The 2015 Yarrow Mamout Archaeological Project

by Mia Carey

Yarrow Mamout was a Muslim slave who purchased property at 3324 Dent Place on February 8th, 1800, four years after receiving his freedom. Mamout served the Beall family of Maryland and Georgetown for over forty years after arriving in Annapolis, Maryland in 1752. He is thought to have been born in Guinea, West Africa ca. 1736 before being sold into slavery at the tender age of 16. When  he in arrived in Maryland, Yarrow was able to read and write in Arabic, which suggests that he may have been a wealthy member of his Fulani tribe. Mamout received his manumission  papers on August 22, 1796 as a reward for being a good and faithful servant.  By 1803, Mamout had transferred the property deed to his fifteen year old son, Aquilla.

Yarrow Mamout

Despite losing his savings twice to insolvent merchants, Mamout amassed a savings of $200 which he then used to purchase shares at the Bank of Georgetown.The interest accrued from these shares allowed Yarrow to live out the rest of his life comfortably. He was known for his skills as a brick-maker and basket-weaver,  his experience working on a ship, and his extensive understanding of real estate, finance, and law. Yarrow became well-known in 1819 after Charles Wilson Peale painted his portrait (which now hangs in the Atwater Museum in Philadelphia). When Peale arrived in Georgetown he heard of a man rumored to be 140 years old and sought out Yarrow; during his session he recorded Yarrow’s account of his life in his diary. A second portrait of Yarrow was painted in 1822 by James Alexander Simpson, which now hangs in the Peabody Room of the Georgetown Public Library. According to an obituary circulated by Peale, Yarrow died on January 19, 1823 and is rumored to be buried in the place in which he prayed.

Much of the historical information was developed by James H. Johnston in his book “From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family.”

For more information, see:

Website: www.yarrowmamoutarchaeology.weebly.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YarrowMamoutArchaeology?skip_nax_wizard=true

“Our RFP”—Community-Based Pilot Process for Parcel 42

Over sixty District residents joined the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) and the DC Office of Planning (OP) for the Our RFP Parcel 42 Public Workshop on Saturday, June 13. Our RFP is Mayor Bowser’s initiative to engage District residents early on in the request for proposals (RFP) process used to redevelop District owned property. Our RFP ensures that the public’s perspective and priorities are incorporated with the District’s goals throughout the entire process. Parcel 42, located at the intersection of 7th and R Streets NW, is the first pilot of the Our RFP process.

rfp

At the June 13th workshop, participants had small group discussions about building uses, design, and sustainability. During these discussions, many people expressed interest in unique ground floor uses including incubator space, workforce development services, live/work studios, or office space for District services. When the conversation turned to potential uses of the upper floors of a building on the site, residents discussed a range of ideas, including incorporating affordable housing on the site. During a discussion about the design and sustainability, residents thought a new building on Parcel 42 should be architecturally significant, include green and sustainable best practices, and showcase art within the public realm.

All of this feedback will be analyzed and reviewed by DMPED, which, after receiving additional input at a July follow-up meeting, will develop an RFP to redevelop Parcel 42.

But we still want to hear from you!

Continue to share your thoughts through June 30th about the future of Parcel 42 online at parcel42dc.mindmixer.com or in person at the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 317, Washington, DC 20004.

A public follow-up meeting will be held on the evening of July 28th at the Shaw library to discuss how all the feedback should be incorporated into a RFP to redevelop Parcel 42. For more information about the Parcel 42 Our RFP please visit dmped.dc.gov/ourrfp_Parcel42 or email parcel42@dc.gov.

Middlebury College Food Works Internship Program Stops by OP

Recently students from Middlebury College’s Food Works internship program stopped by the Office of Planning to learn the latest and greatest on DC’s food systems. These fellows will be spreading out across the city this summer working for gardens, food banks, schools, and non-profit organizations to take action around food issues. Good luck on all your internships and we can’t wait to hear what you accomplish so we can update our food stats here at OP!

