by Michele Molotsky
After living in California for fifteen years, I moved back to DC to be closer to my family. I lived with my parents in Dupont Circle the first year. It was a year of healing for me and my parents babied me especially my mother who made me coffee every morning, did my laundry and even helped me land my first job in DC working as Constituent Services Director for the Ward 2 Councilmember. Through that job, I became familiar with Logan Circle. At that time, I was nervous walking on 14th Street at night going to and from meetings.
I decided to look for an apartment to buy. Having moved from the SF Bay Area, I thought I could afford anything I wanted in DC. I was so wrong! I initially wanted to find a place in Dupont Circle near my parents but quickly realized I could not afford what I wanted.
On a rainy day, I took a very desultory walk east of 16th Street with a Washington Post Real Estate Section in my hand. I ended up in front of Hawarden on R Street for an open house. The building didn’t have a lot of curb appeal then and the halls had linoleum flooring but it was in Best Addresses! The apartment I came to see had three locks on the door, the same deep brownish/reddish linoleum everywhere (there must have been quite a sale or an amazing salesman) and very unimaginative beige walls with surfaces lightly coated in ferret fur. I thought it had good bones and wanted it.
The building was built in 1904 by Washington architect George S. Cooper in “an eclectic style combining both Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival features.” It was in the same style of the house I left in Oakland. I tried to negotiate the price without success so yes, reader, I bought it. I paid the highest price for an apartment in the building. My now neighbors thought I was crazy. Real Estate Porn Alert! Today, apartments go for over twice that amount.
The building was built as rental apartments but it was bought and converted into a cooperative in the 40s. I’ve read it was the first black-owned coop building in DC but I’ve also read other coops make the claims. I bought my apartment from one of the original families.
So, I moved to an apartment off of 14th Street, the street I previously avoided going to at night. It was also on the Green Line which didn’t seem to go anywhere I needed to or wanted to go. Today, I have an entirely Green Line life: work, gym, pool. I’ve often thought if I ever write a memoir, I’ll call it “L’Enfant Plaza Station” because I can hear the announcement from the 52 bus in the early morning.
I moved to Logan Circle shortly after Whole Foods (née Fresh Fields) opened but that was pretty much it for P Street. The apartments hadn’t been built and at the corner of 15th and P, there were dueling paint stores (Duron and McCormicks) on opposite corners – now Phillips and TD Bank. Neither store welcomed weekend DIY types.
Only three businesses in Logan Circle remain from that time: The inimitable Vegas Lounge, the valiant Studio Theater and stalwart Great Wall. There were few choices for dinner before or after the theater. The only restaurant besides The Great Wall I can remember was Mar de Plata, a nice but pricey Spanish place where Trade is now.
Photos by Luis Gomez
I so wish I had taken pictures of the neighborhood then. I thought I’d always remember what was where but, of course, I don’t. Popeye’s was across the street and it was a drive-thru. Where Sun Cleaners used to be, there was a Post Office.
We had a funky coffee shop named Sparky’s (Sparky was a German Shepherd), then it became Cork, then the Meatball Shop and now it’s Mexicue. (I wanted to open a wine bar on 14th Street next to Sparky’s but didn’t have the nerve!)
Sparky’s turned into Cork turned into Mexicue
Next to Sparky’s was Dogs by Day and Night, followed by Crossfit DC and now it’s The Outrage.
Dogs by Day turned into Crossfit DC turned into The Outrage
Speaking of Dogs by Day, it was owned by a lovely woman named Linda Welch. She had a wacky idea to turn the dry cleaners at 14th and Q Streets into a vegan diner. Linda was just ahead of her time as the dry cleaners is now Le Diplomate. (The restaurant former EPA Scott Pruitt went to with his motorcade using lights and sirens.)
To Be Continued!
These times have been tough on all of us. We thank you for your continued support while we navigate this tough time together. The Logan Circle Main Street has been working to support business owners and make sure that they are informed about opportunities for access to capital like the Mayor’s Microgrant and the PPP program from the SBA. We are working hard to make sure that they are prepared to keep their doors open. Help us continue doing out work by chipping in $10, $100, $1,000 at districtbridges.org/donate