Welcome!

THE KALORAMA CITIZENS ASSOCIATION IS NOT HOLDING MEETINGS DUE TO COVID. When we resume meeting monthly at Good Will Baptist Church on Kalorama Road just off Columbia Road, the public is always welcome.    

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KCA WINS PLAZA COURT CASE APPEAL; TRIAL TO BE SET

The D.C. Court of Appeals on December 22, 2022, reversed a lower court’s judgment against the Kalorama Citizens Association and Adams Morgan for Reasonable Development, in a case that seeks to preserve the Plaza at 18th Street and Columbia Road NW for community use. The three-judge panel said a trial is necessary to resolve factual questions about whether a public easement to the Plaza exists.

The farmers market at the Plaza, 2016. (Photo by Mary Belcher)

The case was on track for trial in 2018, but legal maneuvers by the defendant SunTrust Bank waylaid it. In 2021, SunTrust won a summary judgment in D.C. Superior Court against KCA and AMRD, when the court ruled that a public easement to the Plaza was valid only if it had been accepted by the D.C. government and there was clear-cut evidence of formal acceptance by the government. That decision followed an earlier adverse ruling in federal district court in September 2020 that the community groups lacked standing to pursue the case.

But the D.C. appeals court in December ruled in favor of KCA and AMRD on all key points. On the central underlying issue of what constitutes a “public easement by dedication,” it ruled broadly, finding that “an easement may be express or implied and that it may be accepted either by the government or by the public through general use.” It further ruled that the baseline factual issues—whether the public had accepted the Plaza easement by using it and whether Perpetual Bank, which built the Plaza, intended to grant the public the right to use it—were factual questions that should be decided by a jury rather than a judge. On the procedural question of whether KCA and AMRD had standing to pursue the case on behalf of the public, the D.C. appeals court ruled in favor of the community organizations, effectively striking down the ruling by federal court.

Dancers on the Plaza at Adams Morgan Day, 1982. (Photo by Nancy Shia)

KCA and AMRD are represented by Adams Morgan attorney Paul Zuckerman and attorney Cynthia Pols, a KCA member. Both have worked on the case pro bono.

The Plaza and bank building at 18th Street and Columbia Road opened in 1979, after then-owner Perpetual Bank promised Adams Morgan residents it wouldn’t engage in discriminatory lending practices and would build a plaza for public use in front of the proposed bank.

In January 2017, property owner SunTrust Bank (now Truist Bank) won city approval to construct a retail-and-condo building at the site. The proposed building would have subsumed nearly all of the 4,000-square-foot Plaza, leaving a 380-square-foot building entryway in its place. In June 2017, KCA and AMRD sued SunTrust after pre-construction raze permits were issued.

In August 2017, D.C. Superior Court Judge Todd E. Edelman ordered a preliminary injunction against SunTrust to keep the Plaza open for community use until legal proceedings were concluded. Edelman found that there was a “substantial likelihood” that KCA and AMRD would prevail over SunTrust at trial.

In January 2021, D.C. Superior Court Judge Hiram Puig-Lugo–Edelman’s successor on the case–issued a summary judgment against KCA and AMRD. The Plaza, which had been used by the public since 1979, was fenced off in March 2021 after SunTrust won that judgment.

A trial date is not yet set. Read the 2022 D.C. Court of Appeals ruling here. Read Judge Edelman’s 2017 ruling from the bench here. Click here to read his order granting the preliminary injunction.

