Since January, 2003
            
 Page Through from Before to After

(For someone who graduated from college with a degree in history, I have done a lousy job over the years of documenting the history of Near Southeast with anything approaching the zeal of my coverage of its present and future. I can offer no good excuses, but I'm going to begin to rectify this with a new series, "Sunday Rearview Mirror." I don't pretend to have the level of knowledge or experience of the pre-ballpark era as those who passed through Near Southeast during those years, but hopefully by taking the time every so often to highlight and describe events from the past I can help make sure that the new residents and workers who only recently heard of Near Southeast have some awareness of the people and events that came before them.)
It was in the 1970s that the western edge of Near Southeast became home to a new entertainment district for the city's gay residents, with its remoteness and lack of nearby residences allowing some measure of freedom for a culture that was only just beginning to step out of the closet. The area between South Capitol and First streets--with clubs like the Lost and Found, Club Baths II, Grand Central, Waaay off Broadway and Washington Square--became home not only to nightclubs with dancing and music but also but bathhouses, x-rated movie cinemas, and strip clubs. One of the new clubs was the Cinema Follies, which opened in 1975 at 37 L St., SE, showing x-rated gay films.
On Oct. 24, 1977, an explosion on the ground floor triggered by cleaning chemicals started a fire, with flames quickly consuming carpeting and wall hangings, blocking the exit for the patrons who had been in the 50-seat second floor theater. The fire never reached the second floor, but the smoke quickly became overpowering. However, a door that led to the roof was padlocked, and the windows had been replaced with cinderblocks. According to the Washington Post's account, "most of the victims were found in the orange-and-black theater seats [...] and may have been overcome by the smoke before they realized what was happening."
Nine people died as a result of the fire, making it the deadliest fire in Washington DC up to that time, a mark that stood until a fire at an unlicensed group home on Lamont Street, NW, killed 10 in April 1979. Identification of those who died at the Follies was hampered by the fact that, as the Post reported, "Many homosexuals do not carry identification when they visit homosexual gathering places," being "wary about the possibility of jeopardizing jobs or social position by having nonhomosexuals learn of their sexual orientation" in case their presence at club might be made public "through a police raid or other event."
(An interesting sidelight to the issue of identification was a column by Post ombudsman Charles Seib soon after the fire, questioning the Post's decision to not use the full names of some of those who died and no names at all of the injured. The column quoted then-Managing Editor Howard Simon as saying that the paper's main motivation was "compassion for the wives and children" [since some of the victims were married] but Seib went on to ask whether this approach had the effect of "underscoring the stigma of homosexuality, of shoving it back in the closet at a time when efforts are being made to bring it out and address it as a social fact?" This is an issue that papers still clearly struggle with, even today.)
William Oates, the manager of the club, was eventually fined $650 in 1979 for violating four building codes, though city officials stated that Oates "did everything possible" to try to comply with the laws, but poor city record keeping and poorly written codes made it difficult. (The city did work to strengthen its codes in the wake of the fire.) However, nearly eight years after the fire, in September of 1985, families of four of the victims were awarded more than $1.5 million in a civil suit against the club's owners.
Within a year or the fire, Oates opened "The Follies" at its new location at 24 O St., SE, where it operated until it was demolished with many other gay nightclubs in May 2006 to make way for Nationals Park. Somewhat amazingly, the building where the Cinema Follies fire took place, which was not all that heavily damaged, still stands today, on L Street directly across from the under-construction 1015 Half office building. It's currently home to a cab company.
I plan to write more Rear-View Mirror entries in the future about the neighborhood's past as a nightclub district, but until then, this 2003 pamphlet by the Rainbow History Project gives a great overview of the clubs that used to be such an integral part of Washington's gay culture. Hard to believe that, when the pamphlet was written, the authors had no idea how little time the existing clubs had left.
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IMGoph says: (6/6/10 5:55 PM)
now THIS is what a good neighborhood blog is all about. bravo, JD!


Spoofy says: (6/6/10 10:08 PM)
VERY interesting! Please keep up the good work and excellent writing.


DG says: (6/6/10 10:35 PM)
Thanks JD! Very interesting!


MJM says: (6/7/10 7:59 AM)
Yes, very interesting article!! Just always thought that building was taxi cab related. Looking forward to next Sunday's piece.


JD says: (6/7/10 9:22 AM)
Thanks, everyone. I'm not sure the Rear-View Mirror posts will be *every* Sunday, maybe every other week or so. Don't want to blow through all the content too quickly! :-)


Michael says: (6/8/10 5:58 PM)
On the day that the fire happened, I was there at 5:00pm, noted that there was not "much action," and left to do some bar hopping. I got home at 10:00pm that evening, in time for the news, and heard that the fire had started around 5:30pm. Since then, I have met people who were even luckier than I was. One gentleman that I talked with told me that he heard the explosion right after he left the building. The next day, at my job at the Pentagon, there were lots of "jokes" about the fire. I was so angry at the insensitivity of people!!! This was so sad!!!


JD says: (6/8/10 10:49 PM)
Thanks for posting, Michael. I was wondering whether anyone who was there or who had first-hand knowledge of it might be reading.


