While the protest and rally to fully support and fund public housing is taking place today at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, 10am-11:30am, I am thinking about Montana Terrace and Sursum Corda, housing structures with roots in 1968. (Sibley Plaza, North Capitol & M Streets, NW, was also completed in 1968.)
Sursum Corda's, pictured above, groundbreaking took place on 4 February 1968. Mrs. Mary Judd, one of the 170 residents poised to move into the building, dug a 6-inch hole to begin the groundbreaking. (She was one of the residents who had been displaced when her previous building was destroyed and decimated by the federal government.) According to the Washington Post, Mrs. Judd and her neighbors were full of smiles on the day of the groundbreaking.
Montana Terrace, 1625 Montana Avenue, NE, was completed in 1968. (I have not yet been able to find its opening day.) Kenneth Carroll, 30 years later, shared his memories of growing up at Montana Terrace in the 1970s, and the tenant activism of his neighbors.
"My family lived at Montana Terrace in Northeast, the last major public housing built by the city. When the city government announced that it was going to take over the Terrace from the private firm that was managing it, an ad hoc tenants organization sprang up almost overnight. Many of the folks who lived at the Terrace had moved in from other projects, and knew how poorly the city had managed them. They were not about to be "taken for bad," which in D.C. slang is the worst thing that can happen to you.
Miss King, Mrs. Teensy and Mrs. Richmond, whose sons I played ball with and whose daughter I fell in love with, went down to the D.C. Housing Authority and demanded to speak not to the petty bureaucrats assigned to run the city, but to the head of the federal government's Department of Housing and Urban Development. Their demand: Keep the private management while you pay to train us to run our complex. Without college degrees, money or experience, they got what they asked for. They had made it clear that poverty didn't necessarily mean powerlessness, which was a funky idea."
Do you have memories of Montana Terrace, Sibley Plaza and Sursum Corda? Were you a tenant in one of these buildings? Did you play a role in the construction of these buildings?
Share your memories below or here.
Photo source: Sursum Corda, 1971, Warren K. Leffler, photographer, Library of Congress