Interesting History on the Very Sad State of the Historic Robert and Mary Church Terrell House in Ledroit Park

326 T Street, NW (Old Maple Ave)

We first wondered about this house back in 2008. Sad to be reminded it’s still in the same shape as it was back then. The Post published an interesting history on the home over the weekend:

“The home’s owner, Howard University, has halted its plans to rehabilitate the Terrell House as a local museum and community space. That movement lost its momentum during the Great Recession, and there has been little effort to resuscitate it since.”



Check out a Mary Church Terrell tribute in Bloomingdale after the jump.



44 Comment

  • How is it that Howard survives, when it always seems like they’re on the verge of insolvency? Are things just really poorly managed there? Such a shame that a prestigious and historic institution of higher learning is in such bad shape financially.

  • Two words: blight tax. I’m sure Howard and/or this property is exempt through some loophole or another, but DC needs to put some pressure on them to either deal with this property or give/sell it to someone who can. They are only paying about $2,000 per year in taxes on this place.

  • Shocking to see HU mismanaging real estate!

  • Anastasia Beaverhausen

    Howard University holds more blighted property hostage than any other person or institution in this city. The city council should act.

    • The City Council can do whatever it wants, but that’s not going to change the fact that HU has far bigger problems than rebuilding their blighted properties. I’d love it if they could force HU to sell the properties it does not intend to use, but somehow I don’t see that actually happening. They are sitting on a lot of valuable property – anyone have any ideas on how they could raise capital?

      • Best way is to partner with private developers to develop the lots, with HU continuing to own the underlying land and air rights. Extend to developers long term leases (50 or 99 years) so they can make their money back, but HU gets a piece of the action and ultimately retains ownership.

        • Catholic University did this for a chunk of its real estate. I don’t know the details of whether it was a straight sale or whether they retained some ownership but large portions of the newly developed and developing Monroe street used to be owned by Catholic.

        • Um, let’s not go crazy. This is a tiny, otherwise unusable, lot on a residential block. Howard should just sell it and be done with it. Put a restriction in the deed so it can’t be turned into a gas station (not that the historic board would ever allow that), but leave it at that.

      • hmm, how could they raise capital? maybe by selling some property?!

  • that house just looks weird, that style is definitely not ‘in’ right now. It doesnt fit with the surrounding neighborhood.. why not just buldoze it and build something to memorialize the site, but bring it to the modern era. Hold a high standard for the new building but lets let go of the past? I dont know. I wouldnt want to live in that weird looking building facing a huge brick wall

  • “In 2009, the group spent $563,000 to patch holes in the roof and to restore the masonry. But money for the renovation dried up during the recession as grant applications were denied, Bennett said. The project’s coffers have dwindled to about $10,000, he said.”

    I call BS on that number; no way did the masonry work and some patching cost over 1/2 million someone is either mismanaging funds or being taken for a ride.

    • exactly – half a million would be more than enough to totally restore this building.

    • My house is twice the size of this and I used one of the most expensive masons in the city and it didn’t cost anything near 500k. How many people at HU were stuffing money in their pockets while this was being done?

    • Over $500k to board up the windows? And folks are wondering why Howard is having so much financial trouble…

  • Why are people so shocked that an institution is struggling after a major recession? Are people really not aware of any other instutions that had to adjust priorites as a result of the recession than Howard? I don’t know what to say to people who really think Howard’s doors are going to close. Sometimes I think people who make comments like that are so uninformed, shallow and cynical only the failure of such an important institution would make them happy so that they can say.. They knew it would happen. Forget about the fact that the point is not to have someone live there, I can’t believe anyone can be so concerned about style rather than history. I just have to assume someone that would make such an insensitive comment must know nothing of the experience of civil rights. May be they don’t even get why the Dunn trial is such a big deal. The fact that this country is still debating the value of a young AA’s life makes this house way more significant than the style of a neighborhood.. There is no good taste when it comes to ignorance. Perhaps an online fund raising effort can by initiated and people who are so upset by “blight” can put there money where their mouth is. I’d be one of the first to donate.

    • If the institution has half a brain its endowment is doing way better than it was before the recession, since a simple investment in stock indices would have done that.

    • What the heck does ” this country is still debating the value of a young AA’s life makes this house way more significant than the style of a neighborhood” have to do with anything?