Kevin says: (6/9/10 3:05 PM)
Thanks JD! I worked at those clubs... (tee hee!) and that is some very important history. 1975 - who knew gays existed back THEN! LOL. ;-)


andy says: (6/14/10 6:02 PM)
When talking about the clubs in the area at the time - gotta give a big shoutout to the PIER ONE - I spent much of my formative years there


In my day says: (6/17/10 4:45 PM)
Fascicnating.. Thanks so much !!

I think it is so important to understand that Marion Barry was very much behind the developement of the Gay Scene in those days. It pains me now to hear the ongoing 'West Hollywoodisms' attributed to Fenty and the current council when Barry deserves more 'credit' than anyone. It was never about race then. I guess grandstanding then it no different than grandstanding now.

Thanks Again for this

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City Government Data for Near Southeast Records added or updated recently displayed here; click the "archive" links to see additional detail and older records. All data from DC Government databases and RSS feeds. JDLand takes no responsibility for errors, omissions, etc. (read CapStat disclaimer). Data is retrieved daily.

Recent Crime Incidents Archive  
900 B/O 11TH ST SE   THEFT FROM AUTO
Theft (theft From Motor Vehicle)
 02/19/20
900 B/O M ST SE   BURGLARY
Burglary Two
 02/19/20
1200 B/O HALF ST SE   ROBBERY  02/18/20
UNIT B/O M ST SE   THEFT
Theft 2nd Degree (all Other Larceny)
 02/15/20
400 B/O M ST SE   ASSAULT WITH A DANGEROUS WEAPON  02/08/20
300 B/O TINGEY ST SE   THEFT
Theft 2nd Degree (all Other Larceny)
 02/02/20
700 B/O L ST SE   THEFT
Theft 2nd Degree (all Other Larceny)
 02/01/20
600 B/O VIRGINIA AVE SE   ASSAULT WITH A DANGEROUS WEAPON  01/29/20
1300 B/O 4TH ST SE   THEFT FROM AUTO
Theft (theft From Motor Vehicle)
 01/27/20
1100 B/O 8TH ST SE   BURGLARY
Burglary Two
 01/25/20
303 VIRGINIA AVE SE   ROBBERY  01/25/20
400 B/O M ST SE   THEFT
Shoplifting
 01/23/20

Recent Issued Building Permits Archive  
909 4TH ST SE   
02/12/20 
MEREDITH FASCETT / null
E2004655 / SUPPLEMENTAL
1300 4TH ST SE APT 214   
02/03/20 
null / NA NA NA
EHOP20983190 / HOME OCCUPATION
1021 5TH ST SE   
02/13/20 
KEVIN WILLIAMS / KEVIN WILLIAMS; KEVIN WILLIAMS
B2005053 / CONSTRUCTION
Apply for building permit to have final closing inspection for permit #B1602481 & B1602513 per inspector inspection report since these permits has expired.
82 I ST SE   
01/27/20 
GDV EYE STREET LLC / null
P2003302 / SUPPLEMENTAL
   
01/27/20 
GDV EYE STREET LLC / null
M2001261 / SUPPLEMENTAL
100 I ST SE APT T-13   
01/25/20 
null / NA NA NA
EHOP20960826 / HOME OCCUPATION
150 I ST SE   
02/14/20 
SQUARE 737 LLC / JASON D DORRIS
AH2000818 / CONSTRUCTION
Construction of a new 13 story apartment building with three below grade parking levels, 1st floor retail, and amenity areas; 375 units and 181 parking spaces. To include mechanical, electrical, plumbing, elevators and structural work.
250 M ST SE   
02/14/20 
SQUARE 769 LLC / null
P2003901 / SUPPLEMENTAL
800 NEW JERSEY AVE SE   
01/30/20 
NEW JERSEY AT H LLC / MICHELLE GABBITAS
AH2000649 / CONSTRUCTION
Manhole rehabilitation on New Jersey, 2nd St and M St SE to repair 3 existing sewer manholes in DDOT ROW. Work will all be done through existing manholes (trenchless) and include lining, rebuilding and bypass of existing manholes.
861 NEW JERSEY AVE SE   
01/28/20 
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA / JANE MCCRAY
AH2000647 / CONSTRUCTION
Pepco contractor, W.A.Chester, will be splicing cable on 02 / 01 / 2020 - 02 / 28 / 2020, from 9 PM - 7 AM.
1275 NEW JERSEY AVE SE 20003   
02/14/20 
BROOKFIELD PROPOERTIES / TIM GOOD
AH2000849 / CONSTRUCTION
After hours to conduct work on 1275 New Jersey Ave SE on the upcoming holiday, Presidents Day, February 17, 2020. Operations would include below grade concrete and waterproofing activities with access limited to N Street. This permit would not include extended work hours beyond the normal 7am to 7pm period.
1275 NEW JERSEY AVE SE   
01/29/20 
US GOVERNMENT / null
E2004153 / SUPPLEMENTAL
   
