Columbia Heights (September 6, 2020)
It’s been very hot and humid over the last few weeks and the streets have been less than inviting. Hence, it’s been a while since our last blog entry. However, the heat and humidity finally broke so we headed out onto the streets of Columbia Heights. Lots of people were out taking advantage of the beautiful day. This had its pluses and minuses. On one hand it was nice to be out among people again and the world almost seemed normal. On the other hand, the large number of other pedestrians required plenty of dodging and darting to attempt to maintain a safe distance. Such is life during a pandemic.
We started out walking down 15th Street NW on the west side of Malcolm X Park where we saw this beautiful Spanish style home.
Next door was another beautiful building, the Josephine Butler Parks Center.
Currently used as an event center (Lauren, in fact, once performed at an event there during her belly dancing career), in past lives it was the Embassy of Hungary as well as Brazil. The Renaissance Revival-style mansion was designed by George Oakley Totten Jr., a noted architect who designed over a dozen major embassy buildings across the city. The developer of the property was Mary Foote Henderson, widow of the Missouri senator who introduced the 13th Amendment giving African Americans the right to vote. The center is named for Josephine Butler (1920-1997). The granddaughter of slaves, Ms. Butler was one of Washington’s most respected community leaders. Among other accomplishments, she started America’s first ever union of black women laundry workers and co-founded the statehood movement for the District of Columbia.
There are many restaurants, bars and cafes in the area. To accommodate more outdoor diners during the pandemic, the city has allowed restaurants to expand into the street.
Walking up 14th Street, we passed the Black Cat nightclub where Mal has spent many a happy night checking out indie bands from far and wide.
On one particularly memorable evening in the late nineties he saw New Zealand indie rock god, Chris Knox. The concert took place during a snow storm and consequently there were only twenty or so of us in the audience. We all sat around Chris while he played songs from his latest album, Yes!!. He also asked for requests but in true Chris Knox fashion would then refuse to play them. As well as being an innovative musician, the father of New Zealand punk, and one of the founders of the iconic Flying Nun Records label, Chris also made incredibly original music videos, wrote movie, television and music reviews, and drew comics. If you were a college student in New Zealand during the eighties and nineties, he was impossible to miss. Unfortunately, he suffered a debilitating stroke in 2009 effectively putting a stop to the output of one of New Zealand’s most creative geniuses.
There are many Black Lives Matter tributes throughout the neighborhood. This one was particularly poignant, juxtaposing the names of young African Americans who had their lives taken far too early against the smiling photo of a young African American man in a neighboring advertisement.