Since January, 2003
            
 Sliding from Before to After

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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1300 4TH ST SE 1001   
02/22/21 
AP BOWER RETAIL LLC / null
E2104231 / SUPPLEMENTAL
1346 4TH ST SE APT 1M   
02/06/21 
null / NA NA NA
EHOP21945129 / HOME OCCUPATION
1331 4TH ST SE R-2   
02/08/21 
FC 1331 LLC / FC 1331 LLC
BP2101814 / POST CARD
10 I ST SE   
02/16/21 
CAPITOL HILL RACQUET CLUB / NA; VICTORIA STEINHOFF
SB2100112 / CONSTRUCTION
Installation of up to six (6) 3-inch diameter direct-push Geoprobe borings to depths of up to 30 feet below grade as part of an environmental assessment.
555 L ST SE   
01/29/21 
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA / RENNE WELL; RICK HARLAN SCHNEIDER
B2102004 / CONSTRUCTION
DGS PROJECT REHABILITATION+RESTORATION OF THE HISTORIC LINCOIN FIELDHOUSE
861 NEW JERSEY AVE SE 20003   
02/23/21 
809-853 NEW JERSEY AVE ACQUISITION LLC / SUSANA VAZQUEZ
AH2100728 / CONSTRUCTION
Dismantling of tower crane.
809 NEW JERSEY AVE SE   
02/11/21 
GREYSTAR GP LLC 809-853 NEW JERSEY AVENUE ACQUISITION LLC / null
E2103926 / SUPPLEMENTAL
853 NEW JERSEY AVE SE   
02/11/21 
GREYSTAR GP LLC / null
E2103924 / SUPPLEMENTAL
861 NEW JERSEY AVE SE   
02/05/21 
GS CSX HOTEL OWNER LLC / null
E2103762 / SUPPLEMENTAL
1275 NEW JERSEY AVE SE   
02/02/21 
FC 1275 NJ LLC / null
E2103662 / SUPPLEMENTAL
   
02/11/21 
FC 1275 NJ LLC / null
P2103445 / SUPPLEMENTAL
848 SOUTH CAPITOL ST SE   
02/16/21 
CXS TRANSPORTATION INC / VICTORIA STEINHOFF; TBD
SB2100111 / CONSTRUCTION
Installation of up to six (6) 3-inch diameter direct-push Geoprobe borings to depths of up to 30 feet below grade as part of an environmental assessment.
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;

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