Hipchickindc Visits Crispus Attucks Park

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Now that Thai Crossing and Timor Market have already made an appearance on the Prince of Petworth blog, I figured I might as well go ahead and divulge the location of the secret park in Bloomingdale/LeDroit Park. Nicely tucked away between the unit blocks of U and V Streets NW, and 1st St and North Capitol Streets NW, the Crispus Attucks Park website (www.crispusattuckspark.org) describes it as, “An Urban Oasis for Washington DC’s Bloomingdale Community”. It is named after Crispus Attucks, who was a former slave and the first person to be killed during the Boston Massacre.

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Just a few years ago, this 1.36 acre parcel was a flat grassy lot with spots of asphalt and concrete surrounded by chain link fence. Thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers, it continues to transform into a planned landscape that includes paths, flowers, trees, and sitting areas. It includes both dog-friendly and dog-free zones, and features the added perk of a bag dispenser to encourage the proper disposal of doggie deposits. Story continues after the jump.

The website includes a history of the park, which I found quite fascinating and somewhat parallel to the changes that have occurred in the neighborhood as a whole. From 1910 to the 1970s, the property was occupied by a brick building owned by C&P Telephone. The abandoned building was turned into a community center for several years but lost funding in the late 1980’s. Following a fire that gutted the interior of the property, the building and lot were taken over by encampments of homeless people, and overrun with prostitution, drug activity, and illegal trash dumping. The building was eventually razed. It impresses me that generations of neighbors worked diligently, through the crime and what must have been arduous legal battles with the city, to re-claim the park for the neighborhood.

The park is privately owned by the homeowners whose properties surround it, however, community use is encouraged. Ongoing upkeep and management of the park are performed entirely by volunteers. The park relies on donations and fund-raising events, such as the annual “Bloomingdale’s Biggest Yard Sale” and Casino Night, which is coming up on November 8th, 2008 (see website for details). Other activities are planned seasonally and include a community BBQ and holiday tree lighting.

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