Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Naylor Court from the 1860's

The lanes of Naylor Court , laid out in the 1860’s were among hundreds of intersecting alleys that were hidden behind DC houses, especially in Shaw. Stables, workshops, sheds and cheaply built two-story houses filled these alleys. While many of Naylor Court’s original dwellings are gone, a few remain. Naylor Court’s alleys form hald of today’s Blagden Alley-Naylor Court Historic District.

Starting with the Civil War housing crisis, builders crammed scores of dwellings into tight spaces such as these. Most dwellings lacked running water, plumbing or electricity and they quickly became dilapidated. Yet the need for shelter was desperate. In 1908 more than 300 people filled Blagden Alley dwellings, averaging 7 per household and paying $6 per month.

In 1900 Nochen Kafitz, a Lithuanian immigrant opened a grocery in his house a few blocks away on Glick Alley. (The alley now gone, once lay between 6th, 7th and S Streets and Rhode Island Avenue.) His son Morris (1887 – 1964) changed his name to Cafritz and became a key DC real estate developer and philanthropist.

New alley dwelling construction was outlawed in 1934 and many alleys were cleared of housing. But some alleys lingered, attracting prostitutes, gamblers, drug dealers and speakeasies. Others though were tightly knit communities where people who just happened to be poor looked out for one another.

Since the 1980’s the alley’s small dwellings, former carriage barns and horse stalls have housed artists studios and residences as well as working garages. In 1990 the city moved its archives to the former Tally Ho Stables built in 1883.

From Cultural Tourism. DC 2006

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