Transcripts

Reviving A Neighborhood Nearly Forgotten

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
We've heard about the what might have been scenarios of major thoroughfares cutting through the District. Now we head to a corner of the city where a road widening project fundamentally changed the look and feel of an entire neighborhood. The neighborhood is called Truxton Circle, it's just a few blocks west of the New York Avenue Metro stop, and if you've never heard of it before, well, it's because the circle that gave it its name disappeared long ago.

MS. PATRICIA HUFFMAN

00:00:27
What used to be there was a beautiful fountain, a little park, a circle. Now it is a miserable intersection with far too many traffic lights, and an element of danger, especially for somebody on a bicycle or a pedestrian.

SHEIR

00:00:42
That's resident Patricia Huffman, who talked with us for our "Door to Door" series back in October. Jonna McKone wanted to learn more about what happened to the circle, so she headed out to do a little sleuthing.

MR. JONATHAN WILSON

00:00:54
This story begins not in Truxton Circle, and actually, not even in D.C.

MR. GLENN DEMARR

00:00:58
So we're in Fort Washington, Md., on the Potomac River, about eight miles south of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. We're looking at a storage area that we've used probably since the '60s.

MS. JONNA MCKONE

00:01:09
Glenn DeMarr is with the National Park Service. He specializes in planning new commemorative sites and restoring monuments. DeMarr has been keeping track of the fountain that used to be at the center of Truxton Circle.

DEMARR

00:01:20
The iron fountain was dismantled and put into some storage area up to about 1952, 1960, and then ultimately, it was moved down here. I think in those two moves, however, the cast iron was damaged extensively. I don't know what was delivered to the park in the 1960s, but we'll take a look at it.

MCKONE

00:01:40
Fort Washington is kind of a creepy place. The park is dotted with old fortifications and towers. The base of the fountain sits alone with countless stone and iron pieces. Some are numbered and stacked. Others are strewn about.

DEMARR

00:01:52
These would be the perimeter edge pieces of the iron pool, the iron fountain.

MCKONE

00:01:56
In other words, this is a monument that's seen better days, not unlike Truxton Circle itself. Back in D.C., at the site of the former circle, today, there's a mess of roads, a pizza place, a liquor store, and an abandoned parking, lot, strewn with mattresses ring the intersection of Florida Avenue and North Capitol Street.

MR. JOHN SALATTI

00:02:14
Truxton Circle was constructed in 1901, so it's one of the later circles, as our circles go in the city. Like most circles, it had some kind of decorative element, but only like DuPont Circle did it have a fountain.

MCKONE

00:02:28
That's John Salatti. He's an advisory neighborhood commissioner for an area that includes Bloomingdale. The scene he's describing changed dramatically in the 1940s, when North Capitol Street was widened and Truxton Circle was dismantled. Today, there's some confusion about the former roundabout.

UNKNOWN MALE

00:02:41
Between (unintelligible) Street, and North Capitol.

MCKONE

00:02:44
And have you heard of Truxton Circle at all?

MALE

00:02:45
The who?

MCKONE

00:02:47
Truxton Circle.

MALE

00:02:48
Nah, I ain't familiar with that there.

UNKNOWN FEMALE

00:02:50
So I know that we live in Shaw or Bloomingdale, and I know that it's called Truxton Circle, but I can't for the life of me find the actual circle, so.

UNKNOWN MALE #2

00:02:56
The name of it, I mean, as far as, what you mean?

MCKONE

00:02:59
John Salatti is one of those who'd like to bring new life to Truxton Circle.

SALATTI

00:03:03
There are huge efforts to revitalize North Capitol Street, and the goal there is to move North Capitol Street in the direction of being a walkable, retail place, Just like H Street Northeast, or parts of Connecticut Avenue.

MCKONE

00:03:17
Salatti says bringing the circle back would fit nicely into that effort, because a roundabout would slow traffic, and create a more livable space that connects three disjointed neighborhoods. An influx of new affluent residents is adding to the pressure to reclaim this public space.

SALATTI

00:03:31
The number of vacant houses throughout this area has dropped dramatically. People have moved in, houses have been revitalized, houses have been fixed, painted, you can see a real gleaming sense of this all over Bloomingdale, Eckington, Truxton Circle.

MCKONE

00:03:46
But these changes also drive up the cost of living, displacing renters in the neighborhood, often seen as a last frontier of affordable real estate in the area. The fact that North Capitol is so inhospitable might be a reason the neighborhood has remained affordable for so long.

MS. PAT MITCHELL

00:03:59
North Capitol is a freeway. The whole purpose of them taking and removing the circle and developing the street is because they wanted to get commuters in and out of the city, and when your sole focus is on driving commuters, then you can destroy and disconnect neighborhoods.

MCKONE

00:04:13
That's Pat Mitchell, president of North Capitol Main Street, a non-profit focused on business development. The organization is working to spruce up store fronts, clean up streets, and help business owners manage their books. She's one of many residents excited about the influx of new energy in the community.

MITCHELL

00:04:28
I think in the next five years, maybe seven, the corridor will really begin to change. The number of residents that will move into the community will sort of force it. We're almost at the point where we really have a critical mass, where people are able to lend voice to an issue loud enough and long enough, with enough power, that people may start to pay attention.

MCKONE

00:04:48
For Truxton Circle, a neighborhood with rich history, it's a new path forward, one whose endpoint is still very much unknown. I'm Jonna McKone.

SHEIR

00:05:04
You can see the rusty remains of the old Truxton Circle fountain, and its original home on North Capitol Street, on our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

00:05:22
After the break, why so many branches of our evolutionary tree are dead.

UNKNOWN MALE #3

00:05:28
So at any given time, every single species is in a constant sort of race for survival, and a constant struggle just to get by, just to reproduce to the next generation.

SHEIR

00:05:36
And it's the return of our regular series, "The Location," with a story of a society belle who rose to preeminence, before falling to a tragic end.

UNKNOWN FEMALE #2

00:05:45
She had told her son once this was where she wanted to die. So she was sticking it out. And became a victim of that stubbornness.

SHEIR

00:05:54
That's just ahead on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
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