Evelyn Morgan is watching her West End neighborhood change. But she isn't seeing anything new.
Morgan grew up in Georgetown in the 1930s - when it had slums - and later watched its transformation into a wealthy and chic area.
Now she says she is seeing the same thing happen in the West End, which is separated from Georgetown by Rock Creek Park. Developers there have begun to fill the hole in the doughnut formed by Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle and Georgetown.
Morgan has lived in a little red town house at 1008 23rd St. since 1942, when she was married in it. She remembers Saturday afternoons spent at the K Street Market, where farmers from the country would set up stands and sell their wares.
Today, as what was once a distinct community is being redeveloped into an enclave for the affluent, steep rent hikes and threats of eviction are forcing more and more of the old-time residents to move to other neighborhoods.
Loretta Barrett, who was a member of the Lincoln Civic Association during the late 1960s and early 1970s, said the work her group accomplished in the West End is the reason the neighborhood is now so appealing to outsiders.
The group cleaned alleys, kept the embassies out of the area, and obtained equipment for the neighborhood's Francis Recreation Center from the Department of Recreation, she said.
Now her family will have to move from their house on L Street because the owner plans to sell it to developers, she said.
Ann Loikow, vice chairman of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, says the chance is that, as few older buildings in an area such as the West End are renovated and the quaint houses, shops and mixture of people create a lively neighborhood, developers will jump on the opportunity to exploit its attractiveness.
"Once the first guy takes the risk, then they all come in and kill" the very reason they first invested, Loikow said. The consequence, she predicted, will be the remaking of a once-charming neighborhood into an enclave of "very sterile glass boxes!"
Alice Gibson also used to stop with her friends at the K Street Market on her way home from a cleaning job in Chevy Chase. "Sometimes we'd sit down on the high steps afterward and chat," said Gibson, of 1126 23rd St. "It was the best marketplace around."
Gibson still attends the Union Wesley AME Church even though it has moved uptown. It was previously located across the street from her house in a building that was converted into the West End Circle Theater.
Now that most of the older families have moved away, the neighborhood has lost much of its liveliness, said Gibson, who has lived in her home for 31 years.
Old-timers forced to move say the renewal of West End is destroying its diversity.
One woman living on N Street says she is bothered not only by people being "kicked out," but by less affluent people being kept from moving in. "I don't say they're all the same type, but they're all rich," she said of her new neighbors.
Robert (Duke) Shirley, an attendent in the laundramat at 2508 Pennsylvania Ave., grew up at 2606 L St. He and his family were evicted from their house after years of fighting with the city over plans to build a freeway that would have cut through the West End. The house was torn down, but the freeway was never completed. An unused exist ramp sits where the house was once located.
"Things are changing too quickly," Shirley said. "I'm just sitting back and watching. A lot of people are going to be homeless after all this construction stops, but the way I look at it is that you can't fight city hall."
Traffic has eased out the kickball games on 25th Street between L and M, once a lively block where friends gossiped about their neighbors and older people played checkers.
In the 1940s, the city often blocked off the streets between 25th, 26th, K and I streets, and the police would turn on the fire hydrants so the children could play and cool off in the summer heat, said Flossie Monroe, who used to live on the border of the West End neighborhood.
In the winter, her children loved to go sledding down those same blocked-off streets.
Years ago, the West End was a more tightly knit neighborhood, with a community atmosphere, where "everybody knew everybody. It was poor but it was good," Monroe said.
When someone was sick, all the neighbors would bring food, clean up, or help in any way they could, she said. "Now people next door to me could get sick, go to the hospital, come back, and I wouldn't even know it."
One woman, who has live in the West End for about six years, says that, although the neighborhood is still similar to a small town, that aspect is fading as more homes are renovated and sold.
Richard Nugent, who lives just outside the West End neighborhood on Newport Place, says the biggest change is that many students have left the area.
"They said it wouldn't affect us, but it will," he said, referring to the redevelopment's impact on the fringe of the West End. Besides the severe parking problems, his property taxes have tripled since 1970, Nugent said. "It's too Georgetownish now," he added. "Before, it was a nice neighborhood."
Rent and property assessment raises are scaring many old-time residents into leaving the West End. These increases have followed on the heels of announcements for such developments such as the $30 million condominium and office building on 26th Street NW of the Oliver T. Carr Co.
The condominium, called Westbridge, and new building for the Arnold and Porter law firm on the Goodwill Industries site - both built by the Carr Co. at opposite ends of the neighborhood - exemplify the changes that have occurred in the West End during the past 10 years.
The expectation that a freeway would be built and a row of embassies constructed along Newport Place just north of N Street spurred a mad scramble to buy land on the sites and sent property taxes zooming upward, Loikow said.
Once the go-head for the public projects came, the new landowners, including Carr and Ulysses (Blackie) Auger, assumed they would resell their property to the Distric government for a larger profit.
But the Environmental Protection Agency and community groups succeeded in halting both projects, and, according to Loikow, in order to save their investments, the developers pressured for and received zoning changes that allowed them to build lucrative office buildings and condominiums.
With the rise of the ANCs and home rule legislation, citizen groups no longer had to go through Congress to lodge a complaint. But as Loikow says, "the ANC's didn't understand" the process of city government and little could be done because all the changes are a result of the Zoning Commission's variances.
Community groups were able to slow the start of the Westbridge and Guest Quarters developments across from each other on Pennsylvania Avenue between 25th Street and 26th Street, but in the end the construction began. The apartment house Loikow lives in is being converted to condominium ownership.
Yet residents say they have had little communication with the community groups such as the ANCs, although the ANC are formed more than two years ago.
Joseph Oglethorpe, who recently was forced to move to Arlington from his Pennsylvania Avenue apartment to make room for a new French restaurant, said he didn't even know there was a community group in the area. "It doesn't make any difference how or what you do - we're going to have to leave soon anyway," he said.
On paper, the West End is no different than many other city neighborhoods throughout the country. It has a public school, a police and fire department, a public library, a food market and a drug store, a couple of liquor stores and many bars and restaurants. The population numbers slightly under 3,000, and about 79 percent of the residents live in high-rise apartment buildings.
According to Loikow, the public services in the West End are "underutilized." The office of Planning and Management believes with the new developments the services will be used to capacity. The public school, the Francis Junior High, is filled to capacity, but because most persons moving into the new developments are single, it is not believe that the school will be overcrowded.
In effect, the West End is changing its face not only to accomodate present residents but, more to the point, to attract new ones.
Rents have skyrocketed but owners believe they can rent their apartments for any price.
Mora Marshall and her family have renovated a house. She is renting an efficiency that includes a fully modern kitchen and wall-to-wall carpeting for $365 a month plus utilities, along with one-bedroom units. "The rents are really inflated but I think we will get our investment out of it," Marshall said.
She said she and her mother had asked area realtors if they thought the rent they were asking was too high, but were told not to lower the rent because "you will get what you want."