Two years ago on New Year’s Day, I was sitting around thinking it would be good to start a photography project. Since I only had until the end of the day to figure out a project if I wanted to do something daily, I didn’t have much time to think. And a quick search quashed lots of my ideas because I found out they’d already been done by someone else. So I finally settled on photographing doors, resolving to post a photo of a door in D.C. every day. I got more and more interested in it over time, finding out lots about history, and how complicated zoning and preservation issues can be, and how many buildings get torn down.
Here are a few of my favorites from buildings that won’t last:
Vacant property on 11th St.
1101 11th St. NW has been vacant for more than 20 years, with a barbed wire fence around it, and fake paper facades put in front of some of the windows. Since 2003, it has been owned by Douglas Development.
Union Market area
Many wholesalers and warehouses still remain around Union Market, but this area is changing fast.
This was one of the outbuildings of the fish market. It has since been torn down as part of the massive redevelopment to be called The Wharf.
Republic Gardens opened in the 1920’s as a nightclub at 1355 U Street, and Cab Calloway and Ella Fitzgerald performed there. It closed after the 1960’s riots, and reopened in the 1990’s as part of the U Street resurgence. It later closed again and is up for redevelopment as U Street increasingly gentrifies.
The only remaining pre-Civil War shotgun-style house in D.C. is at 1229 E St.SE. The owner bought it in 1985 with the intent to tear it down, but he does not yet have the required permission due to its historic nature.
The Buchanan School
The Buchanan School was built in 1895 at 1325 D St. SE. D.C. sold it off in 1998 to a professor who opened the International Graduate University, which appeared to only have a couple of students and classes and largely was a mysterious operation. He died in 2012 and the property is now owned by a developer who plans to construct townhouses but maintain the historic facade.
And how many doors are there in D.C.?
D.C. has a master database of all of the primary addresses in D.C. (“primary” means the address, say, for an apartment building, not including the sub-addresses for each unit unless they are garden apartments with individual exterior entries). There are about 142,000 addresses on this list. It is not a one-to-one correspondence between the number of addresses and the number of properties, but a “many to many” correspondence, with some addresses housing multiple properties and some properties having multiple addresses.
The full set of doors I’ve photographed so far is at doorsofwashington.com, including a summary of the history and information that I’ve found out about each door (I also have an index by street if you want to look up a specific street, and listings by neighborhoods and wards).
I’m planning to keep up with this project until I hit at least 1% of the doors in D.C., which should be reached in two more years.
I’ve photographed doors on 201 streets so far. I’ve tried to cover all the areas in D.C., but many of the doors I’ve photographed are concentrated within walking distance of public transportation (since I’ve never had the eyesight to drive, almost all of these were reached on foot except for a few times I got rides. It’s a great way to see D.C.).