Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wikipedia and Community History: Potomac Gardens

Today, I took a look at the Wikipedia page for Potomac Gardens. I made some additions to the page, which has changed the nature of the page. Below, I have pasted in my recreation of the page as I saw it this morning. The existing page surprised me because it focused exclusively on 1) the potential replacement of the buildings either with Marine barracks or mixed-income housing and 2) crime in the area (under the only category of "Incidents"). There was no discussion of what life might be like in Potomac Gardens, as well as no mention of people important to the community, significant sites within the property, or important events or activities. There was also no discussion of how life in Potomac Gardens may have changed over time. In general, the page seemed to be written from the point of view of people unconnected with those living in Potomac Gardens. Yes, those living inside and outside Potomac Gardens have a great interest in the potential redevelopment plans, but the page does not capture much about Potomac Gardens. Without knowledge of the life within Potomac Gardens, it becomes very easy to argue that Potomac Gardens should be dismantled, since it appears to have no value or significance.

The current Potomac Gardens page reflects my changes. I hope that those with real knowledge of the history and life of Potomac Gardens can make the page truly reflect Potomac Gardens. Specifically, I added the "Social and Cultural Life" section and then put much of the discussion of the potential redevelopment in a separate section called "The Buildings." I moved the discussion of the fence out of the "Incidents" section because it was more about "The Buildings." Anyone can edit any page, which is the great gift of Wikipedia. So, I encourage everyone to edit such pages and create a living community history.

Potomac Gardens 

[the Wiki page as I found it]

Potomac Gardens is a housing project on Capitol Hill in Southeast Washington, D.C., thirteen blocks Southeast of the U.S. Capitol Building. The property is owned by the D.C. Housing Authority. The project was constructed between 1957 and 1968 in a now outdated model of public housing design, the buildings are conspicuous and isolated from the neighborhood context.[2]

The 2006 DC budget included funding for "A joint venture redevelopment between DCHA and a private developer to do a one-for-one replacement of 510 units of public housing located in the present Potomac Gardens and Hopkins Plaza developments. The proposed redevelopment will be a mixed income rental and home ownership containing 510 replacements units out of a total 1,230 units located on the two public housing sites and in the adjoining neighborhood."

There has also been speculation that the housing project would be redeveloped using Hope IV funding to create mixed-income housing. A detailed plan by University of Pennsylvania School of Design was proposed in 2010 called Choice Neighborhoods Washington, DC.[2] On June 7, 2012, DC Housing Authority issued a statement on potential redevelopment of the housing project, stating "We considered several sites for our HUD HOPE VI applications. We chose Capper/Carrollsburg, which was selected and received a HOPE VI grant for $34.9M. We do not have plans to redevelop Potomac Gardens at this time."

Other speculation has circulated that Potomac Gardens was slated to be sold for use as additional Marine barracks, as the location is one of only a few locations meeting the criteria set forth by the Marines.[5]

Jesse Jackson used the project as a backdrop for a press conference to announce he wouldn’t run for president in 1992, calling it “the urban crisis personified, the epitome of national neglect.”[6]

Former White House aide Oliver North performed some of his court-ordered, 1,200 hours of community service there before his Iran-Contra conviction was overturned.[6]


In 1991, a fence was installed, requiring 45 police officers to quell a violent negative reaction. In 1995, Marion Barry’s administration hired the Nation of Islam on an emergency contract to restore order.[7]

In June 2010, fifteen individuals were arrested, according to a joint press release issued in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s office, the MPD, the FBI and the U.S. Park Police, who all worked together on the arrests as part of a long-term a task force combating gangs, drugs and violence. The bust yielded heroin, cocaine, guns, scales and other drug trafficking paraphernalia and was described as significant by the MPD1 Commander David Kamperin.[8]

In November 2011, a series of violent attacks in the area surrounding the project drew widespread media attention and a response from DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier.[9]


Additional sources

  • Washington Post: Potomac Gardens, Jan. 10, 1992 – “Police Seize AK-47 Rifle in Southeast Arrest; Man Also Had Pistol, 37 Bags of Cocaine”
  • Washington Post: Potomac Gardens, Sept. 20 1991 – “Man Slain in Complex in Southeast; Residents Witness Morning
  • Washington Post: Potomac Gardens, Jan. 19, 1991 – “Youth, 14, Charged in Hill Slaying. Lawyer Was Killed in Car at Light.”


  1. Thank you so much for doing this! I did make one change in another section; I added a link to DCHA.

  2. Great improvement! Thanks, Johanna!


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