Most people’s instincts are to avoid alleys. At least in fiction and film, nothing good ever comes from taking a wrong turn into one.
But when it’s the opening of a new coffee shop in an old District alley way, you can’t keep me away.
Saturday morning I ventured into Blagden Alley in the historic Shaw neighborhood for a first taste of La Colombe. It’s a trailblazing coffee company from Philadelphia, with cafes also in New York, Chicago, and Seoul. They’ve recently been supplying coffee to some notable D.C. restaurants, and have finally opened an outpost here in the District.
There have been a lot of significant Civil War anniversaries as we pass through the sesquicentennial (that would be 150 years) of America’s greatest conflict.
Today marks one of those – the failed assault on Fort Wagner by the 54th Massachusetts regiment, one of the first African-American infantry units to fight in the Civil War.
If you’ve seen the movie Glory, then you’re probably familiar with the story and its significance.
But what does that distant battle off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina have to do with Washington, D.C.?
For me, this anniversary hits close to home – literally. I live in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood, an historically African-American part of the city near U Street.
The neighborhood is named after Colonel Robert Gould Shaw from Boston, who was the commander of the 54th Massachusetts (and played by Matthew Broderick in the movie).
NPR had a story today on the influential Shaw Memorial by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens – an amazing piece of bronze sculpture depicting not only Shaw, but his regiment of soldiers marching out of Boston and off to war.
The District lost a music icon today when Chuck Brown – known as the Godfather of Go-Go – died at the age of 75.
Brown developed and popularized the go-go sound in Washington in the 1970s, combining funk, soul, and rhythm and blues with a steady drumbeat that kept the music going and going for hours. Brown was famous for his live shows and interaction with the crowds in historic D.C. venues like the Uline Arena and the Howard Theatre.
Two iconic Americans – and former District residents – celebrated birthdays in the past few days: President Abraham Lincoln on February 12th, and abolitionist Frederick Douglass on February 14th.
Both men played integral roles in bringing about the ending of slavery. And though they often were at odds, they developed a unique friendship toward the end of Civil War, which began 150 years ago in April.
I recently traveled across the Anacostia River to visit Frederick Douglass’s home, Cedar Hill.
It’s in the neighborhood of Old Anacostia, and I’ve been meaning to take a tour of the house for about as long as I’ve lived in the District.
Cedar Hill is in a part of the city that many Washingtonians and most tourists never visit – east of the river.