic literature, Overbeck says houp was involved in farming, was a middle-sized landowner of the time and, to his historic advantage, "was literate . . . does not appear in any court litigation . . . has no record of being a slave-holder . . . and nothing in the city is named for him."
So Overbeck, with the approval of the Trucklucks, decided on Houp's Alley.
But after consulting with the City Council's Transportation and Environmental Affairs committee, Overbeck found it wasn't that simple.
The Trulucks were required to use a full name. They couldn't make the name possive, and nobody can own an alley in the District but the District itself. And finally, they couldn't name it alley because an alley is not a street, and that's what the argument was about in the first place. They had to name it Walter Houp Court.
Last Jan. 17, Overbeck sent a proposed bill to name the alley to City Council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6). Meanwhile, the Trulucks' mail was being sent to his office address.
Once in Winter's hands, the bill was assigned to a part-time student eompoye. In June, it was forwarded to the Council's Transportation and Environmental Affairs Committee. But in Autust, the City Council took its usual month-long summer vacation.
Meanwhile, the Trulucks had to go to their Advisory Neighborhood commission to make sure their neighbors agreed with their choice of a name for the alley. In fact, they had to go to two, because the alley is on the border betwen two ANC districts.
On Nov. 12, the Trulucks and Overbeck, who by this time was working grastis, because, she says, "it became a personal crusade to get this thing done," received notice that their bill had been passed by the City Council and was awaiting the mayor's signature.
Mayor Marion Barry signed the bill last Friday and sent it to Congress. The bill will become law of Congress does not object within 30 congressional working days. But with Congress on the brink of adjournment, it could very well be March before the Trucklucks begin receiving their mail at home.
The council, of course, could have passed the bill as emergency legislation and made it effective immediately.
But, said Ann Snodgrass, staff director of the Transportation and Environmentall Affairs Committee, "I'm not aware of there being any emergency."
The Trujlucks might disagree.