Middlebury

DC’s great food assets

Did you know DC has many great food assets? We have…

  • 52 farmers markets, 5 open year round
  • 52 full-scale grocery stores
  • 60 Healthy Corner Stores
  • More than 1,800 community garden plots
  • 110 school gardens
  • 70+ Community-Supported-Agriculture groups delivering in DC

Want to find more food-related things in your neighborhood? Check out dcfoodfinder.org

Ward 4 Heritage Guide Released by DC Historic Preservation Office

W4 Heritage Guide

Following on the release of Heritage Guides for Wards 5, 7, and 8, HPO’s new Ward 4 guide identifies historically and culturally important places in the uppermost part of northwest Washington, D.C.  The guide describes sites of cultural importance to Ward 4 residents and visitors and describes the preservation challenges unique to this ward.  Through the guide, HPO hopes to foster stewardship of the ward’s heritage by facilitating initiatives to promote, preserve, and reuse the ward’s significant historic resources. 

Ward 4 is home to the city’s oldest church and cemetery, several early roads and crossroad communities, and was the site of Washington’s only Civil War battle.  In the later 19th and early 20th centuries, Ward 4 provided housing in a number of beautifully laid out streetcar and, later, automobile suburbs.  Historically home to substantial African American and Jewish populations, the area features businesses, recreational opportunities, places of worship, schools, and other facilities historically associated with its diverse communities.

This Heritage Guide provides a framework for developing strategies to promote and protect the historic resources of Ward 4 and to ultimately enhance economic development, community stability, and quality of life for residents.

The Ward 4 Guide is available in electronic format only. It is accessible and available for downloading on Office of Planning website at:   http://planning.dc.gov/node/1057572

Reflections on Archaeology in the District of Columbia

by Charlie LeeDecker

On May, 6, 2015, Mr. Charlie LeeDecker received a District of Columbia Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation (HP) in the category of Archaeology for his body of work in the District. In 2014, Charlie retired from the Louis Berger Group’s Washington, D.C. office. He spent the last 30 plus years conducting archaeological investigations for development projects and as a consulting archaeologist for federal agencies. Mr. LeeDecker was a principle on several HP award-winning projects since the awards were established in 2003, including 2004 for Public Archaeology, 2008 for the NPS Rock Creek Park Survey, and again in 2014 for work at the US Coast Guard Headquarters at St. Elizabeths Hospital with GSA, DHS, and Stantec. He has worked on dozens of projects and in every ward of the District. The post is his reminiscences on a career that focused on the buried history of our nation’s capital.

Washington, D.C., is one of the world’s greatest cities, and it’s been a great privilege to pursue a career in archaeology here, working alongside a large community of talented, passionate, and creative historic preservation professionals. One of my long-time professional goals has been to gain greater visibility for city’s archaeological resources. When I look at an old building, a landscape or even a parking lot, I want to see beyond what is immediately visible, and learn how this particular place came to be what it is today, how it developed through history, and what can we learn from the values, struggles, and daily lives of the people who lived and worked here generations ago. The archaeological record is mostly hidden from view, especially in urban areas, and sometimes when we look below the surface we find amazing stories that entertain, enlighten, and enrich our understanding of how our city came to look like it does today.

The city’s natural waterways — the Anacostia River and Potomac River waterfront areas, even the valley of Rock Creek and the smaller tributaries that feed these waterways – were the first places settled by European colonizers, the sites of our earliest industries, and the favored locations for the camps and villages of Native Americans that lived here for thousands of years before the first European explored the Chesapeake. While these areas contain the richest record of cultural development, they area also the most challenging to investigate archaeologically. In these areas, the natural or historic landscape has been layered below occupied buildings, pavement, formal landscapes, and massive amounts of fill soils that are occasionally contaminated with industrial waste.