    • Good point. This discussion is practically genocide. /sarcasm

    • If you think the site is so important, and I agree it is, why don’t you start the fund yourself? And by the way, given how long that site has been utterly ignored by HU while the rest of the neighborhood has been imploring them to fix it up, maybe your criticism should be directed at, oh, I don’t know, HU? If HU doesn’t have the money to fix it — and no judgment as to why — then sell it. Problem solved! Whatever the reason for not selling it, the result is that the neighborhood suffers, so I judge them for that. And this isn’t the only property they are doing this to — they own the largest house a block to the west, and it too is abandoned and falling into disrepair, with broken windows to boot. They wanted to turn it into the president’s house but couldn’t afford the renovations, so instead if selling it they are making it our (the neighbors’) problem. Thanks, Howard!

      • I live in the neighborhood. I am not suffering! Who is suffering?

        • Jesus. Jesus is suffering.

        • I’m not going to argue with you that vacant, boarded-up buildings don’t hurt a neighborhood, even if you yourself as one of the many people that live in the neighborhood don’t feel personally aggrieved. I’m also guessing you aren’t one of the neighbors immediately adjacent to this house, and that those neighbors probably are directly affected. And at the least, can’t we all agree that since this building has such historical significance, someone — even if it can’t be HU themselves — should be restoring it? The HU mentality about this building can basically be summed up as “it’s better that this house rot than anyone else own it”, which, well, sucks.

      • No doubt the contracting process was honest and transparent. Just like all the execs at HU paying themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

  • More obtuse than I originally thought. Sad. You did read the history of the former owners right? Stand your ground is a civil rights issue. The law gave at least two me in Florida the idea that they could deny the right to live to two young AA men. Removing history like this makes it easier for people to pass laws the essentially deny people their civil rights.

  • Because of their substantial landholdings, paired with their dereliction, Howard acts as the ball and chain around the ankle of the entire Georgia Avenue corridor, the 5h1771ne55 of which is otherwise inexplicable.

    • +1. I couldn’t believe it when I found out that they owned the two dilapidated buildings on the northwest corner of Georgia and V Street NW. They can’t even be bothered to trim the weeds in the treeboxes! Disgraceful.
      And +1 to the Anonymous who said, “All the current criticism of HU is fair, and it doesn’t mean all the wonderful things about HU, both old and new, aren’t also true.”

  • Wrong! And anyone who says they should just sell it must not have much experience with wills and trusts. The donation probably has restrictions on how the property can be used. Also I have donated to the cause. I am sick of
    the Howard bashing. It is so easy to judge after the fact. Now that there is no more redlining in the hood people come in a critize the institutions and people who tried to keep a sense of community. No one was standing in line to invest in the Howard Shaw area otherwise Howard would not have been able to buy the property that they did. Now property finally has value and people make it out that Howard is the bad guy all the while it’s ok for insurance and brokerages and banks to not have invested in Shaw Howard but something is wrong with Howard because they made a similar decision and waited until they could get the most for their investment. You can’t have it both ways. Get off of Howard’s ass or give up some money. Or at least get truly informed and stop with the easy jump on the band wagon put downs. This country would still be segregated, listening to let’s go to the hop and trying to figure out how to perfect blood tranfusions if it were not for Howard. And that us just a drop in the bucket.

    • “Give up some money” – ok, where? Howard hasn’t even given us a chance to help them. I mean, even the laziest thing they could do would be to create a kickstarter campaign for this. It’s the lack of effort on Howard’s part that is so frustrating.

    • All the current criticism of HU is fair, and it doesn’t mean all the wonderful things about HU, both old and new, aren’t also true. The fact is, HU has history of being a bad neighbor, and that history continues now even if they are a less bad neighborhood than they were a decade or two ago when they intentionally blighted an entire block of LeDroit Park to give them a better chance of expanding Howard U Hospital. Thankfully they failed at that, but that’s what they did. Also, are you actually suggesting that redlining was a good thing? I can’t imagine that you are, because if so, then you are accepting the idea that a person can be excluded from living somewhere based on the color of their skin, which is racism, right?

      • Of course I am not suggesting redlining was a good thing. I am not surprised the point went over some people heads here. It is so easy to critic things after the fact. Everyone here is just so smart. And the people at HU are so stupid that they couldn’t even predict the 10,000 increase in the stock market.

        Howard is suppose to make a buck. They are not a charity organization. They want to make the same buck that people on this blog wanted to make when they bought houses cheap and sold them for a profit. It didnt happen by accident that just all of a sudden realize it – may be HU planned it before others did.

