March 16, 2021
Officers Present: Dan Schramm: President, Kathy Jacquart: Vice President, Fred Jackson: Member-At-Large, René McRay: Membership Coordinator, Joe Miller: Treasurer
Dan Schramm began the meeting by welcoming everyone and reviewing the agenda.
2. Treasurer’s Report
Newly elected Treasurer Joe Miller gave the Treasurer’s report, indicating that there were no transactions in February. The beginning/ending account balance was $5,258.84, including GoFundMe balance of approximately $1,400. BNCA members accepted the report with no comments.
3. Special Election: Recording Secretary
Eligible BNCA members elected candidate Leila Duman as the new Recording Secretary. Leila has lived in Brookland for 1.5 years.
4. Hello from the Greater Brookland Intergenerational Village: Tashell Mitchell, Program Coordinator
Tashell is the new GBIV Program Coordinator. She’s originally from West Virginia but lives in DC now. She used to live in Brookland.
Tashell explained that the GBIV helps neighbors get and stay connected by facilitating workshops, activities, and age-related discussions, and coordinates 1-on-1 support to seniors. She said that the GBIV currently has openings on the Board, which meets monthly. She added that they are always looking for volunteers and accepting new members and described the 3-tiered membership – full, social, and subsidized. Finally, she announced that GBIV is looking for a new part-time Executive Director as Emma Brownstein is stepping down.
5. Preserving the Slowe-Burrill House: Ben O’Connell
Dan introduced the topic by acknowledging that historic preservation is a complicated topic, and that currently the BNCA does not have an official opinion on preservation but wants to explore and talk about Brookland history and past preservation efforts, rather than debate it at this time.
Jess Unger, Community Outreach and Grants Manager for the DC Preservation League, then explained that the Preservation League worked with the homeowners to gain preservation as part of an LBGTQ project.
Ben O’Connell, owner of the Slowe-Burrill house since 2004, which was built by James Ward at 1256 Kearny St., said that soon after moving in he and his family found about previous prominent homeowner, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, from other neighbors. Higginbotham grew up in the house and was the wife of African American Judge Leo Higginbotham, who was nominated to the bench first by JFK and then by LBJ. The Brooks family apparently hosted civil rights activities in the home.
Ben said people often to stop by the home to see it, and that one day a history PhD candidate from Yale came to his door and said she was researching Lucy Diggs Slowe (LDS), another prominent homeowner.
He learned that Slowe and Mary Burrill (MB) bought the home in 1922 after LDS was appointed the first dean of women at Howard University. LDS grew up in Baltimore, came to DC to attend Howard U and was one of the nine founders of the AKA sorority. She was an educator, taught at Dunbar high school and was then Administrator at many schools in DC. She was also a tennis player and, notably, the first African American to win a national title in any sport.
MB grew up in DC, attended Dunbar HS and was an educator and playwright. Two of her plays were published, one in Mary Sanger’s Birth Control Review and the other in The Liberator, a socialist newspaper. She took part in the DC art scene, including the S Street Salon of African American writers.
The President of Howard, who hired LDS, left shortly after and the next President, Mordecai Johnson, who was the first African American President of Howard U, did not approve of her. Unlike the male faculty, he wanted her to live with students, which she fought. She lived in the home for 15 years before she died. While LDS and MB lived there, the home became a center of African American arts and culture in DC. MB sold the house in 1937.
Local historian Robert Malesky added that LDS and MB had a hard time staying in the home. He said that President Johnson brought in a lot of money and was very successful but was not comfortable with LDS’s power in her position. He got the Trustees to change the rules to require her to live with students, which she protested. She also organized alumni and others to protest. The President resisted for a while but finally gave in. It’s unclear whether the nature of her relationship with MB was known at the time, as they were very private women and the relationship was not discussed, or whether that played any role in President Johnson’s position.
Ben noted that famous poet Sterling Brown and Howard University professor also lived in the neighborhood near the Slowe-Burrill house.
Dan: how did preservation process start?
Ben: DC Preservation League came to him and his family about preservation designation; they facilitated meetings with DCRA; Ben and family were happy to do it; the process was easy on the family.
Note: Preservation application
Dan: When did Higginbothams live there?
Ben: Evelyn Brooks grew up there with her sister and parent; family may have bought house in 30s and lived there through late 90s/early 2000s.
Dan: Was Judge Higginbotham a judge in DC?
Ben: think his district was in PA (not sure)
Q: How long did the designation process take?
Ben: about 1.5 years
Q: How did property get on Preservation League’s radar?
Jess Unger: Based on Preservation League’s list of properties of interest and results a LGBTQ contact survey.
Note: Upcoming Preservation League event
Q: What kind of restrictions exist?
Ben: have to keep historic nature of home; can’t do much to front of house facing street; currently he and family are changing foyer; Preservation Office required a minor change to plan.
Q: What parts of your house are designated? Is it both the exterior and interior?
Ben: mostly exterior
Jess: DC Preservation Law just affects exterior; interior designation is rare
Q: Are there other private homes in Brookland that DCPL is interested in designating?
