Sunday, June 11, 2006

Alfred Richards House Demolition:

Alfred Richards House, January 2006
Elvert Xavier Barnes Photography

Both Jacqueline Dupree’s web-site blog "Near Southeast DC Redevelopment" and The Washington Post did follow ups on the demolition of the historic 1840s constructed Alfred Richards House.

From Jacqueline Dupree at

Background on Demolished Richards House (5/31/06 02:31 PM)
Because I've been writing about Near Southeast for 3 1/2 years now, I admit to not always explaining every item in minute detail--I work under the assumption that everyone's been reading along from the beginning and has committed every iota of my prose to memory. (It's not at all a wise strategy, but you have to admit it saves space.) Anyway, I made mentions over the past few weeks of the demolition of the one nice structure on the ballpark site, which I referred to as the Ken Wyban house (after it's last owner). I didn't give much additional background, but you can go to Douglas Willinger's South Capitol Street Frederick Douglass Mall blog to get a bit more detail--it was actually the Alfred Richards House, built in the 1840s and named after it's original owner. (You'll recognize a lot of familiar verbage and photos in the entry, as Willinger quotes from my site--thanks for the hat tip.) The blog itself discusses the fate of South Capitol Street, which in 1990s planning documents was going to be transformed into a grand boulevard/promenade--the stadium has changed those plans, and Willinger is not happy...

Wyban on the Loss of His House (6/5/06 06:31 AM)
A small brief in Sunday's Post talks to Ken Wyban, the only person who owned and lived in a home on the stadium site, now that his house has been demolished.

From The Washington Post at

UPDATE: Displaced Man Regrets Ignorance of Eminent Domain

UPDATE: Displaced Man Regrets Ignorance of Eminent Domain Sunday, June 4, 2006; Page C02

Last month, the D.C. government tore down Ken Wyban's house.

Wyban was not in town to watch, but a friend sent him a picture. The five-bedroom red-brick Civil War-era home in Southeast Washington that he had purchased in 1998 -- and was restoring when the city took it as part of a plan to build a new baseball stadium -- has been turned into a pile of rubble.

"I was probably foolish for thinking there may have been a chance that they would use it as a historical museum as part of the new stadium," Wyban, 56, wrote in an e-mail last week from Riverview, Fla., near Tampa, where he rents an apartment near his mother's home.

As District contractors move quickly to clear a 20-acre site near South Capitol Street and the Navy Yard along the Anacostia River, the people who owned properties at the site have moved on -- some having sold to the city and others forced out by eminent domain. Several cases are tied up in court to determine how much money the District must pay the property owners.

Perhaps no one put a human face on the process as much as Wyban, who was the only person who owned a house at the site and lived there full time. Before leaving Washington on Feb. 3, Wyban agreed not to take the District to court in return for being allowed to collect the $1.2 million offered by the city and to have his attorney continue negotiating with the city for more money. He said he has yet to receive the money.

These days, Wyban, who retired from the military years ago, is caring for his mother, who has lung cancer. And he is seeking to do volunteer work, he said, as he once did for the United Service Organizations at Reagan National Airport.

"I would have done many things different now that I am more educated in eminent domain," said Wyban, who plans to return to Washington in the fall to help organize the Army Ten-Miler. "I'm sure the city would have done things different with Major League Baseball now that they know the rest of the story. I guess we both lost large sums of money because of our ignorance."

David Nakamura

I wonder why anyone thought that the Alfred Richards House was going to be saved?

I write this not merely because I feel that it should have been saved, either incorporated or relocated.

Rather, I raise this question because of the apparent lack of any discussions or expressed concerns for this structure by those that could have made a difference, such as the DC City Council, the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission, Major League Baseball, the Washington Nationals nor any of the potential owners, nor any of the numerous historical and preservationist societies that abound in Washington, D.C.

Where or when did any of these entities consider the plight of the Alfred Richards House?

Originally from Cleveland OH and retired from the Army when Ken Wyban would purchase this historic property more than 8 years ago which was built and onced owned by WDC brick manufacturer Alfred Richards his dream was to renovate 21 N Street, in SE, and open it as a bed and breakfast. Unfortunately with the proposed Washington Nationals Baseball Stadium his long time dream will not be fulfilled. Though, for the past eight years he's done extensive renovation and have installed top of line equipment and appliances, in anticpation of his bed and breakfast with a view of the US Capitol, when I'd tour his house on Sunday afternoon, 29 January 2006, he would inform me that movers are scheduled to arrive on Monday and Tuesday to move the packed boxes that filled each room would be moved to storage. And that on Wednesday, as a result of the proposeed baseball stadium he will be relocating to Tampa FL to be near his mother.

With a sadness in his voice he would then shed light on the history of the property...

This blog would very much welcome hearing from Ken Wyban, particularly about any indications that any of the above had considered saving the Alfred Richards House. This blog would definitely provide a piece for a longer interview...

Regrettably The Washington Post article fails to mention either JD’s or this blog in scooping this story first.

This is even though the The Washington Post ran an article dated May 25, 2006 “Owners want city to shift gears on parking” about the efforts of the Lerners (owners of the Washington Nationals to build the stadium’s parking above ground rather then belowground in order to save $20-30 million) and to make it easier to complete by the scheduled opening in April 2008. Accompanying this article, which does not discuss any demolition, is a photo showing red bricks indicative of recent demolition.

Illustration: Pile of bricks from demolition for the Nationals Stadium

The site of the ballpark in Southeast Washington. Stephen Goldsmith, chairman of the Anacostia Waterfront Corp., is trying to develop a compromise on the parking garages. (By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)

Since the Alfred Richards House was constructed with red bricks, and given this articles date, May 25, one might wonder if these scattered bricks were its remains.

Alfred Richards was a manufacturer of such red bricks. According to the following url where I found this illustration:
Copy of an invoice from The Alfred Richards Brick Company furnished by current owner, Ken Wyban, citing the location of the brick company at O and South Streets, in SE. Which is directly in the back of 21 N Street and is the current location of the gay sex clubs The Glory Hole and The Follies at

This appears to be a story that bloggers reported before the mainstream mass media.

Bravo to Jacqueline Dupree for correctly reporting the 1990s planning of South Capitol Street as a "grand boulevard/promenade"- something representing the greater accuracy of blogs over mainstream mass media which instead over-uses the word "boulevard" to describe the two significantly different visions for South Capitol.

And Bravo to Elvert Xavier Barnes Photography for its photo-tribute to the Alfred Richards House, January 2006.

UPDATE: Displaced Man Regrets Ignorance of Eminent Domain

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