D.C. Spotlight Saturdays
Views of Justice in Columbia Heights: 1350 Clifton Terrace, NW
The history of racial justice in Washington, D.C. includes how development of residential real estate and restrictions on home ownership gave rise to civil rights activism. One site in D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood exemplifies this evolution. An elegant mansion called Belmont was the first structure to grace the crest of the hill at 14th and Clifton Streets, NW. By 1915 it had been replaced by the Wardman Courts, then the city’s largest luxury apartment complex. In the 1960s, the complex, renamed Clifton Terrace, became infamous for its derelict conditions, prompting an angry standoff between predominantly Black tenants and a neglectful White landlord. The rent strike and court battle that ensued inspired others living in declining rental apartments to take action. The story of Clifton Terrace, then, exemplifies the struggles of the 20th-century nation’s capital as Black residents replaced Whites in neighborhoods like Columbia Heights.
Inspired by Cultural Convergence: Columbia Heights Heritage Trail and the new 20th Century Civil Rights Tour curated by the DC Office of Historic Preservation