In The Steps of Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

Then And Now

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Gessford Court. Photo: Robert Pohl

Today, Capitol Hill is a vibrant neighborhood that routinely sets records for housing prices. Even small dwellings in its alleys sell for remarkable amounts. In the past, however, the Hill was not the salubrious area it is today. This state of affairs suited some of its inhabitants just fine.

Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., a long-time Representative from New York, invested in Capitol Hill real estate. When he won his seat in Congress, Powell bought a number of houses on Gessford Court. He renovated and sold some of them. He also kept one to rent and another to live in. For Powell, it was the perfect location, both close to his workplace while in an area avoided by all but the most persistent reporters.

Powell entertained some high-powered visitors such as Senators Hubert Humphrey and Barry Goldwater. In addition, FBI agents sent by J. Edgar Hoover broke in to Powell’s Gessford Court home in hopes of finding some inconvenient evidence. According to Powell’s son, his father called the head of the FBI thereafter to request agents use the key under the mat in future to avoid the glass splinters that had landed on his bed.

Gessford Court has come a long way from Powell’s days, but it still commands favor with those looking for an oasis in the middle of the city.

To learn more, visit:

Lost Capitol Hill: Tiger Alley (Pt. 3)

Robert Pohl worked for many years as a computer programmer but recovered from that and became a full time stay-at-home dad. With his son now in school, he has expanded his horizons and become a self-taught historian. He has written books about his house as well as Emancipation in the District of Columbia. You can reach Robert at mmecki AT gmail.com.