Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Columbia Heights: A Neighborhood of Homes

On a recent trip through time, I made a splendid discovery. A little book, just about 30 pages, published in 1904 by "The Columbia Heights Citizens' Association." The book is delightfully entitled A Statement of Some of the Advantages of Beautiful Columbia Heights, A Neighborhood of Homes, and it was written to sing the praises of my neighborhood, and attract estimable and upstanding new denizens. A note on the title page lays out the objective clearly:
If it shall aid in bringing desirable residents to this section and thereby contribute toward the realization of the Congressional plans for Greater Washington, this presentation of the commanding advantages of Columbia Heights will most satisfactorily accomplish the object of its publication. THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
A little heavy on the upper-class snobbery, but heck, this is 1904. The first section begins:
Columbia Heights is an ideal section for homes. Every one of its residents thoroughly appreciates the advantages that he enjoys, and never ceases to sound the praises of the "Heights."
Still true!

Then, in the belief that "home-seekers of the desired class should be informed of the facts commending the 'Heights' to favorable consideration," the authors go about describing all the neighborhood's benefits. Proximity to schools and churches rank highly, as do police and fire protection, "street railway facilities," and "attractive residences will all the modern improvements." Most titillating, however, is the description of "Some Advantages of Elevation."

Columbia Heights, you see, sits at an average elevation of 180 feet, far superior to Pennsylvania Ave, a mere 6 to 12 feet above low tide, or even the 90 feet enjoyed on Capitol Hill. Rather:
Those who have tried each of the two locations report that in summer nights the temperature of Columbia Heights is ten degrees less than that of Pennsylvania Avenue and adjacent streets. This has been demonstrated by practical tests. In ten degrees Fahrenheit, more or less, there is a powerful factor in the equation of comfort: and its influence is constant in the direction of high lands. Comfort induces sleep, "tired Nature's sweet restorer."

In hot summer nights, when open cars carry thousands in search of a charm that lulls to sleep, every northbound passenger up Fourteenth Street with his crossing of Florida Avenue, becomes a grateful witness to the soothing zephyrs of Columbia Heights.
Ah, those soothing zephyrs. The pamphlet concludes with "A Wise Man's Summary:"
A gentleman, of National reputation, who has just bought a house in Columbia Heights, thus summarizes:
"I bought on Columbia Heights, because--
"First. It is the highest point on the highlands surrounding the city. It offers me a cool retreat after a hard day's work, and is only twenty minutes' ride from my office.
"Second. It is free from malaria.
He goes on... Another real treat are the many photographs of the handsome Heights homes. I went searching-- most had addresses within a few blocks of my apartment-- and discovered many of these architectural extravaganzas are still standing, camouflaged (or not) in their modern surroundings. Here's one side-by-side comparison, from the corner of 13th and Roanoke (now Euclid):
Pretty neat. As I get other good replica shots, I'll post them here. What a fun look into the past of this neighborhood, which has surely changed in many ways.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Idaho Stop

My, my, this is awfully sensible:

Bicycles, Rolling Stops, and the Idaho Stop from Spencer Boomhower on Vimeo.

The next step would be to implement the other half of the law, whereby bicyclists can treat stop lights as stop signs, providing there are neither cars nor pedestrians in their path.

This is all especially true now that we live in a world where daytime TV hosts pregnant with the children of former football stars fall victim to hit-and-runs by bicycle delivery guys.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

4/1 Roundup: Obama Freaked Out, Donuts Bid for 2012, Suggestive Winking

Leader: Obama Legitimately Freaked Out

- President Barack Obama was killing time watching YouTube yesterday, when he came across video of himself speaking about the economy, and realized "just how bad things are" for the first time. "I don't normally listen to the speeches," said Obama, biting at his cuticles, "I just read them." He added that he was "legitimately freaked out,"and apologized to the American people for having to listen to "that terrifying crap" on "every damn channel, all the damn time."

- Press Secretary Robert Gibbs brushed it off as a bit of stage fright in advance of Obama's appearance at the G-20 summit yesterday, but given the President's usual cool, nobody's buying Gibbs's hash. Flying off the reservation, Obama sought out members of the press to tell them he really, sincerely hoped things would get better, but "If you're looking for a good investment, now would be a good time to go long on duct tape and shotguns."


- In opposition to President Obama and his fellow New Democrats in Congress, a group of GOP House members are banding together in a new group they'll call the "Old Republicans." Said one leader, who remains anonymous, "We're getting back to the basics here-- this caucus is going to be about old-school, racist, unreconstructed xenophobic dogma. It's time for this party to reinvent itself, and we're taking the bull by the horns."

- A new poll gives President Obama a 66% job-approval rating. Nearly nine in ten Americans, however, approve of the way donuts are doing in their job. Should Obama worry about a 2012 primary challenge from donuts? Time will tell.


- In a bout of life-affirming, if mortifying honesty, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner conceded yesterday that he "doesn't have a bloody clue" what's wrong with the economy, or how to fix it. Later, President Obama assured the public that Geithner still has his absolute confidence.

- The big Detroit auto manufacturers, scrambling to restructure their business after Obama's recent ultimatum, have launched a new marketing campaign advertising alternative uses for their vehicles. The Hummer is being sold to banks as a means to obstruct the front doors of foreclosed homes, while the Pontiac Vibe may see new life as an in-garage aquarium.


- This morning's World Cup qualifying match between North Korea and South Korea was interrupted when the DPRK government test launched a new missile, as they have been threatening to do recently. Despite previous assurances they had no intent to do so, a U.S. carrier strike group shot down the Taepodong-2 over Seoul. The missile exploded into the shape of Kim Jong-Il's benevolently smiling face, and thousands of tiny baskets parachuted down filled with a variety of prizes and goodies, including DVDs of some of Dear Leader's favorite films. North-South reconciliation appears imminent.

New From NDN

- If you've already RSVP'd to our event today, you might be holding the hottest ticket in town. On his way to London, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil happens to be laid over in Washington for a few hours, and will be joining Dr. Moisés Naím, Rep. Adam Smith, and Dr. Rob Shapiro for a discussion of the G-20 conference that begins tomorrow. RSVP now, before it's too late!

One More Thing

- Joking about her husband's ubiquity in the press, Michelle Obama said yesterday "Barack will do anything to get in front of a camera." She then winked suggestively, making the press corps slightly uncomfortable, and kind of confused, but mostly impressed.

- Last, here's a fun video about politics:

Cross-posted to NDN.