November 9, 2015 /
Italia Peretti

The Story of Crispus Attucks Park

This Wednesday, November 11, Casey Trees and the Crispus Attucks Development Corporation (CADC) are partnering to create a formal record of the trees in Crispus Attucks Park, a public community park occupying the courtyard space behind a single city block of houses in Bloomingdale.

And we need more volunteers to help! No experience is necessary.

But why should you dedicate a few hours volunteering to document tree species, height, diameter of trunk, width of the crown and other forestry measurements of a park you may or may not visit?

We think the park’s history and the story of how regular, everyday citizens banded together to transform a neglected stretch of land into a neighborhood treasure is pretty impressive and deserves our continued support.

From 1910 to 1976, the site was owned by the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company. When the company closed its telephone switching station and cable yard there, they left behind a 8,275 square foot building and cement and asphalt lot. Both sat abandoned for almost a decade until residents started campaigning to have the parcel conveyed to the neighborhood.

In 1977, the community group incorporated and renovations of the building got underway. One year later, the site opened as a community center with most of the programming geared towards youth. Unfortunately, government budget cuts closed the site in 1987 and a fire then gutted the vacant building in 1990.

After years of the site attracting drug dealing, prostitution, illegal dumping and other undesirable activity, positive change started to take root in the mid 1990s. DC police arrested the trespassers, the Embassy of Australia coordinated a volunteer cleanup day, padlocks got added to the gates, and the neighborhood group — CADC — reactivated.

Unfortunately, the DC Government foreclosed on the property but with assistance from The American University Law Clinic, CADC got the foreclosure dismissed. The group lobbied the DC Council to have the fire damaged building razed and secured grant funding to landscape the site into a park. And in 2004, the DC Council returned full site control of the park to CADC and forgave all past unpaid property taxes and liens.

Since then, the CADC has continued to improve the park with tree and shrub plantings, reestablishing water service and more. Funding for the park is provided by the CADC-organized “Bloomingdale’s Biggest Yard Sale” and private donations.

Pretty impressive story, right? Be part of the continued upward trajectory of this neighborhood jewel and volunteer with us this Wednesday.