What's My Name?

Northwest One Library

What's My Name?

The Electoral Roots of the Northwest One Library's Name

Map of Northwest One areaPeople often wonder what the name "Northwest One" means. Most assume it's some kind of slick real-estate branding, and don't realize the name hearkens back to the urban renewal programs of the late 1960s. In the years following WWII, the neighborhood became rather notorious for its run-down buildings, and there was a lot of interest in revitalizing it. The city's initial urban renewal designation for the area back then was "Northwest One."

Redevelopment in the area included construction of Sursum Corda co-ops in 1968. Led by advocates from nearby Gonzaga High School and St. Aloysius Church and supported by the District of Columbia Housing Authority and then-Senator from New York, Robert F. Kennedy, the housing was inspired by the need to provide safer and more decent replacement housing for lower income residents. Other housing developments followed, including Temple Courts, Golden Rule, Tyler House and Sibley Plaza.

Now, some 40+ years later, the area is the focus of another renewal effort by the city -- this time the first under the New Communities initiative. The city's first new construction under this initiative is the building which contains our library, the K-8 Walker-Jones Educational Campus, and the R.H. Terrell Recreation Center. The school and recreation center were replacing existing buildings with those names, so it was deemed that our library's name should be a nod to the neighborhood's history.

The "Northwest" part of the name is self-evident -- we're in the Northwestern quadrant of the city. But what about the "One"? As it happens, the city has 143 numbered voting precincts, and Precinct #1 encompasses the area of the original 1960s "Northwest One" zone. Since the library lies at the geographical heart of the precinct, it seemed fitting to tip our hat to history and bring back the "Northwest One" name.

To learn more about the history of urban renewal in Washington, DC, visit the Washingtoniana special collection at the MLK Jr. Memorial Library and ask to see the book Urban Renewal in the Nation's Capital. You can also check out Washington D.C.: 1963-2006 by Tracey Gold Bennett.