Victorian Secrets of Washington, D.C.
February 14, 2003 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Victorian Secrets of Washington, D.C.: haunting photos and thoughtful essays documenting one man's fight to draw attention to D.C.'s neglected architectural heritage: "This site won't be much of a beauty pagent because we 'll concentrate on buildings that are vacant, abandoned, deteriorated, distressed, or just plain at risk because they are standing in the path of development . . . if even one Victorian finds an angel because of our page, we'll consider it a thousand percent return on investment."
posted by ryanshepard (13 comments total)
oh man, nobody better breathe a word of this to my husband. We're almost done restoring a bungalow, and he's been lamenting the expense of even the fixiest fixer-upper Victorian in our neck of the woods. I can already feel the wind in my hair and the paint chips in my teeth as I swing from the gingerbread in humid DC.

But great link, I really do get warm feelings about this sort of thing.
posted by padraigin at 12:10 PM on February 14, 2003

Did you made that lead to be intentionally misread as "Victoria's Secret on Washington DC" etc etc? Because it worked, you know. The Valentine subconscious effects linger on...
posted by 111 at 12:24 PM on February 14, 2003

posted by 111 at 12:26 PM on February 14, 2003

Lovely links.

I may be moving out that way, and would love the chance to buy up a gem like the one's their showing.

My question is just how bad these neighborhoods are... or are they just dirt poor?
posted by silusGROK at 2:49 PM on February 14, 2003

I think most of these are in fairly bad neighborhoods (at least anything from Anacostia and much of SE and NE DC) Most victorians in what are considered 'good' neighborhoods have been restored and are ridiculously expensive. However, there are still a couple of areas of DC that are getting better (really depends on what you consider a bad neighborhood) in which houses like these might be purchased and renovated, but I'm sure they are rare. My experience with this is from a few years ago. Not sure how it is now.
posted by drobot at 3:22 PM on February 14, 2003

Much of the demolition in Washington is silently taking place on upper class residential streets in Spring Valley and Pacific palisades, as ranchhouses, colonials, and craftsmen bungalows on large lots fall for McMansions.

Just to clarify this passage from the page - the ranchhouses, colonials, and craftsmen bungalows on large lots in these neighborhoods are far from what many would consider 'affordable' - I know when I was looking in Alexandria (close suburb of DC) for a house two years ago, one story, two bedroom bungalows on 1/3 acre lots were going for 290-300k. And yes, apparently people were paying that and demolishing them to build McMansions.

I'm sure that similar bungalows in Spring Valley and the Pacific Pallisades are even more expensive.
posted by drobot at 3:27 PM on February 14, 2003

drobot: "Bad" vs "Poor"... I don't mind poor, as long as I—a small, very white guy—can live there without fear of getting shot at just for the hell of it.
posted by silusGROK at 5:34 PM on February 14, 2003

Vis10n - I think a few of these houses are in poor neighborhoods, others in bad. Some would say these neighborhoods are very, very bad, but you should go see for yourself. DC can be pretty sketchy, but some neighborhoods are only bad by reputation - there are plenty of middle class African American neighborhoods in NE DC that are quite safe despite being in 'Northeast' (sometimes has a negative connotation) and the good areas around Capitol Hill are expanding. If you're thinking of moving here, definitely have somebody drive you around.
posted by drobot at 6:00 AM on February 15, 2003

This reminds me of Detroit, much of the same old and architecturally significant houses, falling into ruin in literally, completely abondonded city blocks, and the mayor wants to have them razed asap.
posted by CoolHandPuke at 6:28 AM on February 15, 2003

My question is just how bad these neighborhoods are... or are they just dirt poor?

I'm inclined to say the latter - growing up in the D.C. suburbs during the (admittedly much more violent) 80's, the idea that you were risking your life to venture into NE or SE Washington was pounded into my head . . . I've spent quite a bit of time in both in recent years, however, and have yet to have any problems.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:23 AM on February 15, 2003

Though, your mileage may vary.
posted by jonson at 3:45 PM on February 15, 2003

Though, your mileage may vary.

Sure, anywhere in the world.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:54 PM on February 15, 2003

I always found DC to be rather unusual. Most other big cities have poor high crime areas, but those same areas are often an interesting melting pot where various groups come together. Immigrants, working poor, various races, various professions, etc. (Ex, brooklyn, harlem)

Not in DC.

The areas above are nearly 100% generation after generation poor blacks. There's nothing wrong with this, but these neighborhoods offer very little in terms of diversity or culture. The "bad" parts of DC make a very sad picture indeed.

That said, you will be best off looking at the crime reports. NE, SE, and SW get a bed rep, but crime statistics show that crimes in those areas are heavily clustered. As a road cyclist, I have covered most DC neighborhoods wearing my lycra shorts and shirt many times over. I never really felt unsafe anywhere. The sketchiest area is Anacostia, deep into SW on this side of the river, and western part of NW a little north of PA ave. I felt safe riding down MLK dr in Anacostia (in the middle of the day) but I could feel that all eyes were on me. Lots of "friends" chilling in front of the ubiquitious liquor stores and little shops run primarily by Asians.
posted by Witold at 12:56 AM on February 17, 2003

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