Southwest History Committee
Lida Holland Churchville, Chair
The History Task Force is a group of individuals who want to understand and further the history of our community. All residents are welcome to join.
The major focus of this past year was our call box initiative. This is an effort to restore and beautify the historic call boxes in our community. These boxes used to be critical communication tools for police and fire department workers in the field. With advances in communications, the boxes were no longer needed and fell into disrepair. The Task Force has been giving the boxes a facelift by repainting the boxes with images and symbols of Southwest's past and present.
In 2009, all of the Cherry Blossoms and the Thurgood Marshall boxes were finished. The first unveiling celebration (including Cherry Blossom Festival staff) took place at a festival on April 11th at the Disabled American Veterans site with great music by the Maryland Brass Ensemble.
The Thurgood Marshall unveiling was held on May 17, close to the time of the 55th Anniversary of the Brown vs. the Board of Education decision, at the G Street Circle at 1st and G Street, SW, near Justice Marshall's home at the time he was named to the Supreme Court. Thelma Jones served as the Mistress of Ceremonies for this unveiling. Speakers included Roger Wilkins, a friend of the Justice; Cecilia Marshall, widow of the Justice; ANC Commissioner David Sobelsohn, lawyer and Thurgood Marshall Scholar. Annie King Phillips, a friend of the Marshall family, unveiled the artwork she had created in honor of Justice Marshall. St. Augustine¹s Episcopal Church sponsored the reception following the ceremony. All but one of the 2009 call boxes were paid for by Cultural Tourism with help from the Earth Conservation Corps, which contributed young Corps members to prepare and paint the call boxes throughout Southwest. It is important to realize that most of the call boxes finished in 2008-2009 were decorated with cherry blossom art made available because the National Cherry Blossom Festival owned the work of artists who had won the annual Cherry Blossom Award for their artwork over a number of years. As a result, there was no cost in using this prize-winning artwork. On the other hand, the Thurgood Marshall call box was supported by funds from Councilmember Tommy Wells as well as our local Advisory Neighborhood Commission. The art work for this call box was much more costly than the Cherry Blossom work.
Three call boxes are in process as the new Task Force year begins. Perry and Susan Klein have been working for many months on plans to unveil two call boxes on 7th Street during the spring of 2010. The call boxes will honor the five Civil Rights women mentioned above. The unveiling of the American Disabilities Act (ADA) call box, on 6th Street, in front of the late Justin Dart¹s home at Waterside Towers, is planned for a weekend in July 2010 when the ADA will celebrate the 20th Anniversary of this important legislation. Much of the input for this call box has come from Yoshiko Dart, Justin Dart's widow, and Richard Treanor, an artist, lawyer, and Justin's close partner in fighting for ADA passage. The three boxes received financial assistance from Cultural Tourism DC at the very time it was announced by Cultural Tourism that they would no longer be managing call box projects in the future. After these three call boxes are finished, there will still remain at least a dozen Southwest call boxes in need of completion. These Southwest call boxes have had a base coat of paint by the Earth Conservation Corps to prevent further deterioration. Completion of each call box, including the cost of artists, is estimated to be around $1,500 per call box.
We plan to carry on the call box program. Particularly promising locations include police and fire call boxes on M Street close to South Capitol; police and fire call boxes on Delaware Avenue, and a call box at 6th and M near Tiber OIsland.