14th Street NW, Washington, DC

Update: The businesses featured above have now all been gentrified out of existence as of December 2012.

The evening of the day of Martin Luther King’s assassination saw the largest riots in Washington, DC‘s history. Beginning at 14th and U St NW, the rioters quickly spread up and down 14th Street, destroying everything in their path. Above, is the Marion Berry government center, built on one of the destroyed corners.

Little did the rioters know that they were engaging in urban renewal, allowing luxury condos to spring up in the ruins of the burnt out buildings 35 years after the riots.

However, real, independent and small time business has sprung up along 14th, allowing for a rebirth. In buildings that are brightly colored but also some with the burn marks still showing from their neighbors’ fiery demise forty years ago, life has returned to 14th St. I loved the above row of stores: a kitchen and bath store, a nursery, a stationary store and a funky gift store.

Salvadorans have also contributed, with the wonderful El Paraiso restaurant. While it’s a little rough around the edges, it still is a stable anchor on its block.

Swan Auto Sales is a good example of the old 14th Street; it most likely sprang up in the place of a burned out building. I’m surprised no luxury condos have been built there yet.

The side streets feature beautiful, rehabbed houses that once were workers cottages but now probably cost close to $700-800K. Read about the riots, and their effects, at this vetted Wikipedia article. See it from the air here, and see if you can spot any vacant lots along 14th Street, products of the riots; they’re rapidly disappearing, forty years after their destruction.

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