“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Southwest Waterfront in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

New Town in the City

River Farms to Urban Towers


— Southwest Heritage Trail —

New Town in the City Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, May 15, 2019
1. New Town in the City Marker
Inscription.  All that surrounds this sign resulted from the nation's first urban renewal project. To your left is Arena Stage, a leader in the resident company theater movement. Founded as an innovative theater-in-the-round in an old downtown movie theater in 1950, Arena Stage moved to this Harry Weese-designed building in 1961.

Just beyond Arena Stage is the Modernist high-rise residential complex of Waterside Towers, designed by Chloethiel Woodard Smith. Behind you across M Street stands Tiber Island, a prize-winning development by Keyes, Lethbridge & Condon. These designs explain Southwest's reputation as a showcase of 20th-century architecture and planning. St. Augustine Episcopal Church, completed in 1965, was one of seven built after renewal demolished 28 of Old Southwest's 34 houses of worship.

In the 1930s congressional and city officials nationwide were struggling with the problem of aged, deteriorating cities. Could they be fixed and beautified or should they be torn down and built anew? Would better buildings improve the lives of residents if their communities were lost? Could governments re-make cities or did they
Reverse of New Town in the City Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, May 15, 2019
2. Reverse of New Town in the City Marker
need help from private developers? And would the displaced ever be able to come home again?

Southwest offered Congress a test lab. Most Southwesters were low-income people who valued their neighborhood but had no political clout. Nearly half of Southwest's housing lacked plumbing, and disease rates were high. Criminal activity included gambling and prostitution. Beginning in 1954, despite thousands of protests, the Redevelopment Land Agency moved 23,500 people and began razing almost everything so that private developers could build a "new town in the city."

[Captions clockwise from top:]
In 1951 this block of Sixth Street, below, consisted of brick rowhouses built around 1900 and a typical corner grocery. By 1962 the Town Center Plaza apartments, left, (now Marina View Towers) and Arena Stage occupied this site.

Church of God at 569 Maine Avenue, left, and Gorsuch Baptist Church at Fourth and L streets, below, were among dozens torn down during urban renewal.

Arena Stage's first production in its new theater, The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht, 1961.

Southeastern University, specializing in business courses for adult students, became a cornerstone of the new Southwest when it moved here and opened its doors in 1972.

[Caption on reverse side:]
New Town in the City Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, May 15, 2019
3. New Town in the City Marker
December 1958 much of Old Southwest's tree-lined, low-scale neighborhood remained as Capitol Park, designed by Chloethiel Woodard Smith, was rising from its center. This sign would have been located at the arrow. Photograph by Del Ankers

Erected 2004 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 2.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Southwest Heritage Trail marker series.
Location. 38° 52.609′ N, 77° 1.189′ W. Marker is in Southwest Waterfront, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on 6th Street Southwest north of M Street Southwest, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1101 6th Street Southwest, Washington DC 20024, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Thomas Law (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Rooms With a View: An Idealistic Vision (about 500 feet away); ADA: Landmark Declaration of Equality for Americans with Disabilities (about 500 feet away); 20th Anniversary of ADA July 24, 2010 (about 500 feet away); Change on the Waterfront (about 700 feet away); The Law House In Peace and War (approx. 0.2 miles away); Barney House (approx. 0.2 miles away); Lewis House (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Southwest Waterfront.
New Town in the City Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. Makali Bruton, February 18, 2020
4. New Town in the City Marker
The marker is towards the right in this view, with the Arena Stage, mentioned in the marker text, towards the left.
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Credits. This page was last revised on February 22, 2020. This page originally submitted on May 15, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 67 times since then and 9 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on May 15, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.   4. submitted on February 21, 2020, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.
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