        There is a double standard. Howard is dammed if they do and dammed if they don’t. The point is no developer came in and bought up house and fixed them up until it was cool to be in leDroit and Bloomingdale. I guess some think that was wise. I just wish people would calm down the building is not dilapidated. You can still donate money if you are truly interested. I suspect most just want to complain.
        Why aren’t people complaining about how the federal government let DC rot for years SE, NE especially. There were many absantee landlords that let homes fall apart in DC for years. Now they are selling off at high prices. People did nothing while neighborhoods fell apart and schools went down the drain. People just moved to the burbs and divested in DC. Ever tried to get a bank to loan you money to fix up a house in a neigborhood where the values have dropped?
        Pick on the Feds, banks and insurance people they run the show. And donate so that you can have a historic house that is stylish too and show it to your friends while filling all smug because your soo cool in LeDtoit!

        • People are complaining that the federal government didn’t invest in DC over the years, but they aren’t complaining about that on this post because THAT ISN’T THE TOPIC OF THIS POST. And we shouldn’t pick on Howard because they are just trying to make a buck, but the banks and insurance companies are fair game? Aren’t they also entitled to make a buck? I can’t respond to anything else in your response because it’s rambling and full of inconsistencies. But the overwhelming sense I get from it is that you don’t like your new neighbors because they are “smug”, so good riddance to you. And so there is no confusion about this, you absolutely think redlining was a good thing.

        • “Howard is suppose to make a buck. They are not a charity organization.”
          Presumably they aren’t setting out to LOSE money… but they are a nonprofit institution, not a for-profit one.

        • “They want to make the same buck that people on this blog wanted to make when they bought houses cheap and sold them for a profit.”
          What are you talking about? I’m all for Howard making money / running a solvent institution. I think that everyone here supports that – to claim otherwise would be disingenuous. With all the blighted/underused land that they currently hold, they can easily sell/lease much of that land and make huge profits. Why aren’t they doing that? What’s preventing HU from making prudent financial decisions?

          • Yeah I am sure they haven’t thought of that. Why not march up there and tell them. Are people really so naive. You simply can’t understand that No Investor would back HU with support for the kinds of projects you see now because they didn’t see value around this area. It wasn’t the cool thing years ago to have restaurants and condos named after jazz legends at the corner of Georgia and Florida Ave. No investor, banker whatever would touch that with a 200 ft ladder. So HU was suppose to give scholarships and redo the hood into some kind of utopia. Shame on HU. To many Georgia and Florida is still not cool. Now that the demographics have changed investors are singing a different tune. People look at HU like they missed the boat when HU has struggled to be at the doc. You don’t know because its not your experience( for enough people anyway) Thats a good thing but now it’s so easy to be all superior about it. HU has navigated through years of all kinds of social, economic and political strife to be schooled by the people on this blog. Really! Stop pretending to empathize and right a check. I am sorry there is no empathy possible. How about write a check and then complain about the grass. Or live in Georgetown near a school with a huge endowment and serving a student body that doesn’t rely as much on financial aid. The truth is if HU and its student body is doing well then so is the rest of the country. So if you can understand that, you are not as obtuse as I thought.

          • I’m not talking about what HU could have done before – the past is in the past – I am talking about the current reality. If everyone else is currently profiting from the real estate boom surrounding Howard – why aren’t they? Do you seriously think that HU can’t find an investor to buy/lease some of the extremely valuable land that they’re holding? They bought extremely low, and can now sell high – but they’re simply not doing that. Again, I don’t understand why you think folks don’t want HU to succeed – they do! This is precisely why many on here are having trouble understanding why HU is sitting on so much valuable land and (seemingly) not doing a thing about it.

    • Hold your horses there. It is a known fact that when the Ledroit Park and Bloomingdale areas were blighted and real estate was cheap HU swooped in and grabbed up a bunch of houses. Houses that sat and basically fell in on themselves for years and HU did nothing with them even after pleading from neighbors. They finally started selling them after so much pressure was put on them and the neighborhood started turning around. They realized they could make a buck and started selling. They haven’t sold all their properties and properties like this continue to languish due to HU lack of concern for the neighborhood that their derelict properties sit in. The banks and investors that have investing in the area have produced some great homes and allowed people to live in these neighborhood and bring in some great neighbors. HU allows their properties to sit and become refuge to all sorts of criminal activity. This isn’t about race this is about a large institution that has been negligent in its duties for years. Need I remind you that while they owned all these homes that were in such bad shape they had no problem doing that in a predominantly black neighborhood. So the pot is calling the kettle black.

      • +1 to “This isn’t about race this is about a large institution that has been negligent in its duties for years.”

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