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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.

A Milestone: 200 Interviews Are Now on the Website!

During July and August, 2018, the Overbeck Project reached a proud milestone of completing 200 transcripts of interviews with Capitol Hill neighbors since our founding in 2001.

The following transcripts were added most recently:

Mary Ellen Abrecht Mary Ellen and her husband Gary moved to Capitol Hill in 1969 when both were new Metropolitan Police officers in a rapidly expanding Department. Her interview focuses on two main topics: the transitional period she experienced as women's roles in the police department evolved, and the family connections that led her and Gary to occupy 9 Eighth Street NE. The transcript links to a document she authored to tell the full story of her ancestors who built that house and 800 East Capitol Street. The Overbeck Project is gratefully proud to have been entrusted with Mary Ellen's family history.

Dorothy Taylor Nancy Metzger interviewed Dorothy in 1999, before the Overbeck Project started; Nancy provided us with the transcript so that it could be shared publicly. Dorothy grew up just south of Lincoln Park, on 11th Street SE, during the 1920s and 30s. By the time she sold the house in 1969, her family had lived at 116 11th Street SE for 66 years. This interview provides a vivid picture of life at that time and place.

Each of the following interviewees was honored with a Capitol Hill Community Achievement Award for contributions to the Capitol Hill neighborhood over the past several years:

Melissa Ashabranner Melissa Ashabranner, co-owner and Executive Editor of the Hill Rag newspaper, received the Community Achievement Award in 2014. Her husband, Hill Rag founder Jean-Keith Fagon, had already taken the paper from a one-page flier to a 28-page monthly when they first met in 1981. Together they grew it into the important neighborhood institution it is today; by 2014 the monthly issues were 160 pages. The interview provides a business history that includes the Rag staff, challenges related to distribution and constantly changing technology, choosing art work to adorn the Rag's covers, and expansion to two other DC neighborhood publications.

John and Cynde Foster Cynde Tiches Foster's father bought Jimmy T's Place at Fifth and East Capitol Streets SE in 1969, and she was in high school when she began working there. She and John, a regular customer, met at the restaurant, married, took over the business, and raised their family there. The Community Foundation honored them in 2015, and the interview includes discussions of the prior business her father purchased, with pinball machines in the back; the interesting mix of customers who eat at Jimmy T's; and the story behind the Leg Lamp that's displayed in the restaurant window during the holidays.

Scott Kratz If you're at all interested in the 11th Street Bridge Park, you'll want to read this interview with the Project's director, Scott Kratz, honored in 2017 for his contributions to this ambitious project. The interview provides details of critical phases of the project, including the role of Building Bridges Across the River at THEARC, the 200 meetings to engage community and develop plans, the design competition for the bridge, founding of the Anacostia River Festival, and the Equitable Development Plan created as a guide to assure that the park allows east of the river residents to thrive in place and enjoy this future civic amenity.

Geoff Lewis Geoff Lewis's life on Capitol Hill followed familiar patterns: moving to Washington after college (in 1965), finding work, marrying his wife Terry, buying a house, and raising two daughters. He contributed to various neighborhood organizations for the next 40 years, and in 2006 led the effort to create what became Capitol Hill Village, whose members help one another as they age. For those efforts, he received a 2017 Community Achievement Award, and the interview provides many details of CHV's founding and early days.

There are 195 more! To browse all 200 transcripts, see Interviewees for a summary of each. We also 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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