The Old Georgetown Act: The Roots of Gentrification

The Georgetown neighborhood in Washington DC is choc-full of history.Today it is a thriving fashion destination for locals and visitors alike. However it wasn’t always like that. It was initially a separate city that was founded in 1751. It was a thriving African American community for a solid 70 years. Many businesses, schools and churches were owned an frequented by blacks. It was a geographically attractive piece of land. It had the C&O Canal, The Potomac River as well a trolley system.

In 1871 all that changed. The powers that be decided to take over and enacted The District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871. This act revoked the charters for three separate entities and merged them into one. The entities were Washington County, The City of Washington and Georgetown. I Guess that wasn’t enough because in 1878 another organic act effectively claimed Georgetown as West Washington. In 1895 Congress abolished Georgetown as a separate legal entity. Brick Hill, Holy Hill and Herring Hill were no more. A once spirited city was reduced to a neighborhood.

The powers that be convinced the residents that they were living in the slums according to “civilized” standards. Civilized meaning electricity and running water. What the acts effectively did was make a completely independent group of rely on others for their good and services. Once the original residents were relocated to Glover Park and other areas, The Old Georgetown Act was passed. It made the historic Georgetown district and preserved “certain” historic structures while demolishing the rest. Fast forward today and its a completely changed neighborhood. The descendants of the original residents are looked at as riff raffs by the rich that live their now. I remember years ago when a metro station was being considered for that area and it was protested heavily. The residents didn’t want it because they wanted to exclude “certain” groups of people from frequenting the area.

It’s not hard to see that the same thing goes on today just in a more subtle form. From redlining to raising the property taxes heavily so that long time residents can no longer afford to live there. This not only goes on in my area but cities all across the nation and the world. They have been playing chess for a long time; it’s no secret. Know your history.

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