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CONT. ~ Columbia Heights Transitions from Rural to Urban

under the incredible leadership of Leon Hubbard became what it is today, Hubbard Place. It is managed by Somerset and the tenant president is Ms. Smead. In

photo--Larry Ray--InTowner,

photo–Larry Ray–InTowner,

2009, owners effectuated a full exterior renovation. It is a landmark building and is [listed] on the National Register [of Historic Places].”

Riggs-Tompkins Building, now PNC/Kelsey Apartment Building

This 149,000 square-foot building in the 3400 block of 14th Street, designed by architect George N. Ray (1887-1959) and constructed in 1922, was added to the DC Inventory of Historic Sites in 1985 and inRiggs-Tompkins Building. photo--Larry Ray--InTowner.

Riggs-Tompkins Building. photo–Larry Ray–InTowner.

1922, was added to the DC Inventory of Historic Sites in 1985 and in 1987 listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Ray also designed many other building in DC, including the Peyser-Security Savings Building downtown as well as 1610-’14 K Street and another at Connecticut Avenue and N Street.

Hebrew Home for the Aged

Opened in 1925 to serve the surrounding, affluent German-Jewish neighbors at a cost of $27,000 to build, architect Harry Brandt’s plan provided for a modest 35 rooms in one building and a small hospital in a second. In 1953, at a cost of $1 million, the home was expanded to allow for a total of 165 rooms. Then, in 1968, this home moved to Montgomery County and the two buildings at 1125 and 1131 Spring Road buildings were sold to the city in 1968 for $13 million. For the past 10 years or so, DC used it as a mental health center. It is empty now and ready for a huge multi-purpose development.

Greater Washington Urban League

At the corner of 14th and Harvard Streets Stephen Hines lived and operated the Hines Funeral home out of his lovely 1873-built turreted mansion. By the 1920’s, this entire northeast corner was subsumed by the much expanded funeral home. During

photo--Larry Ray--InTowner,

photo–Larry Ray–InTowner,

thousands of upper and middle class families. When the funeral home closed in 1974, the property was acquired by the DC Land Redevelopment Agency. Eventually, the Greater Washington Urban League, which had been founded in 1938, entered into an exclusive use agreement with the city, following which it extensively renovated and, opened to the joy of the surrounding neighborhood.

Tivoli Theatre — “The Temple of the Arts”

Designed by New York Architect Thomas W. Lamb, the 2,500-seat Tivoli  opened in 1924 at a cost of $! million. The design reflects the Italian Renaissance revival with its stucco exterior, red tile roof, ornate cornices

and graceful arches. The then, regrettably, segregated was owned by Harry M. Crandall who also owned nine other DC theaters, including the Knickerbocker in Adams Morgan. After years of neglect, the Tivoli closed 1976. Following six years of community efforts to prevent its demolition of and then a magnificent interior and exterior restoration the Tivoli re-opened as the non-profit GALA (Grupo de Artistas Latino Americans)

photo--courtesy GALA Hispanic Theatre,

photo–courtesy GALA Hispanic Theatre,

Hispanic Theatre. (See “Historic Tivoli Theater Restoration Celebrated at Reopening Dedication,” InTowner, December 2004 issue pdf, page 1.) <> In 1985, immediately after its re-opening, the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


Columbia Heights is ever evolving. In the 1920’s, the  neighborhood was mostly known for by approximately a dozen buildings as it was transitioning from rural to urban, and became especially attractive to large numbers of mostly middle-class German-Jewish residents until they started to move out into, for the most part, the Maryland suburbs during the 1950s. This exodus was hastened by the 1968 riots and the ensuing drug crisis; economically and socially stable homeowners essentially abandoned Columbia Heights for 45 years. Then, precipitated by the building of the Metro line out 14th Street and the anticipated opening of the Columbia Heights station, the trend quickly began to reverse, first with small-scale “gentrification followed by major up-scale developments. Two years ago, the Washington Post called this neighborhood “the fastest gentrifying neighborhood in the United States.”

*Larry Ray is a Senior Lecturer at The George Washington University School of Law and Senior Trainer with the American Management Association.  He was elected four times as ANC Commissioner and served as President of the North Columbia Heights Civic Association (NCHCA)

Copyright © 2016 InTowner Publishing Corp. & Larry Ray. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited, except as provided by 17 U.S.C. §§107 & 108 (“fair use”).