by Mel Dyer
Just finished browsing DCLofts.com and found one--ONE--converted loft property in Southeast, on Capitol Hill (of course) called the Bryan School Lofts, ..which are all sold out. The Bryan School was done by award-winning Abdo Builders, and probably cost a vital organ AND a limb to own. Frankly, they are a little too polished for my tastes--scrubbed of all the rugged, Industrial Era charm that ought to be evident in converting an old school, garage, trolley car barn or factory into functional living space. These Abdo lofts look like the Sex In The City ladies hang out there.
They're sissy lofts, and I hate'm.
Lofts used to be the large, unattractive, slate gray ruins of an obsolete industrial era that no style-conscious yuppy would be caught dead in. In the 1950's, lofts were places, where a large, lower income, working class or struggling immigrant family could stake a claim in the steamy, jazz-scored urban experience...the Big City. They were open frontiers for the poor, but, ambitious. They were blank canvases upon which a large family could build a promising, new destiny, painted in bright, exotic, loud, un-American colors, ..beaded, piered, book-cased, crated and rice-papered off into whatever wondrous shapes their world-weary, colonized, disenfranchised minds could imagine...and all of that at an affordably low rate.
These struggling Mexican, Nigerian, German, Russian, Puerto Rican, Korean, Welsh, Irish, Chinese, Peruvian, Italian, Jamaican, Hungarian and (back, then) Afro-American families made virtual mansions out of these lofts, some of them were so huge. Coming to America's big cities with little more than the clothes on their backs, a big, ugly, renovated meat-packing plant or cannery was all many of them could afford.
Firetraps, some of them were called.
Now, those same families needn't even look at the word 'loft' in the classifieds, because they know, or will learn rather quickly, that these miracles of urban housing are priced out of their reach. Were my great-great grandmother, Rosana, and great grandfather, George - both Mexican American farm-workers, who could not speak English or read their own names in print - my great grandmother Eliza and their two boys, George and Edgar, to come to the Washington, D.C. of today from the old Republic of Tejas, they would be forced to live in the most inhospitably cramped, dilapidated, roach-infested, crime-ridden apartments the Distict has to offer, because all of the big, dreary, drafty lofts they were once able to afford have been gobbled up by greedy real estate developers with no vision or appreciation for the future of this country, beyond a respect for capitalism.
Because some rich, flamboyant bubbleheads have decided they want to play artiste in the big, gritty city, taking the only place they might be able to afford into vulgar, track-lighted, steam punk expressions of conspicuous consumption.
America can and should be so much more than consumption of the frivolous.
Anyway, I am looking for crappy, UGLY, sensibly priced lofts that no one in their right mind would want to call their home ..in River East. There's no reason that River East, with our ancient and abandoned, Industrial Era garages, factories and schools, should be short on loft-living opportunities, and there is no reason River East should not be the place, where the experimental, revolutionary shot was fired - the place, where working middle and lower income people took back the Loft! I am so sick of seeing irresponsible urban planners, greedy developers and corrupt politicians herding large populations of working people into immutably small and inhospitable places, and throw their hands up in apoplexy, at the crime, dysfunction and blight that results.
And I want mine, Capicostian. If you find any, please contact me [My media info at the bottom right of this blog.] and let me know.
My best to you and yours...and thanks, all.
[Originally published in 2010.]