The Corner Forum
Saturday, Oct. 26, 2002
Issue #3

Why Take Away Our Garden?

By Lana Bigelow, 1317 Emerald St.

My name is Lana Bigelow. First I would like to take this opportunity to compliment Catherine (Granny) Bego for her elegant article you reported on her, in your first issue of the Corner Forum, dated Oct. 12, 2002, "They Stay in the House."

As a teenager in 1953, I walked through this block coming from Spingarn Senior High, at 24th and Benning Road NE, to get to my residence on the other side of Lincoln Park, where I grew up. I had no idea that 20 years later, in 1971, my husband and family would take root here on Emerald Street, own our own home and raise five children here - with our only daughter born in this house.

I agree, the neighborhood was much different back then. Some whites were on the block when we moved here. A couple of years later, the block began a reconstruction - a revitalization. Houses began to be boarded up all around us.

We moved here after the riots. The Bindes and Simon grocery stores were long gone.

However there were two vacant lots on the corner of 13th and E Street NE. People would abandon cars, trucks, vans. There was all sorts of garbage on those two lots. My husband, Lacey, and others called for removal of the trash, and put trash bins out. Finally, the government got involved and removed the debris. Within a month, it was getting right back as before.

After a "clean or lean" sign was posted, he and others started a garden. A friend, who has since moved to another city, arranged communications with the city council member, Harold Brazil, and they awarded up the two lots, and paid for the fencing around the lots. The lots belonged to a private contractor - the Molite Construction Company, out of New York.

The old retirees would get up early in the morning to plant their crops and then sit and watch them grow. The kids in the neighborhood would come by every day after school to see what they had planted that day. Schools in the area gave field trips to the garden.

The Washington Times newspaper did several reports on how beautiful and green the garden was and what beautiful Holly Hawk flowers were around the garden fence. You will probably see some growing around in the neighborhood. There were two peach trees there that bore fruit.

A picnic was given at least twice a year with barbecue - whole pigs, hot dogs, hamburgers, vegetables from the garden. Any neighbor who wanted any kind of vegetable that was planted for that season would get some for the asking - tomatoes, greens, beets, etc. Neighbors came by every day.

The garden space was sold after 20 years hard work by one of Long & Foster's representatives. She just walked up and told my husband that everything had to be removed off that lot immediately, because it had been sold. The neighborhood didn't even know about it. They could at least have posted some sign.

Now that property is geared to the rich, not the low- and moderate-income folks.

Why would anybody deprive neighbors of a meeting place - neighbors who only wanted to help combat crime - drugs and theft - and have fun doing it in our own neighborhood community? §