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A Community Exploring Its Past

While most Americans probably think of Capitol Hill as simply the site of the U.S. Capitol, those who live here know it as an old and thriving residential neighborhood, a small town within a large city. The Overbeck Project captures the history of this community by recording the recollections of its longtime residents and preserving other records of its fascinating past.

Project volunteers collect and transcribe interviews for posting on this site. We also sponsor a highly successful lecture series exploring our city's history. We urge you too to get involved in this exciting effort, sponsored by the Capitol Hill Community Foundation.

The Overbeck Project realizes we'll never be able to interview all potential candidates, so we're delighted to incorporate other pertinent interviews into our collection; links to material already available elsewhere on the Internet are of particular interest. Readers are encouraged to send us suggestions.

Transcripts Recently Added (March, 2018)

The Overbeck Project's most recent interviewee is Ron Tutt, who grew up on the Hill and in nearby areas east of the Anacostia River during the 1950s, then returned as a young adult working as a guide at the Capitol during the 1970s. His story includes an eyewitness account of life in his grandmother's rooming house at 304 Maryland Avenue NE, on a block where almost every house was then a boarding house or rooming house.

Our interview with Shirley Womack took place back in 2011 but its relevance hasn't changed. In a frank and open discussion with her friend and interviewer Nancy Hartnagel, Shirley talks about her childhood in a loving multi-generational home on Heckman Street SE, a name that was changed to Duddington Place when gentrification started. Shirley's mother grew up on Heckman Street in the early 20th century, and Shirley and her siblings lived in the same house from the 1930s to the 1950s. Several family photos are included in the transcript. Painful memories for a black child from that era include the restrictions to which they were subject regarding playing in Garfield Park, where only the white children could use the playground equipment.

Another newly posted transcript is from the interview with 2017 Community Achievement Awardees Mary and Steve Park, founders of the Little Lights Ministry, which started as an afterschool program for children from Potomac Gardens. Through their dedication over many years, the program has now expanded to other locations and now offers additional programs, including the Clean Green Team, a training program and landscape business.

Also new are four interviews with men who together received the first-ever Steve Cymrot Spark Award from the Capitol Hill Community Foundation in 2016. Each awardee contributed decades of service to youth sports on Capitol Hill.

Larry Kaufer got involved just as Soccer on the Hill was evolving into Sports on the Hill. Despite describing himself as a person who never saw a ball he didn't like, his main contribution to the program has been management; he now serves as President, Registrar and Webmaster.

Greg Frane, started coaching for Soccer on the Hill when his son was a child. Inspired by the man who coached his childhood baseball team, he is still active with Sports on the Hill over 30 years later.

Patrick Coyne, a 25 year veteran with Sports on the Hill, laughingly explains why he eventually settled into a preference for coaching five year olds in soccer: it's the age group with which he has an affinity. He also offers well-considered insights about approaches to teaching soccer to children, as well as parent involvement and community engagement associated with sports.

Luis Granados began volunteering with Sports on the Hill in 1994 when his son was six years old. Among other tasks, his contributions through the years have included serving on an adjudication committee that deals with persons who abuse referees performing their duties.

We're also drawing your attention to the transcript of a 2001 interview with Tony Cuozzo, whose family ran a grocery store at Ninth Street and South Carolina Avenue SE from 1917 to 1968. When Kristin Swanson and Roy Mustelier bought the building decades later, they researched its history while turning it into the neighborhood arts and performance space The Corner Store. Together with veteran interviewer Nancy Metzger, they interviewed Tony to learn about his family and the business they ran for so many years. The transcript resides on The Corner Store's website because it belongs to them; the Overbeck Project is publishing the link to share this fascinating oral history account of a family living in and operating a Capitol Hill business through most of the 20th century.

With these eight additions, the website now offers 195 transcripts of interviews with Capitol Hill neighbors from many eras. We encourage readers to use the Search function to find transcripts that mention subjects of interest to you.

Eastern Market: The Rebuilding
Langley Bowers' Video Available on YouTube

Eastern Market: The Rebuilding, a powerful 20 minute video, was created and produced in 2009 by Langley Bowers as part of the Overbeck Project's efforts to record first-hand accounts of the 2007 fire that devastated the Market building -- but not the Market itself or the spirit of the neighborhood.

Supported by the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, Capitol Hill native Langley, then a recent graduate of the University of Delaware, recorded reactions to the fire by both vendors and neighbors, then followed the process of the Market's amazing reincarnation. Langley interviewed many of the same people whose oral history transcripts are collected as Eastern Market Voices on this website. He also incorporated original video of the 2007 fire, old and new photos of the Market, and scenes from the Market's June 26, 2009, grand re-opening ceremony. Ian Walters composed a jazz piano score to accompany and dramatize the visual images.

DVDs copies of this video are available for sale at Riverby Books, 417 East Capitol Street SE.

Items Found Elsewhere on This Website 

Ten Interviews Done in the 1970s

1947 Photos Donated to the Overbeck Project

1967 Drawing Donated to the Overbeck Project

Were You There? Remembering the 1963 March on Washington

301 East Capitol Street: Tales from the Heart of the Hill

  Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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The Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project, Washington, D.C.

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