I’ve had the privilege of working for many years in the Washington Navy Yard and the Navy Yard Annex (now known as the Southeast Federal Center). First established in 1799, the Navy Yard has played an important role in our national security and the development of military technology, and the historical significance of the Navy Yard is recognized by multiple historic districts, including a National Historic Landmark designation. We know from archival sources that the Navy Yard might include an archaeological record of the site’s early industrial history, especially shipbuilding and ordnance development. But opportunities to conduct archaeological investigations in the Navy Yard are limited by factors such as a high water table and nearly ubiquitous occupied buildings and pavement.

The relocation of Naval Sea Systems (NAVSEA) Command to the Navy Yard required rehabilitation of many historic structures, along with demolition of some buildings and new construction. Impacts to the historic districts and buildings were evaluated prior to construction, but archaeological work was deferred until the construction phase. There are serious risks with this approach – risks that archaeological resources might be destroyed without adequate documentation, and risks that archaeological work might cause delays to the construction schedule. Managing these risks required an unusual level of partnership between the construction and archaeological teams, but ultimately, the risks were rewarded beyond anyone’s expectations.

Archaeological documentation in the interior of Building 104 at the Washington Navy Yard, during rehabilitation for the NAVSEA project

Archaeological documentation in the interior of Building 104 at the Washington Navy Yard, during rehabilitation for the NAVSEA project

Some of the best opportunities for archaeological work occurred during the rehabilitation of historic buildings, after the interiors were gutted and the floor slabs were removed. At Building 104 we were able to document remains of the Brass Gun Factory, including features associated with furnaces and a casting pit. At another site, we found massive furnace foundations associated with the New Ordnance Foundry, a structure built during the Civil War to cast large, smooth bore cannon cast that were formed in a distinctive “soda bottle” shape, known as the Dahlgren cannon. We also documented remains of the West Shiphouse, a structure built around 1825 that was used for repair of 19th-century naval vessels. Reaching seven stories in height and extending over an area of roughly 100×300 feet, this shiphouse was one of the most prominent structures along the lower Anacostia River, visible in many nineteenth-century views of the city.

Much of my work over the last 10 years has been in and around the parklands in the city’s monumental core area, including the National Mall, the Ellipse, West Potomac Park, and the Washington Monument grounds. Historically, these iconic landscapes were originally low-lying tidal flats and open water at the mouth of Tiber Creek, a tributary of the Potomac that disappeared long ago. For thousands of years, Native Americans camped along the banks of the Tiber, and after the City of Washington was established in 1790, the creek was transformed first into a canal, then a foul sewer that carried the city’s waste into the Potomac. Tiber Creek and its banks were filled during the nineteenth century. Some of the filling was a result of efforts to improve the land around the White House but most of the fills – millions of cubic yards – was deposited during efforts to maintain the river’s navigation channels and control flooding that ravaged the city.

Some of the most interesting finds were unearthed along 17th Street. One of these was a wharf built in 1807 at the foot of 17th Street where it extended into Tiber Creek. The 17th Street Wharf was a shipping point for the early city, its importance growing after 1833, when it became a hub connecting the Washington City Canal and the Washington Branch of the C&O Canal. The wharf disappeared in 1902 when 17th Street was extended after land reclamation had been completed on Potomac Flats.

Documentation of the original foundation of the Lockkeeper's House at 17th Street; the foundation wall is 11.5 feet below present grade and was preserved in place during a sewer line replacement project.

Documentation of the original foundation of the Lockkeeper’s House at 17th Street; the foundation wall is 11.5 feet below present grade and was preserved in place during a sewer line replacement project.

The Lock Keeper’s House that stands at the corner of 17th Street and Constitution Avenue gives a hint of how different today’s landscape is from that of the 19th century. The C&O Canal Extension followed the shoreline of the Potomac from Georgetown, ending at the 17th Street Wharf. At that point, a canal lock accommodated the changing elevation between Lock 1 in Georgetown and the tidal waters at 17th Street. When 17th Street was extended in 1902, the Lockkeeper’s House was moved about 50 feet, but its original foundation was left in place where it was exposed during the replacement of a sewer line. After exposure of the Lockkeeper’s House foundation, we should not have been surprised that the actual canal lock would be found a few feet away. Sure enough, as the tunnel for the sewer line proceeded beneath Constitution Avenue, there it was!

