Rent strike at Capper Dwellings: 1970
Sterling Tucker, left, speaks to pickets January 5, 1970 who were calling for a rent strike and protesting deplorable conditions at the Capper Dwellings on 7th Street SE.
Tucker was head of the D.C. chapter of the Urban League from 1956-74 who stepped down when he won chair of the newly elected city council, serving one term. He ran for mayor in 1978 but lost the Democratic Primary to Marion Barry.
The Capper Dwellings were five high rise buildings that were the first large-scale public housing in the city that opened in December 1957. They initially housed 707 families but expanded to over 1,100.
The city razed seven blocks for the complex that was bounded by Virginia Ave, 2nd, 7th and M Streets SE.
Despite repeated promises of improvements by the housing authority and city leadership, the complex quickly failed.
The complex was plagued by poor maintenance, vermin, vandalism, crime, lack of a nearby grocery store and shopping.
The first building to completely fail and be abandoned was the tallest at nine stories located at 1101 7th Street SE that had twelve entrances that made it nearly impossible to provide security.
Fire alarms and sprinkler systems were often inoperable, locks were broken, the buildings were roach invested and had poor ventilation. Elevators were often out of service requiring elderly and disabled residents to attempt to navigate the stairs to their units.
The complex was closed in 1998 ending its 40-year failure as a warehouse for some of the city’s poorest residents.
In 2001 the city began to redevelop the site with the help of a federal grant. The area is now called Capitol Quarter. The area is now a mixed income development.
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Photo by Wellner Streets. The image is courtesy of the D.C. Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.