Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Project Receives Mark E. Mack Community Engagement Award

As the D.C. Historic Preservation Office (HPO), within the Office of Planning, heads to the annual Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference this weekend, we would like to share the special honor the Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Project received back in January, at the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The project, organized by D.C. HPO staff, was the third place recipient of the 2016 SHA Gender and Minority Affairs Committee’s (GMAC) inaugural Mark E. Mack Community Engagement Award. Award recipients included the D.C. City Archaeologist, Dr. Ruth Trocolli, Assistant City Archaeologist, Chardé Reid, Mia Carey, Ph.D. candidate at University of Florida and Project Field Director, and Charles LeeDecker, Project Archaeologist.

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[L-R] Chardé Reid, Mia Carey, Dr. Ruth Trocolli, Charles LeeDecker. Courtesy of SHA

The GMAC Mark E. Mack Community Engagement Award honors those who exhibit outstanding best practices in community collaboration, engagement, and outreach in their historical archaeology and heritage preservation work. This award is named after the late Howard University Professor Mark E. Mack (1961–2012). As a professor of anthropology, he regularly encouraged students to work with the public, gave community lectures, and attended civic meetings. In 2005, he was approached by an Adams Morgan community member to conduct a survey of a historic African American cemetery located partially within the Walter C. Pierce Community Park, a District-owned property. Professor Mack and his students conducted much of the work pro-bono, over and above their school commitments. Along with community members, he lobbied for funding to investigate and commemorate the historic African American cemetery, earning him and his students a 2007 Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation for Archaeology. Many of his former students on the survey team have gone on to successful careers or attended graduate school in the fields of archaeology, anthropology, or historic preservation. It is no surprise that former students of Professor Mack are part of the Yarrow Mamout project team.

The Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Project was conducted between June and November 2015, in order to identify and evaluate the historical integrity of the Georgetown property that once belonged to Yarrow Mamout, a prominent African Muslim living in early 19th century D.C. The project was initiated following the concerns of the Georgetown community and James Johnston, author of the 2012 book From Slave Ship to Harvard: Yarrow Mamout and the History of an African American Family. The property at 3324 Dent Pl., NW was on the brink of redevelopment and had never been investigated. Although the D.C. HPO had no clear legal mandate to require the property owner to conduct archaeological investigations, the property owner granted permission for the pro-bono project. To provide operating funds, neighbors established an account for donations administered by the non-profit D.C. Preservation League, and raised over $4000. Donors came from various demographic groups, including ethnic, educational, socioeconomic status, political, and religious. The funds were used for equipment and supplies, and shipping artifacts to the lab for analysis, but the largest amount was spent on rental of a mini-backhoe and operator for deep-testing and backfilling. The D.C. Office of Planning also provided funds for lot clearing, supplies, and permits, as well as office space, and staff time. The archaeological survey included manual excavation of shovel test pits and test units, mechanical testing, geoarchaeology, ground penetrating radar, and 3D photogrammetry. The team provided twice-daily fence talks and tours of the property when on site. Throughout the survey, team members gave public talks to community groups and media interviews on the project.

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Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Project Field Photos. Courtesy of DC HPO and volunteers.

The Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Project collaborated with Masjid Muhammad, of the Nation’s Mosque of America, to hold a funeral prayer ceremony for Mamout on the property. The event drew over 100 people and offered the local community a chance to explore a property that once belonged to a known African Muslim as well as encouraged a safe place to engage in dialogue about the history and contributions of African Muslims. This is especially significant during a time when Islamophobia is rampant, and Muslims are being persecuted for the acts of radical terrorist groups. The participants were touched with the care and attention given to Yarrow Mamout’s former property, and positive message about Muslim contributions to US history.

The overall purpose of the project was to conduct public outreach, promote education, engage with the neighborhood and various communities, and to bring attention to the little-known history of black Georgetown and of African Muslims. The project would not have been successful without its numerous volunteers who contributed substantial amounts of time and effort. The Yarrow Mamout story could not have unfolded without their unwavering support. A special thanks to local residents, D.C. agencies, federal agencies, local Cultural Resource Management firms, Washington Parks and People, the DC Preservation League, Archaeology in the Community, as well as Dan Wagner of Geo-Sci Consultants, Inc., Elizabeth Wilson of Tomb Geophysics LLC and students from Howard University (HU) and Georgetown University.


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Yarrow Mamout Funeral Prayer Service at 3324 Dent Place, August 2015. Courtesy of Washington Post and DCHPO.

The Mark E. Mack Award was presented on Friday, January 08, 2016. The GMAC committee jury, who proposed the creation of the Mark E. Mack Community Engagement Award, included: Justin Dunnavant, HU alumnus and former Mack student, Dr. Florie Bugarin, HU professor, Dr. Chris Fennell, and Dr. Chris Matthews. Two papers about the project were presented at the conference.

The D.C. HPO would like to thank the GMAC committee of the SHA. The D.C. HPO would also like to thank all of the donors, volunteers, and community members who contributed to the project as well as Margaret Cheney, property owner, who ensured that the legacy of Yarrow Mamout lives on. We could not have done this without you!

Summary of Approved Penthouse Changes

A summary of the recently approved changes to the Zoning Regulation penthouse provisions (Zoning Commission Case 14-13) is now available.  It is just a summary, though – for the complete regulations, refer to the Office of Zoning website (www.dcoz.dc.gov).  Also, until the final Order is published in the DC Register, which will happen soon, these changes are not in effect.

PARK(ing) Day 2015

PARK(ing) Day is a annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. The Office of Planning’s space on 4th Street SW included a large checkerboard, a seating area, and two gardens made from shipping pallets.  We can’t wait until next year!

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Exploring Downtown with Golden Triangle BID

By Emily Pierson

Last Friday, Leona Agouridis, Executive Director of Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (BID), led OP Director Eric Shaw and several representatives from across the agency on a walking tour through downtown. The tour highlighted some of the initiatives Golden Triangle BID has spearheaded over the past few months, working with business owners, workers, and DC government agencies to enhance the environment in and around DC’s central business district.

pic 1pic 2Through their focus on sustainability, the Golden Triangle BID has been focusing on improving the sidewalks with landscaping.  In a partnership with the District Department of the Environment (DDOE), the BID built five rain gardens in Golden Triangle including one at 19th and L Streets.  The garden also includes stone seating and educational signage.

The BID has also worked with local businesses to improve the landscaping in front of buildings throughout Golden Triangle with the annual Golden Streets competition. Each year in the spring, businesses design and arrange trees, flowers, plants, and other landscape elements around a chosen theme. The entries are then voted on by the public and a panel of experts.   The photos below highlight this year’s expert’s choice featuring an “Earth, Wind, and Fire” theme on 17th Street between H and I (Eye) Streets.

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Easily the most successful initiative promoted by Golden Triangle BID has been Farragut Fridays, a weekly festival in Farragut Park during the summer months. On this particularly beautiful July Friday, hundreds of people came out for food trucks, games, fresh air, and sunshine. For these events, Golden Triangle BID provides additional outdoor seating with umbrellas, an “outdoor office,” ping pong tables and corn hole games, and tents for educating visitors to the park on the BID’s mission and initiatives. The vibrant weekly event draws local office workers, tourists, and lunch-seekers from all over downtown. With a great relaxed and fun atmosphere, the park is truly a place for everyone. Be sure to check it out next Friday!

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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.

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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.


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!