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Recent News

For news of our recent History Lectures, please go to Lecture Series.

Were You There? Remembering the 1963 March on Washington

A special Black History Month event, co-sponsored by the Overbeck Project and Capitol Hill Village, was held February 23, 2013, to commemorate the 50th anniversary year of the 1963 March on Washington. A full description of the event, including photos, appears in Capitol Hill Village's newsletter for March, 2013.

We extend heartfelt thanks to our keynote speaker Paul Delaney; panel moderator Rev. Edward A. Hailes, Jr.; panelists Courtland Cox, Rev. Reginald Green, Mrs. Nettie Hailes, Daniel Smith, Brig Cabe, and Judy Bardacke; the chorus of Friendship Public Charter School, Chamberlain Campus, and the school's instrumental music director Michael Hawkins. We are also grateful to the Lutheran Church of the Reformation for hosting the event, the Capitol Hill Community Foundation and the Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation for financial support, and Capitol Hill Village member Mike Canning, who served as master of ceremonies.

Congratulations to these winners of the student speech contest conducted in conjunction with the event: Tania Holland (Eastern High School), High School First Prize; Taijuan Carter (Eastern High School), High School Runner-up; Mary Robison (Capitol Hill Day School), Middle School First Prize; and Jhonathan Wilson (Two Rivers PCS), Middle School Runner-up. The prizes were awarded during the February 23 event, and the two first prize winners delivered their speeches as part of the program.

Still Collecting Memories of the March. The Feb. 23 event is over, but the Overbeck Project's special page devoted to Memories of the March remains. We continue to welcome submission of individual memories of the 1963 March using our online form, and we invite everyone to read the memories that have been submitted. Each of those stories reflects what one individual saw and felt on August 28, 1963, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his "I Have a Dream" speech to an unprecedented crowd that had gathered on the Washington Mall. Relatives and friends of those who need assistance are welcome to post on the other person's behalf.

The impetus to hold such an event grew from a February, 2012, gathering sponsored by Capitol Hill Village, where people shared their personal memories of the 1963 March. Overbeck Project volunteers supported the effort by recording and transcribing the presentations and discussion that took place. The full transcript of that session is available. View Online | View PDF

Overbeck History Press Is Launched to Publish Mary Z. Gray’s 301 East Capitol

In the fall of 2011, our tenth anniversary year, the Overbeck Project branched out into publishing in order to bring to light a wonderful new book by Mary Z. Gray describing the Capitol Hill of her 1920s childhood and the family members who had inhabited the neighborhood for four generations before her. The Overbeck History Press’s inaugural publication is 301 East Capitol: Tales From the Heart of the Hill.

Born Mary Zurhorst in 1919, Gray grew up above her family’s inherited funeral home at 301 East Capitol Street, two blocks from the U.S. Capitol, and went on to write speeches for the Kennedy-Johnson White House and countless free-lance articles for The Washington Post, The New York Times and other publications. Her book abounds with unforgettable scenes – being tugged away from Sherrill’s Bakery on Pennsylvania Avenue by her family’s maid, who would not have been allowed to eat there, frightening a nun at St. Cecilia’s Academy with stories about the family business, being taken to meet Charles Lindbergh, just back from his solo flight to Paris.

Gray composed this remarkable book on her manual typewriter, urged on by Overbeck volunteers, who also helped with research, editing and getting the book into print.

301 East Capitol is available for purchase at local shops and at Amazon.com.

Overbeck Project Documents Eastern Market's Survival

In anticipation of the summer 2009 reopening of Eastern Market, which was devastated by fire in 2007, the Overbeck Project launched a special effort this year to document the survival and rebuilding of the beloved Hill landmark. Under the direction of Elizabeth Lewis and project manager Bernadette McMahon, longtime and newly recruited Overbeck volunteers continue to interview Market merchants, outdoor vendors, public officials and other individuals involved in the Market and its revival. Hill native Langley Bowers is producing a video documentary, including shots of the June 26 reopening, to be shown this fall. Please contact us to learn more.