Perhaps the most spectacular find along 17th Street was the “Mother of All Sewers,” aka the Tiber Creek Sewer Outlet. As the city developed in the nineteenth century, the Washington City Canal became a major nuisance, essentially an open sewer that collected waste from much of the downtown area. In the 1870s the city began to cover the Washington City Canal, converting it to an underground sewer. Following the area’s natural topography and hydrology, the sewer outfall was located at the intersection of 17th Street and Constitution Avenue, where waste emptied directly into the Potomac. Like the 17th Street Wharf and the C&O Canal Extension, the sewer outfall was engulfed during the land reclamation process that led to the creation of West Potomac Park. Exposed during construction of the Potomac Park Levee, the sewer outlet was an immense structure, measuring some 40 feet across its headwall.

With these and the findings from many other studies, the understanding of archaeology in the District has been increasing. Some of my most satisfying projects have been those that presented the greatest challenges and that required strong partnerships among project proponents, review agencies, and construction teams. Without the commitment of all stakeholders, some of the city’s most interesting archaeological resources might have remained virtually unknown and forgotten. The amazing opportunities to document the historic foundries at the Navy Yard, the wharf beneath the pavement of 17th Street and the canal lock below Constitution Avenue would not have been possible under conventional archaeological survey methods and would not have happened without committed partnerships among all of the project stakeholders. Going forward, I hope that the preservation community will continue to challenge us to think creatively to search for new ways to bring the city’s archaeological heritage to light.

View of the headwall of the Tiber Creek Sewer outlet along 17th Street, NW.  Exposed during construction of the Potomac Park Levee, the Lockkeeper's House is in the background, at the corner of 17th Street and Constitution Avenue. Measuring 23.5 feet across and 13 feet in height, the outlet is large enough to accommodate two lanes of vehicular traffic.

View of the headwall of the Tiber Creek Sewer outlet along 17th Street, NW. Exposed during construction of the Potomac Park Levee, the Lockkeeper’s House is in the background, at the corner of 17th Street and Constitution Avenue. Measuring 23.5 feet across and 13 feet in height, the outlet is large enough to accommodate two lanes of vehicular traffic.

 

Proposed Penthouse Regulations Part 2

The recent posting for Zoning Commission Case 14-13 provided a summary of the proposed amendments, and alternatives, to the penthouse regulations in the District.  Since that posting, OP has compiled additional maps, showing the proposed alternatives for where habitable space would and would not be permitted.  Under the current zoning regulations, habitable space (living space, offices, enclosed recreation space, etc.) is generally not permitted within a penthouse, with the exception of limited recreation space on a residential building.  Instead, penthouses tend to be limited to mechanical equipment and elevator overrides, or stair access ways to the roof.  However, the Height Act was recently amended to permit habitable space within rooftop penthouses located above the Height Act building height limit, if the penthouse is one story and 20 feet in height or less.

Essentially, the Zoning Commission is considering two alternatives for the permissions for habitable space:

  • Alternative 1 – Permit habitable space within a penthouse only in zones allowing a building height of more than 40 feet, by right (i.e. do not permit habitable space in a penthouse in any zone in which the building height is limited to 40 feet or less).
  • Alternative 2 – Permit habitable space within a penthouse only in zones allowing a building height of more than 50 feet, by right (i.e. do not permit habitable space in a penthouse in any zone in which the building height is limited to 50 feet or less).

The maps show these two alternatives by mapping the zones limited to 40 feet and 50 feet, respectively.

The Zoning Commission also invited the public to comment on whether some specified uses, such as a nightclub, bar, lounge, restaurant, or others, should be permitted only by special exception within a penthouse, in some or all zones.

The Zoning Commission public hearing for these proposals will be held April 30, 2015.  For more information or if you have questions about this proposal, please contact the Office of Planning at 202-442-7600.  Thanks!

