Cranes, Change and Buried Treasure

May 3, 2013, Washington, DC: The cranes went up about a week ago, and as far as I can tell the heavy lifting began yesterday morning, 5 a.m. We awoke to powerful construction noise that lasted just 10 minutes or so, and this morning at precisely 7 a.m., it began again. A changing streetscape is something we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, but this time we’ll also hear it. We’ll listen to the transformation of the historic property known as the Maples and later the Friendship House as it morphs into condominiums throughout the seasons ahead.

In the few years we’ve lived nearby, the place has been vacant, a spooky old home that makes kids cross to the other side of the street on Halloween. But the old mansion has a long and incredible history on Capitol Hill, recorded by groups like the Capitol Hill Restoration Society, the city’s Historic Preservation Review Board and the Library of Congress. In the 1790s, its original owner, Captain William Duncanson, was one of the first landowners in the nation’s capital; others who lived there include Francis Scott Key, Senator John Clayton, and my personal favorite, Emily Edson Briggs, the first female newspaper correspondent to cover the White House — Lincoln’s White House, that is. Rumor also has it there’s a hidden wine cellar deep underground there, and the moment I hear anything about it from the construction crews or anyone else, I’ll be sure to let you know. DC tour guide Canden Schwantes told me about it a few weeks back and thus far I’ve just found this newspaper article from 1970 to fuel my fascination with the possibility of nearby buried treasure.

Cranes on the horizon. There’s not much room left for them in dense places like Manhattan, but here in D.C., they still stop traffic on Massachusetts Ave. near Chinatown and dominate the O Street Market project, and serve to mark the spot in places like this one, where land is full of history and treasures, and transformation is underway.

Do cranes often appear on the landscape where you live? And have those of you in Washington heard stories about the hidden wine cellar?

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Author: Neighborhood Nomad

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