Overbeck Project Celebrates Five-Year Anniversary

On the afternoon of Sunday, October 15, 2006, more than sixty of our volunteers and interviewees gathered at the Christ Church parish hall on G Street S.E. to celebrate our five-year anniversary as an oral history project.

It was in the Fall of 2001 that about a dozen neighborhood volunteers gathered in a living room on Massachusetts Avenue for the training and orientation session that launched the Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project. Over the next five years the steadily expanding effort collected 119 interviews with longtime residents and former residents of the Hill, building “a permanent, accessible, ongoing record of the people and events that have shaped our community.”

Nearly a hundred volunteers have participated so far, serving as interviewers, transcribers, trainers, photographers and archivists, and the project has also launched a highly successful lecture series.

The October 15 celebration served as an unexpected reunion for a number of participants. Some of our older interviewees who no longer live in the community encountered onetime neighbors they had not seen since childhood. They were also treated to audio-visual presentation featuring photos of all the interviewees in attendance.

The Capitol Hill Restoration Society presented the project with a congratulatory commendation, and project managers Bernadette and Jim McMahon received a thank-you gift from Nicky Cymrot, president of the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, which sponsors the project. The gift was a copy of Washington At Home, a book on D.C. neighborhood history which includes a chapter by our namesake Ruth Ann Overbeck, with an inscription thanking the McMahons for their dedication to the project and the community.


Our Project Supports New Book on Eastern Market

In November of 2005 the Overbeck Project made a commitment to support the publication of a new book on the history of Eastern Market. Capitol Hill writer Stephen Ackerman is digging deep for information about the market’s complicated past in hopes of publishing a definitive history of the facility. The last of its kind in the city, the market has stayed in operation since its founding in 1806 at a site several blocks south of its current location on Seventh Street S.E.  

Our project is providing financial assistance for the publishing effort and also recruiting American University students to help with the research. Anyone having relevant documents, photos or anecdotes about the market is encouraged to contact Stephen Ackerman at sja12@earthlink.net.


Our Project Welcomes Interviewers from AU

At the start of the 2005-06 academic year, the Overbeck Project welcomed a whole new set of volunteers. Thanks to the efforts of Kathy Franz and American University instructor Pamela Henson, several graduate students in Henson’s oral history course at AU joined our effort as interviewers.

“We’re delighted to have these young people on board,” said project manager Bernadette McMahon. “They’ll help us reduce our considerable backlog of interview prospects while also sharpening their own interview skills and broadening their knowledge of this community.”

Thanks and welcome to our AU volunteers!


Project Hits Major Milestone: 100 Interviews!

In the summer of 2005, the Overbeck Project proudly announced that its collection of oral history interviews had crossed the 100 mark. “This milestone represents thousands of hours of work by our wonderful volunteers,” said project manager Bernadette McMahon. “We had little idea when we started how many good interview prospects we’d find here or how many in the community would come forward to help. We’re very excited.”

There are dozens more older individuals out there with interesting stories to tell, and the Overbeck Project still need volunteers to reach and record them. If you’d like to help as an interviewer or interview transcriber, or if you know someone who ought to be interviewed, please contact Bernadette McMahon at 202-543-4544 or mcmahons@his.com.

Carole Kolker Leads Workshop on Interview Techniques

Oral historian and Overbeck Project adviser Carole Kolker conducted a workshop on October 2, 2004, to help our volunteers improve their interviewing skills. About fifteen of the project’s volunteers gathered at the home of John Franzén for specific guidance on how to prepare for an interview, how to establish a rapport with the interviewee, and how to phrase a question to get the best response. Participants paired up to play the roles of interviewer and interviewee and to have their performances critiqued.

Ms. Kolker has more than 20 years of experience conducting oral history interviews, including an extensive set of interviews with former residents of the Southwest Washington neighborhood that was razed in the “urban renewal” effort of the 1950s. She has led training workshops for students at Columbia Union College, IONA House, and the Martin Luther King Library. We are very grateful for her help with our effort.

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    The Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project, Washington. D.C.