First in a series
One of the most interesting things about Washington’s alleys are the hints of the past they still hold onto. In the older parts of the city, these passages hold onto well over a hundred years of history, sometimes beneath the accumulated grime of time but oftentimes right out in the open.
One of those places is Gessford Court, located between 11th and 12th streets SE below Independence Avenue. In addition to serving the same traffic purposes of many other D.C. lanes, the Court also has alleyhouses — which once were spread across the city, mostly in the form of slums. Many of these structures were razed during the endless reshaping of Washington’s urban form, but Gessford Court remains. It is such an interesting preservation of residential history that the tiny strip of structures garnered a neighborhood report in the Washington Post about a year ago and a three-part series in The Hill is Home this spring.
One of the few alleys still left that one can actually live in, we have often remarked during walks through this oasis that the biggest flaw to making the court one’s home address would be the conditions created by a hot summer day. That heat radiating off the alley, homes and few trees threatens to be scorching.