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They say you never really know what's going on inside the walls of someone's home, and that certainly would have been the case if you had wandered by the northwest corner of Half and N in the early 1980s. The red brick rowhouse at 36 N Street, SE (seen at left in May 2003) would have looked unassuming enough to you, until you opened up your copy of the Washington Post on March 2, 1981, and read this:
"It was his first night at The Playground Swing Club in Southeast Washington, and the 37-year-old Army veteran was ready. He stripped and headed up the red-carpeted stairs to the lounge where a few men and women, most dressed only in robes, were sitting on cushioned floors and platforms. [...] Soon, he and a young woman he had never before met strolled into The Playroom, where bodies were lying in all directions on mattresses and a raised platform. He and the woman joined in. 'Everybody freeze!" a voice suddenly shouted. 'This is a raid!' "
DC police had spent six weeks investigating The Playground, work which included having two undercover police couples "stripped to their underwear [who] spent three hours listening to the friendly discussions and watching the lovemaking." But when the bust happened in February of 1981, there were no charges of anyone paying for sex: the owner eventually was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $500 for operating a public hall without a license and failing to have a proper certificate of occupancy for the club. An additional charge of selling alcohol without a license was dropped.
A few of the "participants" at the house that night were charged under the city's sodomy laws, which brought swift condemnation from the ACLU: "Sexual conduct between consenting adults is none of the government's business." The raid also made for titillating reading in the Post, as the paper dryly explained the "swinging" culture: "What was happening at The Playground was a plain and simple orgy--an activity that seems to have become as common among a certain underground of adults as was dancing cheek-to-cheek in the 1930s."
The Playground was closed soon after, and a 1982 attempt to turn 36 N into an "erotica museum" was shot down by the city and neighbors. The rowhouse itself lasted until 2005, getting demolished two years before its neighbors met the wrecking ball as well. The site, now owned by Akridge as part of its Half Street footprint, is directly across from Nationals Park (which I guess you could also call a swinging establishment!), where the Bullpen now provides a different brand of entertainment during baseball season.
As for the Playground's owner? It was Dennis Sobin, longtime city activist and current mayoral candidate. A profile of Sobin earlier this year by the Georgetown Voice gives a quick summary of his years in Washington, including his ownership of multiple strip clubs, adult bookstores, and brothels in the late 70s, a third-place finish in the 1982 mayor's race, and a 10-year prison term in Florida on child pornography charges. He currently runs the Prisons Foundation, devoted to prison artists and their work.
(And no, I had no idea that this little item would end up tied to current city politics when I started!)
Comments (2)
   
 
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Jay says: (7/19/10 9:13 AM)
As I have said before, it was a paradox that this site was not highly thought of when the Post was ranking the possible ballpark sites.

Maybe this helps explain it, its sordid past, if you will.


c says: (7/19/10 2:51 PM)
ah the good old days, all that old fun used to come cheap, now it's $7 for a Hebrew National and more if you want a beer

I just hope they recycled the brick at that old dive - psyche

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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  
1200 B/O HALF ST SE   THEFT
Theft 2nd Degree (all Other Larceny)
 03/23/20
1500 B/O SOUTH CAPITOL ST SE   THEFT
Shoplifting
 03/11/20
200 B/O I ST SE   THEFT
Theft 2nd Degree (all Other Larceny)
 03/09/20
1000 B/O 1ST ST SE   THEFT FROM AUTO
Theft (theft From Motor Vehicle)
 03/08/20
400 B/O M ST SE   THEFT
Theft 2nd Degree (theft From Building)
 03/06/20
800 B/O L ST SE   THEFT FROM AUTO
Theft (theft From Motor Vehicle)
 03/05/20
1200 B/O 1ST ST SE   THEFT
Theft 2nd Degree (all Other Larceny)
 03/01/20
1100 B/O 1ST ST SE   THEFT
Theft 2nd Degree (theft From Building)
 02/27/20

Recent Issued Building Permits Archive  
1300 4TH ST SE 1001   
03/16/20 
LA FAMOSA LLC / null
P2004796 / SUPPLEMENTAL
   