01/29/20 
MILLER AND LONG / WILLIAM MOORE
AH2000659 / CONSTRUCTION
Afterhours to pour concrete with pump truck from 11pm to 7am from 2 / 6 / 2020 to 3 / 6 / 2020
   
01/30/20 
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA / VINCENT J. BROWNING; VINCENT J. BROWNING
P2003449 / SUPPLEMENTAL
1-Oil / Sand interceptor
   
01/30/20 
US GOVERNMENT / null
E2004202 / SUPPLEMENTAL
   
02/07/20 
MILLER AND LONG / WILLIAM MOORE
AH2000699 / CONSTRUCTION
Afterhours to put up towercrane with mobile crane saturday 2 / 8 / 2020 and 2 / 9 / 2020 from 5am to 1159pm
1299 NEW JERSEY AVE SE   
02/18/20 
FOREST CITY SEFC LLC / STRAUCHON; SEE BELOW
BCIV1800153 / CONSTRUCTION
Phase 1A BCIV Permit Description - BCIV 1800153 - The subject BCIV permit is for the Phase IA development of Quander St SE, N Pl SE, and 1-1 / 2 St SE within the overall Forest City, Yards West (FCYW) development area which emphasizes: pedestrian-focused public realm, optimized utility corridor, fully integrated SWM design, and complete street and vision zero design. The FCYW Phase IA is comprised...
1322 PATTERSON AVE SE   
02/13/20 
JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA BOLLING - UNITED STATES NAVAL OBSERVATORY SI / TONYA HARRIS; TONYA HARRIS; TBD
BCIV2000046 / CONSTRUCTION
***FEDERAL PROPERTY*** PROJECT WILL CONSIST OF DREDGING THE EXISTING RETENTION POND AND INSPECTING AND CLEANING THE OUTLET CONTROL STRUCTURE (S1) LOCATED ON THE UNITED STATES NAVAL OBSERVATORY TO REMOVE SEDIMENT ACCUMULATION. CONTRACTOR SHALL AVOID THE CLEARING OF VEGETATION ON POND EMBANKMENTS AND SURROUNDING AREAS SO AS TO KEEP RESTORATION AND REPLANTING TO A MINIMUM.
71 POTOMAC AVE SE   
02/13/20 
MRP REALTY / JAMES VANEGAS
AH2000681 / CONSTRUCTION
Perform interior and exterior construction activities. New construction 14-story new residential multi-family building.
   
02/19/20 
RIVERFRONT HOLDINGS II, LLC / JUSTIN BISHOP; JUSTIN BISHOP
SP1900054 / CONSTRUCTION
Construct a 680 sqft concrete swimming pool inside an existing waterproofed structural box on the 14th floor. All MEP, decking and fencing work by other trades under separate permits.
227 TINGEY ST SE   
02/12/20 
GONE YARD HOTEL OWNER LLC / BOB BIROONAK; BOB BIROONAK
SG2000048 / CONSTRUCTION
one double face illuminated blade sign
AH = After Hours; B = Alteration & Repair; D = Demolition; E = Electrical; FB = Boiler; M = Mechanical; P = Plumbing and Gas; PC = Post Card; R = Raze; SG = Sign; TL = Tenant Layout; TN = Tent; RW = Retaining Wall;

Real Property Sales Archive  
No commercial transaction records added or modified in the past two weeks.


Project Directory
Completed
Thompson Hotel ('20)
West Half ('19)
Novel South Capitol ('19)
Yards/Guild Apts. ('19)
Capper/The Harlow ('19)
New DC Water HQ ('19)
Yards/Bower Condos ('19)
Virginia Ave. Tunnel ('19)
99 M ('18)
Agora ('18)
1221 Van ('18)
District Winery ('17)
Insignia on M ('17)
F1rst/Residence Inn ('17)
One Hill South ('17)
Homewood Suites ('16)
ORE 82 ('16)
The Bixby ('16)
Dock 79 ('16)
Community Center ('16)
The Brig ('16)
Park Chelsea ('16)
Yards/Arris ('16)
Hampton Inn ('15)
Southeast Blvd. ('15)
11th St. Bridges ('15)
Parc Riverside ('14)
Twelve12/Yards ('14)
Lumber Shed ('13)
Boilermaker Shops ('13)
Camden South Cap. ('13)
Canal Park ('12)
Capitol Quarter ('12)
225 Virginia/200 I ('12)
Foundry Lofts ('12)
1015 Half Street ('10)
Yards Park ('10)
Velocity Condos ('09)
Teague Park ('09)
909 New Jersey Ave. ('09)
55 M ('09)
100 M ('08)
Onyx ('08)
70/100 I ('08)
Nationals Park ('08)
Seniors Bldg Demo ('07)
400 M ('07)
Douglass Bridge Fix ('07)
US DOT HQ ('07)
20 M ('07)
Capper Seniors 1 ('06)
Capitol Hill Tower ('06)
Courtyard/Marriott ('06)
Marine Barracks ('04)


Overviews
Capper/Carrollsburg
Anacostia Riverwalk
New Jersey Avenue
M Street
South Capitol Street
The Yards
Lower 8th Street
East M Street
Boathouse Row





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