Jess: Preservation League doesn’t currently have any projects in Brookland, but would be happy to work with the community to identify sites of interest. The Historic Preservation Office’s Ward Heritage Guide identifies historic resources.
Caroline Petti: Current designated properties include the Newton Theater (CVS), Monroe St Firehouse; Franciscan MOn, Brooks Mansion, Brookland Bowling Alley, Bunker Hill Elem, Children’s Hospital on SD Ave; Pending – Masonic Temple, Police Sub-station on RI Ave and 17th St., Howard U School of Divinity and the Sherwood farmhouse, which is on the Divinity School property.
Q: What is the status of signs found at certain houses in the neighborhood?
Robert: they are part of a Black Writers Walking Tour, not related to historic designation
Amanda: This map might be a little out of date, but I created this Brookland History page for the BNCA website a few years ago with designated historic sites
Jess: We keep a list of landmarked sites in our DC Historic Sites website
Dan: Bygone Brookland (www.bygonebrookland.com)
Q: Is Sterling Brown House designated?
Dan: seems like Sterling Brown’s house should be designated
Robert: Sterling Brown wrote letter to editor of Washington Star about life in DC in 30s and 40s (letter is in Bygone Brookland)
Ben: Calberts’ house on same block has a fascinating history. Calbert was a leading military chaplain, met his wife at Columbia University, she worked in DCPS.
Junette: the house of Ralph Bunche, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was designed by Hilliard Robinson
Robert: Bunche house has historic designation
Richard Lyew: It would be interesting to hear about some of the homes in the neighborhood designed by well-known architects, especially some of the ones from Howard. Hilliard Robinson was mentioned.
Dan: good idea
Rene: Pearl Bailey lived on Jackson or Kearney Street in Brookland and Charles Drew also lived in Brookland. Charles Drew pioneered blood plasma which allows so many things for us to do in collecting and donating blood. The Red Cross Headquarters in DC is named after him.
6. Other Announcements
DC Statehood: Caroline Petti
- Virtual hearing on DC statehood (HR 51) scheduled on March 22
- DC Vote is organizing visibility events in all 8 wards
- Brookland is holding a “honk for statehood” event on March 22 from 8:30-9:30 at Michigan and North Capitol to honk and show signs. Wear red and white, social distance, masks.
ANC: Caroline Petti for Commissioner Ra Amin
- Ra is working with organizations in Ivy City that are interested in protecting the Crummell School, which opened in 1911 as one of first elementary schools for African Americans in DC and has been closed and sitting empty since 1977. It was named for Alexander Crummell, who was thought leader and academic. The community wants to protect and rehab it and turn it into a community center for neighborhood. Anyone who wants to be involved can reach out to Caroline or Ra (raamin5b04[AT]gmail[DOT]com). More info: www.empowerdc.org
- Ann Anderson: please post these videos to social media and help us educate the public about this longstanding fight!
- Feb 25th Townhall to #FixCrummellNow
- Crummell for Community
- Ivy City Kids March
- #TheRealIvyCity – Ivy City Needs a Rec
- Online Rally for Crummell School, November 23, 2020
- Crummell School: Heart and Soul of the Community
- RESOURCES: ANC 5D Resolution to Fix Crummell Now
Commissioner Prita Kohli Piekara
- Next ANC meeting March 24, 6:30-8:30 pm, DDOT reps and MPD will be there.
- 5B03 meeting on March 31 at 7:00 pm
- Recording from last week’s 5B02 meeting about Howard U Divinity School property will be on ANC 5B website
- (Caroline Petti: no specific plans yet for site, things going on with Comp Plan related to site; Developers still accepting feedback, thinking about putting up FAQs on website.)
- Howard architecture student projects
- Monroe St Farmers market will start having ANC table on Saturdays; will share more info later
- Ra put together a resolution about the Crummell
- Junette: does anyone have info on murder recently at 12th and Irving?
- Enid Doggett: it’s being investigated; Ch 4 is covering it
- 5B05 meeting – March 18 at 6:30 pm re: Michigan Liquors request to extend hours to 6am-1am
MOCRs: Brittany Butler (202)-394-4399; Brittany.Butler1[AT]dc[DOT]gov
- Partner: Nokomis Hunter, 202-251-5049, Nokomis.hunter[AT]dc[DOT]gov
- Saturday: Fresh Fit virtual 5k, contact Jason Miller for more info (jason.miller[AT]dc[DOT]gov)
- Saturday: City Spring Clean up events, can do it anywhere
- Covid vaccines: if you know of homebound seniors, let Brittany know. Have a program for homebound seniors; pre-registration is open
- Dan: Neighborhood Clean-up Day on Sat, March 20. 10am, Meet at 3101 13th St., BNCA partnering with Brookland Union Baptist Church and Sasha Bruce Services; Dan will use BNCA funds to buy snacks
- Dan: Brookland Yard Sale – May 8, more info soon
- Enid Doggett: Tastemakers food truck will start setting up on 10th St between Hamlin and Girard St; all neighbors welcome