03/20/20 
LA FAMOSA LLC / null
E2005975 / SUPPLEMENTAL
1300 4TH ST SE 1006   
03/16/20 
LA FAMOSA LLC / null
M2001859 / SUPPLEMENTAL
1300 4TH ST SE RU-1   
03/04/20 
AP BOWER RETAIL LLC / DAVID T FONTANA; BACON CONSTRUCTION COMPANY BACON CONSTRUCTION COM
TL2000065 / CONSTRUCTION
First time tenant layout on 1,196 SF of 1st floor retail shell for restaurant, Jeni Ice Cream, with 10 seats
   
03/06/20 
AP BOWER RETAIL LLC / null
E2005415 / SUPPLEMENTAL
   
03/11/20 
AP BOWER RETAIL LLC / DOMINIC E TOTARO; DOMINIC E TOTARO
M2001793 / SUPPLEMENTAL
1300 4TH ST SE   
03/13/20 
LA FAMOSA LLC / KIMOY LALLEMENT; POTOMAC CONSTRUCTION SERVICES
TL2000028 / CONSTRUCTION
New tenant layout for commercial kitchen, two restrooms, point of sale bar, and dining seating, new lighting and mechanical zones. 2,338 sf INDOOR OCCUPANCY: 84 PERSONS WITH 59 SEATS OUTDOOR OCCUPANCY: 38 PERSONS WITH 38 SEATS TOTAL MAX OCCUPANCY: 122
900 5TH ST SE   
03/03/20 
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA HOUSING AUTHORITY / CHRISTOPHER LAKATOSH; CHRISTOPHER LAKATOSH
E2005256 / SUPPLEMENTAL
   
03/24/20 
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA HOUSING AUTHORITY / KAYLA TRICE; DELAWARE
EN2001608 / SHOP DRAWING
Install 3 new hydraulic passenger elevators
2 I ST SE   
03/09/20 
CRESCENT CAPITOL VIEW MF LLC / BOB BIROONAK; BOB BIROONAK; BOB BIROONAK
SG2000223 / CONSTRUCTION
one non illuminated sign
200 I ST SE   
03/17/20 
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA / LEIA TERRELL
B2006382 / CONSTRUCTION
Tenant Alterations of existing office doors and wall. Including relocation of existing electrical, and mechanical terminals. NO CHANGE OF EGRESS, USE OF OCCUPANCY, NO EXTERIOR LAND DISTURBANCE, NO BASE BUILDING STRUCTURAL WORK.
139 N ST SE   
03/16/20 
PARCEL I FC ROWAN / MIGUEL RIOS; GRIFFIN DEWATERING, LLC
SB2000152 / CONSTRUCTION
Type of proposed System: Deep well dewatering system consisting of 16 wells around the perimeter of the shored excavation and 2 wells within the excavation in a mutually agreed layout. • Installation Method: Wells will be drilled up to 70’ deep, utilizing Griffin’s hollow stem auger drilling rig to drill up to a 10.25” I.D. borehole. Deep wells come complete with screen, casing, riser pipe and a s...
861 NEW JERSEY AVE SE   
03/03/20 
809-853 NEW JERSEY AVENUE ACQUISITION LLC / ERICKA CLARK
AH2000987 / CONSTRUCTION
Tower crane erection must be performed in 1 day due to weather constraints. All work performed onsite. Noise reduction procedure in place.
1275 NEW JERSEY AVE SE   
03/06/20 
MILLER AND LONG / WILLIAM MOORE
AH2001001 / CONSTRUCTION
After hours to pour concrete with pump truck saturday 3 / 7 and sunday 3 / 8 from 9PM-4AM.
1299 NEW JERSEY AVE SE   
03/13/20 
FOREST CITY SEFC LLC / SARAH J. NAPIER
BCIV2000067 / CONSTRUCTION
Revisions to BCIV1800153. This submission is for approval stamps only. No change in work.
71 POTOMAC AVE SE   
03/27/20 
MRP RESIDENTIAL / KAYLA SHATTUCK; KAYLA SHATTUCK; PARADIGM CONTRACTORS LLC
BCIV2000036 / CONSTRUCTION
This permit is for site civil work at 71 Potomac Avenue SE including stormwater management and erosion & sediment control. See plans for more details.
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)


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