As recently as two years ago, the former home of Carter G. Woodson, father of Black History Month, was a complete mess. Vagrants slept on the stoop and inside the 9th Street NW row house, then owned by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (which Woodson founded), and squatters lit fires inside at night to stay warm. Then the National Park Service acquired the Woodson home as a national historic site in 2005.
But the house is still boarded up, and save for posting a sign announcing its historical significance, the Park Service hasn’t done much with it. At a Feb. 28 meeting of the Shaw Main Streets group, an NPS representative told neighbors the plans were in the works and renovations can be expected by…2016.
Why take nearly a decade to renovate a smallish row house? Robert Parker, the NPS’ site manager for the Woodson home, says that the process of restoring a historic site is extremely complicated, and his agency needs to do planning and research first. “All of the studies will determine our progress and how the site will develop. We have to uncover some things to determine our direction….We just got the site in 2005, so we’re moving at warp speed.”
Shaw Main Streets Executive Director Alex Padro says neighbors are growing antsy, but he takes some comfort in the fact that the property is now only partially dilapidated.
“The community is certainly disappointed that we’re unlikely to see construction begin anytime soon,” Padro says, “but at least the property isn’t open to vagrants.”