Real History Real Life

The Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District has launched an interactive campaign to tie the vibrant neighborhood’s exciting future to its rich past. Themed “Real History, Real Life”, the series of brightly designed coasters shares 10 stories from the Triangle, with one side of each coaster portraying a historical moment from the past and the flip side of the coaster depicting the vision for today and tomorrow.

The coaster series brings to life the rich history and lore of one of the most active and historically impactful communities in Washington, DC including:

Real History: Prather’s Alley, between K & I Streets, was home to businesses such as Schneider Bakery and Bowles dairy bottling plant in the late 1800’s. Bowles originally transported milk from his herds in upper Montgomery Country into the city to be bottled and delivered by horse-drawn wagons. In 1925 it became a milk bottle exchange, where over 20,000 milk bottles were collected each day. 

Real Life: The Beuchert’s Blacksmith Shop building from 1912 still stands in the alley, one of the few surviving industrial alley buildings in the MVT historic district. A new residential building – 455 Eye St. – will retain the historic building as well as the parapet signage.

Real History: Gustav Hartig, a well-known German-American, located his hardware store at 7th & K St. in the late 19th Century. After his passing in 1894, Hartig Hardware would remain in the family for 100 years.

Real Life: The AAMC building now fills the block, serving its nationwide academic medicine membership and bringing programs and a spirit of volunteerism to the local DC community. . Hartig Hardware no longer exists, however locally owned Ace Hardware is a nearby neighborhood favorite nearby and five of the historic buildings from the block are adaptively incorporated in the AAMC building.

Real History: Northern Liberty Market, a grand red brick building with an immense central room spanning 85 feet without an interior column, opened in 1875. It was one of downtown DC’s busiest commercial centers with 284 merchants, tradespersons and vendors who gathered daily at 5th & K St.

Real Life: City Vista at 5th & K opened in 2008 and was a catalyst for the redevelopment of Mount Vernon Triangle. Anchored by initial tenant Busboys & Poets, it includes downtown’s first grocery store - a 24-hour Safeway, numerous restaurants and retail shops amidst three residential towers.

Real History: The world’s largest bowling alley resided in the Northern Liberties Market at 5th & K St. during the 1920’s at 5th & K St. with 55 lanes, all located on the second floor. Their ad proclaimed “Get out of the rut!! Find Relaxation, fun, exercise, and consequently health and happiness.” The building also housed DC’s first Convention Hall.

Real Life: The convention hall closed after decades of hosting auto shows, concerts, political debates, revivals and even an ice skating rink. Today, an array of popular fitness facilities in the Triangle host MVT residents as they stay fit….for health and happiness.

Real History: DC’s first electric streetcar– the Eckington and Soldiers’ Home streetcar line – ran along New York Ave. in 1888, replacing a horse-drawn streetcar along the same route. Opening day photos were snapped on the 600 block of NY Ave.

Real Life: A new streetcar line is being planned to serve MVT along K St., on the route connecting H St./Union Station and Georgetown. New York Ave., the northern edge of the MVT, remains a key transportation artery, one of four radiating from the White House.

Real History: The CIA, in the mid-20th century, located a photo interpretation effort on the top floors of the Steuart Motor building at the corner of 5 & K Streets. Military couriers would deliver hundreds of cans of film of the Soviet Union, China and Cuba shot from spy planes or satellites.

Real Life: A mixed-use office and retail project, 1001 6th St., has been designed for the site by partners Boston Properties and Steuart Development. A green roof, abundant retail and a sunny atrium will invite future office workers to collaborate where secrets were once protected.

Real History: Diversity, multi-ethnicity and working class values characterized MVT by the turn of the 20th century. Public institutions anchored the community, including two schools, a firehouse and several churches, including Second Baptist Church, Mount Carmel Baptist Church and Bible Way Churches.

Real Life:  The MVT churches continue to serve their members and the community. This year, Mount Carmel celebrated 120 years, Bible Way celebrated 88 years and Second Baptist celebrated 150 years with their congregations.

Real History:  A 120-year old oak tree stands proudly at the National Park Service park located at 5th and L Streets. While constructing the City Vista project nearby, each concrete slab was dug up by hand to protect the root system of the oak tree.

Real Life: Park activation such as the MVT’s evening concert series – Tunes in the Triangle – is one of many efforts to welcome people of all ages to our parks. Park and green spaces in the MVT are key projects for the MVT CID, although the 120 year old tree at 5th & L St. is protected and maintained by the National Park Service to this day.

Real History: Grazing animals were said to have grazed the grass of MVT, originally considered the outer limits of DC, in part because animals could not graze south of Mass. Ave. The Mt. Vernon Square Market, with its wood buildings and unpaved streets was more attractive to those seeking open spaces.

Real Life: Our pet-friendly residents make up more than 50% of the residents in some of our apartment and condo buildings. Our pet lovers come out in force to our MVT CID events, including dog agility day, the pet Halloween costume context and pet photos with Santa.  And if you want to see one of those grazing animals, watch for our petting zoo event in the summer!

Real History:  Celebrities flocked to MVT during the 1800’s. Douglas Row, on 2nd St, I St & New Jersey Ave., featured some of the area’s most distinguished housing stock along with some of the area’s most distinguished celebrities, including President Ulysses S. Grant, Vice President John Breckenridge, William T. Sherman and Gustave Lansburgh. The row of brick dwellings was demolished during the 20th century to make way for new buildings and for the construction of the Third Street Tunnel.

Real Life: In the 1994 movie, “True Lies”, Arnold Schwarzenegger filmed scenes on what was a used car lot at the intersection of 4th St. and New York Ave., now the Meridian at Mount Vernon Triangle I & II Apartments.

In 2016, thousands of Real History, Real Life coasters were distributed throughout Mount Vernon Triangle’s many restaurants and cafes, including A Baked Joint, Busboys & Poets, Alba Osteria, Alta Strada, Mandu, Ottoman Taverna, Shouk, Silo, Sixth Engine and Texas de Brazil. The coasters have a removable triangular center, inviting the user to open it and take their best photo through the center opening of what they appreciate and view in the Triangle neighborhood. Residents, office workers and visitors are encouraged to participate in a social media campaign, posting their pictures to Twitter or Instagram with the tagline . Click here to view activity on our Tagboard.

The MVTCID extends its appreciation to Anne McDonough, Library & Collections Director at the Historical Society of Washington, DC for her tireless efforts to help the MVT CID with the location and identification of key images for the coaster project and to Executive Director, John Suau, of the Society for supporting this effort.