When he was a boy living in Georgetown, George Washington University historian Elmer Kayser used to walk to the old Western Market at 21st and K streets NW to pick up his father's weekly grocery order.
Today, the market is gone and the neighborhood much changed, largely because of George Washington University, its acquistion of land in the area, and the changes that have occured as a result.
George Washington University came to Foggy Bottom, its third location, after a long history of buying and selling land to maintain its financial stability. GW was granted a government charter in 1821 as a result of the lobbying efforts of a Baptist minister, Luther Rice.
Originally named Columbian College, it had no endowment. The purchase of the first campus -- College Hill, on land north of Florida Avenue NW between 14th and 15th streets -- was funded by the Baptist church.
Congress, in granting Columbian College its charter, required it to be nonsectarian, but the Baptists retained some control until the mid-1800s and more than once stepped in to save the college from bankruptcy.
During the Civil War, the government rented College Hill for an important military installation. The government paid a rental fee, but didn't pay for the restoration of the property when the war was over.
Once again, the college was bankrupt. In the 1880s, the property was sold and the college, which was to became Columbian University and then George Washington University, moved to H Street NW between 13th and 14th streets, now in the heart of old downtown.
Thus began the series of property transactions that were to keep the university financially solvent. But not before the university was uprooted a second time. Funds from the sale of College Hill and all of the university's other assets did not cover the cost of the land and construction on H Street. By 1910, the university found itself deeper in debt than it had ever been.
Most of the buildings on H Street were sold. Wilner's clothing store (the Landmark Building) and the Colonial Parking Garage are the only properties GW still owns in the old downtown.
The university's 12th president, Cloyd Heck Marvin, sought to secure a permanent location for the school, and in 1912, the university's greatest expansion began.
Small parcels of land in the Foggy Bottom area were acquired and GW slowly began to grow.
In the 1930s, historian Kayser said, the Washington Gas Light Co. offered to sell GW its gas storage area next to the Potomac River. Marvin turned down the offer, partly because of the cost of removing the gas company equipment. The Wagergate complex occupies the site today.
When the university first moved to Foggy Bottom, some of the residents -- mostly government workers -- moved out.
GW couldn't afford to build new structures until the mid-1920s, and then, during the next 35 years, it put up 11 buildings. Kayser says that as the university grew, the residential population in Foggy Bottom continued to decrease, partly because the community -- which included many blue collar workers and their families -- wasn't organized.
In the 1950s, urban renewal began to change the face of Washington, and GW tried to jump on the bandwagon. By now, Foggy Bottom had become a predominately low-income, residential area with enough deteriorating housing to attract government attention.
Before the 1950s, GW received little federal money. But as land became more costly, the university increasingly tried to qualify for federal funding to help it expand.
The 1954 Housing Act made federal funds available if a plan for an entire renewal area was approved by the local housing administration. GW applied to the city's Redevelopment Land Agency the next year.
In 1956, RLA declared the area west of 19th street and south of Pennsylvania Avenue to be the George Washington Urban Renewal Area. But later, RLA concluded that the area was not "blighted" enough to qualify for federal funding.
GW offered to finance an urban renewal program if RLA would condemn the necessary land, but RLA rejected the idea, partly because the then-powerful Federation of Citizens Associations was opposed.
Oldtimers remember that Foggy Bottom was largely residential even before the university moved in. There was relatively little business activity there, they said.
Pasqual Flordelise, owner of the Trieste restaurant, one block from the GW campus, said: "The neighborhood wasn't modern, it was really rundown." A businessman in Foggy Bottom for 22 years, he believes the neighborhood has changed for the better.
Fiordelise says that he has "been approached on several occasions" by GW officials about selling his restaurnt. He says he eventually will sell, but at the moment is not ready " to surrender this property."