Rooftop Penthouses

First – what is a rooftop penthouse? In DC, it is a (usually) small rooftop structure sitting on top of the roof, containing things like mechanical equipment, elevator or stairwell over-runs, and sometimes a room supporting a rooftop deck – storage, washrooms, etc. Not every building has one, in fact, most one-family homes and rowhouses and many small commercial or apartment buildings do not. Where they do exist, you may not always notice them, since they are required to be set back from the edge of the building below, to minimize their visual impact.

Mechanical Penthouse 2

Penthouses are regulated by zoning, including their size, height, setbacks, and permitted uses. Generally, the current penthouse regulations:

  • Limit penthouses to a height of 18’-6” above the building roof;
  • Do not limit the number of stories within the penthouse;
  • Require the penthouse to be set back from the edge of the building roof below by a distance equal to the penthouse height (a 1:1 set back); and
  • Do not permit “habitable” space in the penthouse. Habitable space includes uses such as residential living space, office space, conference rooms, or rooftop commercial space like a rooftop bar or lounge.

penthouse - aerial

The federal Height Act of 1910 also regulates penthouses. It was amended in 2014 to allow any use, including habitable space, within a rooftop penthouse which is one story and 20 feet in height or less. The intent was to allow greater use flexibility for roof tops and penthouse space. The DC zoning regulations are more restrictive than the federal Height Act, and any new building or addition must conform to both the zoning and the Height Act. To bring the Height Act and the more restrictive zoning regulations more in line and to implement the intent of the Height Act changes, amendments to the penthouse regulations would be needed.

The Zoning Commission held a public hearing on November 6, 2014 on the original OP proposed amendments to the penthouse regulations. In response to the public comments received, the Commission instructed OP to prepare an amended set of penthouse zoning regulation alternatives, to be re-advertised for a new public hearing. The new alternatives include the following:

  • Permitted penthouse height: Allow a penthouse of 20 feet in height above the roof it sits on (an increase from the currently allowed 18’-6”) in some higher density zones, but limit height to 10 feet (a decrease from the currently allowed 18’-6”) in any zone in which the building height is limited to 50 feet or less by right. The Commission is also considering an amendment to not allow a penthouse at all on a single family dwelling or rowhouse.
  • Permitted number of stories, not currently regulated by zoning: Allow 2 stories in zones that would allow a penthouse of 20 feet in height, but one story where the permitted penthouse height is limited to 10 feet. In the alternative, allow one story of habitable space in any zone, but allow a second story for mechanical space in zones where a 20 foot tall penthouse is permitted.

penthouse - 50' building

  • Permitted uses in a penthouse: Allow habitable space (residential units, office space, commercial space) in a penthouse in higher density zones, but not allow habitable space in zones where the building is limited to either 40 or 50 feet in height, or on top of a single family home or rowhouse. The Zoning Commission will also discuss whether certain uses such as a restaurant or nightclub (if permitted in the zone) would be permitted in the penthouse only with Board of Zoning Adjustment review of a special exemption request, to assess potential impacts on neighboring properties.
  • Penthouse setbacks: Essentially retain the current requirements, but provide clarification in the language when the setback is required, and also require a new penthouse setback from an adjacent historic property.
  • Penthouse area: Alter or generally eliminate current restrictions on the area of the roof that could be covered with penthouse structure – penthouse size would mainly be limited by required setbacks.
  • Penthouse walls: Amend and clarify design-related requirements for penthouse structures.
  • Affordable housing: Apply existing affordable housing requirements to new penthouse residential and non-residential space, and apply them more broadly and potentially at a deeper level of affordability.
  • Parking: Consider whether new penthouse habitable space triggers additional parking requirements.

For more detail and additional analysis, including a comparison of the proposals to existing zoning regulations, please refer to:

These changes will be discussed at a Zoning Commission Public Hearing to be held the evening of April 30, 2015 – you can participate by providing written comments to the DC Office of Zoning in advance of the hearing, or you can submit written comments in advance. More information on how to do this is available on the DC Office of Zoning website. Please also feel free to contact the Office of Planning if you have additional questions or comments.