It has been approximately 11 months since my last DC Heritage Trail walk. I see you, date on that last post. 11/4/2016. Those were happier, more oblivious times.
Being out of practice, I forgot my camera. Never mind. I'll return to this trail next time and take a few photos. For now, some impressions and the joy of seeing one's own city with fresh eyes.
I walked from my home to the bus stop on the corner of 4th and Butternut, where someone had hospitably set out a couple of cheap chairs. Another man came and waited in one of them, so I sat down too and we chatted about the weather until his bus arrived. When mine came a few minutes later, it was cool, shiny new inside, and 100% empty. Quite different from the bus route I used to take regularly to work a few years ago. The driver was nice. The other riders, once some joined me, were also nice. Thanks, DC bus system. A lighted board alerted me when it was time to pull the bell for 14th and Jefferson.
My main impressions of the Brightwood neighborhood were of its quietness. There were few cars on the streets; few pedestrians, either, but those that there were appeared relaxed and friendly. The houses seemed down-to-earth: some of them were large, but they were decidedly un-trendy, and neither particularly wealthy nor badly run-down in appearance. Steady-Freddy, clipped lawns, a little piece of small-town America at the edge of this usually busy city. It was not, in any sense of the word, bustling.
I read a few of the historical signs, which mainly referenced racial segregation and integration over time: a pretty little school built for African-American children when few such schools existed (now the Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School). A neighborhood built for working-class whites, most of whom white-fled when black homeowners began to join them in the 1950s. A building constructed as a synagogue which has now been a Baptist church under the same leadership for 40 years.
A good solid neighborhood.
Returning on foot on a chilly day in November, I walked the rest of the Brightwood Trail, mostly down Georgia Avenue. (Brightwood, I have neglected to mention, is near my own neighborhood; it took only half an hour to get there, and on the trail I passed by my very own Safeway that I frequent regularly.) What surprised me: a tiny Civil War cemetery, just along Georgia Avenue and maintained as a memorial. To the Union troops, which is the right kind of Civil War memorial. It was an inviting small cemetery, once a peach orchard, with colorful fall trees and modest stones. To my surprise-- I am far from a battle history buff-- I went inside.
And then, here I was again at Fort Stevens. How truly odd to find these remnants of battle in the midst of a diverse urban neighborhood where construction and decay are coexisting side-by-side, not far from the crumbling laundromat and the new, shiny Walmart. While near Fort Stevens, I read the story of Betty Thomas, whose land was seized by Union troops to construct the fort.
Was this supposed to be an inspiring or heartwarming story? In sum: a prosperous black woman has her property appropriated and destroyed by the U.S. government. As she mourns, lo, the Angel Lincoln appears to her and assures her that her virtuous sacrifice will be rewarded. Fast forward to the future... nothing happens. "Aunt Betty" (and is this really respectful? depends) got very little for her trouble.
Isn't that always the way.
I will leave you with a photo of what has been my favorite unfortunately-named local business for years: