One of the highlights of the week for us was the ribbon cutting celebrating the restoration of Old Market House Square in historic Anacostia. What it lacked in fanfare and glitz, was more than made up for by the community pride on display for a job well done.
As this old photo taken a century ago shows, the park – in the median on 14th Street, SE between U and V Streets – has been the centerpiece of the community for a long time. It has shown its age recently however, suffering from neglect and becoming more of an eyesore than a bustling neighborhood gathering place.
But rather than accept the park’s fate, a small group of church patrons, historians, community advocates, business district leaders, and residents banded together and decided to do something about it. They formed the Friends of Old Market House Square Park and began the arduous process of raising the funds and support needed to restore the park to its former glory. it was not an easy task. A generous offer from the nonprofit TKF foundation of Maryland came with a catch: it was a challenge grant which meant the Friends of Old Market House Square Park needed to raise more money to match that donation. They perservered though and got additional funding from DDOT and an Earmark from Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry.
Finally, in April of this year, all the pieces were in place and the group broke ground on their labor of love.
It took just 7 months to complete the work… but it was the culmination of a much longer effort.
At the ribbon cutting, Carolyn Johns Gray, a member of the community group, said, “Seven years of work here finally resulted in what you see here today.”
“It is really amazing to be here to see the transformation of the park from what it was when this project started to what it is today, said Donald Cryer, the Senior Warden at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church which fronts the square. “It is hard to believe this could be done.”
The park now boasts new lighting, benches, paths, handicap ramps, grass and trees. DDOT also installed new sidewalks and curbs and repaved the roadway around the square. Residents can match wits on the built-in chess tables, read to children on colorful mushroom shaped seats, or reflect quietly on a bench made from recycled 200 year old pickle barrel wood.
DDOT is very proud to have played a part in the restoration of the park. It looks great, but the lion’s share of the credit for this project belongs to the hardworking, determined community coalition – led by Marie Zackrie – that wouldn’t take no for an answer and kept after it, and kept after it, until they got it done.
Director of Communications