Neighborhood Spotlight: Anacostia

The Source

“In 1608 Captain John Smith became the first European to see these forested hills, teeming with wildlife, and to visit the centuries-old, Algonquin-speaking American Indian trading village Nacotchtank, located on the east side of the Eastern Branch. The people were called ‘Nacostines’ by the Europeans, the source of the word Anacostia.

Anacostia became associated with the land that had been occupied by the Nacostines and has been sometimes used to mean the entire area of the District east of the Anacostia River.  It correctly applies to only two communities, one white, one black.

The Anacostia historic district at the end of the 11th Street Bridge, laid out in 1854 as Uniontown and in 1886 renamed Anacostia, was a majority white community for most of its history. Immediately south of it was a historically black community laid out as Barry Farm in 1876, renamed Hillsdale by the territorial government of the District as a request of the local people in 1874.”

- Washington at Home, Edited by Kathryn Schneider Smith

Probably in the 2200 block of Nichols Ave, S.E. Combination (5 – 10 – 25 cent) Store and Ice Cream Parlor decorated for the Fourth of July around the year 1919. [Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress online]

The Population

Until the 1950s, Anacostia was predominantly White (approximately 85% of the population). The 2000 Census noted Anacostia’s population was 5% Non-Hispanic White and the 2010 Census listed 3.3% of the approximate 71,000 residents were Non-Hispanic White.

“’That number [the 3.3%] is growing as more white professionals move in’, Davis said.

He said many ‘For Sale’ signs in historic Anacostia are tagged with the graffiti, ‘No Whites,’ which ‘means that a small minority fear being pushed out of their homes’ by gentrification.

‘We have come across many of our posts defaced with the words ‘No Whites,’ Davis said. ‘We have had to fix them. But I think it’s just as wrong to discriminate against black people as it is to discriminate against whites.’

Many longtime residents said some of the investment flowing into Anacostia seems intimidating and unnecessary. They said they need jobs and better low-income housing, not luxury housing or office space.

‘The new owners — both black and white professionals — who are moving in are demanding regular police patrols, and now we have policeman on bicycles,’ said Davis, who is black and has been working in the area for 10 years. ‘You know the area is changing, the city is changing. It’s just going to happen.’

Butch Hopkins, president of the nonprofit Anacostia Economic Development Corp., said he is hopeful that the renovation of St.Elizabeths Hospital— slated to become headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security — will bring even more new faces to Anacostia.

More than 14,000 federal workers are expected to come to the new complex, and a 281,000-square-foot office and retail development is planned for across the street.

‘We hope that, over time, a lot of the folks who commute here will begin to see how lovely the neighborhood is, get sick of that long commute and realize that Anacostia is actually a nice place to live,’ Hopkins said.”

- Emily Wax, “‘Gentrification’ covers black and white middle-class home buyers in the District” Washington Post, July 28, 2011

The historic Anacostia Block Association: http://www.habadc.org/index.htm

The Freeway

The Anacostia Freeway (I-295) is a 8.05 mile interstate connecting I/95/I-495 and MD Route 210 to I-695 and downtown DC. It was opened in 1964 at 7.8 miles and extended another 1.7 miles in 1990. The freeway ostensibly separated Anacostia the neighborhood from the waterfront of theAnacostia River. Now, the traffic count on I-295 averages 85,100 vehicles on weekdays.

The Web Series

Now its second season: ANACOSTA – The Web Series! This episodic dramatic web series “follows the lives of the residents of ANACOSTIA, a small residential community in Washington, DC as they navigate through love, betrayal, deception, sex, and murder.”

What’s next?

The Washington City paper reported on Monday about plans to build a homeless shelter in the heart of Anacostia’s business district. According to the article, plans have been underway for months, but most residents just found out about it last week in an email blast from City Council Chairman Kwame Brown. Blogger Veronica Davis and others in the neighborhood are concerned that social service organizations such as a homeless shelter will impede development and revitalization efforts in the area (being as it’s a prime location for a new restaurant or retail shop).

This is just one example of the recent developments and controversies in the neighborhood. We’ll be on the lookout for more, and as always send us your thoughts!

~ Rachel Grossman, Connectivity Director and Brooke Miller, Press and Digital Content Manager

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Filed under Clybourne Park, Communications and Connectivity, Connectivity

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