D.C. October 11, 2017
The Hidden Alleyway In DC That’s Loaded With History
If you are a DC local, then you might have heard of Blagden Alley by now. It’s our little secret spot that can be an unexpected surprise to people who have never taken a trip there. Whether you have or have not been to Blagden Alley, you might be surprised about how it all began and became the charming district it is today.
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Blagden Alley or Naylor Court Historic District makes up two blocks between 9th and 10th and M and O streets in Northwest DC. The alleyway traces its roots to the late 1700s but development did not begin until the 1830s and was relatively small.
It wasn’t until after the Civil War that Blagden Alley became more popular. In fact, it almost became too popular. The lots were overrun with small brick dwellings and shanties. By the late 80s there were over 60 homes in the small alleyway.
For a while, Blagden Alley was a dangerous place. Crime was a daily occurrence and the overcrowding caused unsanitary and dangerous conditions. The conditions worsened for years until the early 1900s. Around 1920, DC began a campaign to rid the city of alley dwellings. While the process was slow throughout the early 1900s, many of the alleyways in DC were emptied.
Following the riots in the 1960s, Blagden Alley was decimated. Roofs collapsed and fires were set. Most of the area was abandoned. The area began to have a rebirth in the 1980s and 1990s. Some smart investors began buying up properties because they noticed the low prices and proximity to downtown.
Slowly owners and landlords began fixing up the area and in the 90s, Blagden Alley became a counter-culture destination. There were raves thrown in the alley and in the abandoned buildings. Some artists began to open studios and galleries.
As the rejuvenation continued throughout the 1990s, the area was named a Historic District. It’s old buildings are now protected from being demolished and any development would have to maintain the area’s historic character.
In 2014, La Colombe opened its doors and was one of the first big commercial properties to open up. From there, the rest of the area began to flourish.
Inside of the historic brick buildings you will find fancy cocktail bars, trendy restaurants and unique galleries.
The DC Alley Museum is also located in the alley and features colorful murals painted on garage doors and buildings.
The series of alleys is just as unique as its history. It’s a place to wander, walk your dog, grab a bite to eat, check out the art or explore.
Blagden Alley is a special place not only in DC but in DC’s history. It’s a tribute to how the city is constantly reinventing itself. It shows that while many things change, the character of this city can always stay the same.
Will you look at Blagden Alley differently now?
If you love DC history, take a look at this rare footage of DC from the 1960s!