(Sunday Rearview Mirror is my new probably-not-weekly series where I'll look back at random pieces of Near Southeast history, giving readers who perhaps didn't know the area existed before the arrival of the Nationals some context and understanding of what this once "forgotten" neighborhood used to be like.)
Though I've documented more than 150 buildings
that have been demolished in Near Southeast since I first started photographing the area (initially in fall 2000
and then for real beginning in January 2003
) I had taken enough brief drives through the neighborhood in the late 1990s to know that there were a few other long-standing sites that I didn't manage to capture before they were gone. This has bugged me for years, not only because I hate having missed them for my own archive but because I felt like they were an important part of what made up the old Near Southeast.
So it was with a fair amount of wonderment that I spent time over the past week pouring through images from the National Park Service's HABS, HAER and HALS
archive of photos, available online
thanks to the Library of Congress. The collection contains photos taken above New Jersey, Virginia, and Potomac avenues from helicopter height in 1992, and while I had seen some of these before, I had never downloaded the massive .TIFF images that allowed zooming in to such a degree that buildings and streetscapes became clearly visible.
Buildings I had longed to see documented in public domain photographs*, most of which were demolished in 1999 and 2000, now reappeared, albeit from overhead, in black-and-white and what and sometimes only in grainy depictions. But there they were: Tracks, the nightclub at First and M. The four Capper apartment buildings on Seventh Street and Virginia Avenue. The massive Building 159 at the Southeast Federal Center (seen above). The Washington Star warehouse just south of the freeway that I had driven past hundreds of times but never photographed.
But I found a lot of other "lost" buildings as well, ones that I didn't remember and that probably weren't much to look at at the time, but that help to give a clearer view of what the neighborhood truly looked like just before its first "growth spurt" in 1999-2001 with the arrival of NAVSEA at the Navy Yard. The big finds were the seven or so old rowhouses just north of the (sparkling new) Navy Yard Metro station entrance on New Jersey Avenue, along with another 10 or so along L and Second Streets on what is now the Capitol Hill Tower/Courtyard block. (The Little Red Building did not stand alone since the dawn of time.) The car repair garage and other gritty low-rise buildings that stood where the 1100 New Jersey Avenue office building now is. And so on.
I gathered the images on a new page
, with lots
of narration of what they show, along with in some cases early photos of mine that captured a few of the buildings before they disappeared. I'm really thrilled that these pictures finally provide the bridge I've wanted for so long between what Near Southeast looked like for many years and what I captured when I first started nosing around.
In future Rearview Mirror posts I'll be talking more about many of these sites, so I didn't go into great detail on the histories of the buildings themselves, but I'm really happy that now there will be images to accompany the stories. I doubt most people will be as excited by these shots as I have been, but I still really recommend taking a few minutes to go through them
* The "public domain" distinction is important, because I'm sure that photos of many of these buildings exist in other archives, but since they can't be shared online without my ponying up a bunch of $$, they're not of much use to me here.
For those of you who might use the little stretch of O Street, SE between 11th and 12th
(under the 11th Street Bridges), a travel advisory: "Weekdays June 15 to 24, weather permitting, contractors for the District of Columbia Department of Transportation (DDOT) will reduce O Street SE between 11 and 12 Street SE to one shared-lane for both directions of traffic and flagmen alternating traffic flow to allow sewer line work related to the 11th Street Bridge Project
. This reduction of O Street travel lanes will occur from Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and is subject to change due to weather or other unforeseen conditions."