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KCA MARKS ADAMS MORGAN’S TWO UNDERGROUND RAILROAD SITES

Mary Belcher, Sylvia Y. Cyrus of ASALH, Denis James of KCA, Underground Railroad expert Jenny Masur, and the District’s Historic Preservation Officer David Maloney at Kalorama Park in 2019. (Photo by Kent Boese)

Adams Morgan’s two National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom sites–Walter Pierce Park and Kalorama Park–have beautiful historical markers, thanks to grants received by the Kalorama Citizens Association. Each site was nominated for national recognition by KCA member Mary Belcher, who documented the extensive connections between the parks and people who fled enslavement. Mary also obtained the funding in separate grants from the National Underground Railroad to Freedom of the National Park Service and from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

The Kalorama Park marker, dedicated in 2019, honors the courage of Hortense Prout, an enslaved 20-year-old who fled from John Little’s manor house at the site at the start of the Civil War in 1861. The sign, written in both English and Spanish, describes how Hortense went into hiding disguised as a man in a nearby encampment of newly recruited Union soldiers from Ohio.  She probably was about to continue north to freedom but was found at the camp by John Little and put in jail for 10 days. Hortense Prout, three generations of her family, and others enslaved by John LIttle, were emancipated when slavery was abolished in the District in April 1862.

Descendants unveil the National Underground Railroad markers at Walter Pierce Park, December 2021. (Photo by Mary Belcher)

The four Underground Railroad markers at the Calvert Street entrance to Walter Pierce Park were dedicated in December 2021 by descendants of the Colored Union Benevolent Association, which founded D.C.’s busiest Reconstruction Era Black cemetery. More than 8,428 men, women, and children were buried Mt. Pleasant Plains Cemetery between 1870 and 1890, which occupied the Walter Pierce Park site.

The signs focus on the activism of the Colored Union Benevolent Association; the cemetery’s links to the 1848 escape of 77 enslaved people on the schooner Pearl; the soldiers, sailors, and self-emancipated refugees of the Civil War buried at the site; and the Howard University archaeological survey of the site conducted by biological anthropologist Mark Mack and concerned community members from 2005 to 2013.

Both the Kalorama Park and Walter Pierce Park signs were written by Mary Belcher and historian Mara Cherkasky and designed by graphic artist Janice Olsen. The Walter Pierce signs were created in coordination with rangers at Rock Creek Park of the National Park Service, which owns the Calvert Street entrance to the park. The grant obtained by KCA paid for three of the signs at Walter Pierce Park, and Rock Creek Park paid for the fourth.

Read the Kalorama Park Underground Railroad nomination here, and a later submission to the National Register of Historic Places here. Read the Walter Pierce Park Underground Railroad nomination here.

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ADAMS MORGAN ISSUES: In June 2020, city officials for one weekend closed 18th Street between Kalorama and Columbia roads. It was tried again in 2022. Click here to see photos and first-hand observations that KCA President Denis James provided to Mayor Bowser and other city officials in 2020.

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KCA: WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE DO

THE KALORAMA CITIZENS ASSOCIATION is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization founded in 1919 to promote the interests of the residents of Adams Morgan, DC. Meetings take place at Good Will Baptist Church at Kalorama and Columbia roads, where we host civic leaders, activists, and experts on a range of timely issues. Our activities are:

  • Historic Preservation: KCA is Adams Morgan’s chief advocate for historic preservation. Click on Historic Adams Morgan for details and reports.
  • Parks: KCA supports the Biltmore Triangle Garden and sponsors walking tours of Kalorama and Walter Pierce Parks. Click on Parks for more.
  • Neighborhood Development and Zoning: KCA works to mitigate challenges to our neighborhood’s quality of life that arise from development pressures. Click on Development & Zoning for more.
  • Neighborhood agreements with liquor-serving establishments: KCA pursues voluntary agreements with liquor-license-holding establishments to ensure that the interests of residents are being served. See Business Agreements for details.

TO JOIN KCA, annual dues are $25 for individuals, and $40 for two people living at the same address. Go to Join & Donate

TO CONTACT KCA, you can email President Denis James at denisjames@verizon.net or call him at 202-705-7411. Our mailing address is: Kalorama Citizens Association, P.O. Box 21311, Washington, DC 20009.

KCA’s 2017 OFFICERS ARE: Denis James, President; Robert Ellsworth, Vice President; Bonnie Rowan, Secretary; Larry Hargrove, Delegate to the Federation of Civic Associations; and Jean Stewart, Delegate to the Federation of Citizens Associations.

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