August 4, 2008

MLK Avenue, Then and Now

by Jessica Wright, Community Blogger.

As my recent interviews have taught me, Anacostia has changed a great deal over the years. To help visualize these changes, I searched for historic photographs on the Library of Congress website. I found a couple of photos of Martin Luther King Jr. Ave (then called Nichols Ave.) that date back as far as 1918. Two other interns and I took a trek down MLK to see for ourselves how things have changed.

The photo below left is of the Anacostia Bank, located at the then-2021 Nichols Ave, SE. The picture shows the bank decorated for a parade in 1918. (Courtesy Library of Congress, LOT 12357-10). I was thankful to see that the bank building is still standing today (pictured second below). However, the building is no longer a bank, but contains a funeral home and is leasing out retail space.

Pictured below left is the Griffith Consumers Company at 2020 Nichols Ave., SE. (Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-H824- 1553-001). Although the exact date is unknown, it was taken some time between 1920 and 1950. This building was not as fortunate as the Anacostia Bank. Today, it is a parking lot for PNC Bank.

I also found this picture of a Combination (5-10-25 cent) Store and Ice Cream Parlor, decorated for the Fourth of July in 1919. (Courtesy Library of Congress, LOT 12357-10). The buildings were located somewhere on the 2200 block of Nichols Ave., SE. It was really difficult to figure out which buildings they correspond with today. The photo below right is my closest guess—does anyone have any other suggestions?

Documenting the buildings of Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave, SE, has given me a fresh appreciation for the history of this area. Anacostia is home to some beautiful (or formerly beautiful) buildings. As MLK continues to undergo development, my hope is that the historic buildings will be spared the fate of the Griffith Consumers Company and others like it.

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