At 22, Sonja Jones was the youngest person to win a house in the D.C. lottery. She got the house at 617 11th St. NE in 1992, a year after she graduated from UDC.
Jones had spotted an ad for the lottery and "just decided" to attend the home-buying seminar. "I had just started working and I had good credit, but I didn't have a lot of credit. I didn't even fathom the thought of winning."
At the seminar, she learned her $18,000 salary and credit reports met the criteria. "I remember what [program director] Lynn French said. She said, 'It's only $19 and it can be the chance of a lifetime.' " So Jones paid $19 for the application fee and credit check and entered her name for three $250 houses in Stanton Park.
Only 100 people had applied, she remembered. "When I heard my name, I was so ecstatic."
The modest two-story brick rowhouse two blocks from busy H Street NE and a block from the classic Capitol Hill residences on Maryland Avenue looked fine on the outside. Like many a lottery home, the inside was another story."
The building, a foreclosure, had kitchen cabinets missing, trashed bathrooms and water damage in the basement. Jones hired contractor Paul Little to do about $80,000 in renovations.
Jones now shares the house with her grandmother, Emily Jones; her parents died when she was a child. The place is assessed at $151,000.
The experience, Jones said, who has a job in education, was a great learning experience. "To be honest with you, I didn't really know what I was getting into, but I wasn't going to let that opportunity pass. . . . Of course, I've had to make sacrifices, but it was worth it."
She enthused, with her trademark smile, not only about her house but about life in her "very multicultural" neighborhood. "It's the best of both worlds," she said, with nearby H Street offering not only memories of prominent black clubs but the potential of future greatness, and with Capitol Hill's cafes beckoning to the west.
"I think within the next 10 years, H Street will be like the next Adams-Morgan," she predicted.
CAPTION: Sonja Jones had just started working in 1992 when she entered the lottery. "When I heard my name, I was so ecstatic," she says. Below, before renovation.