Photo by Gayle Krughoff

Linda Barnes

Linda Barnes moved to Washington as a young bride in 1963, and had lived on East Capitol Street for 35 years when she was interviewed in 2002.

She and her husband Bart raised three children on the Hill. She worked for many years as a real estate broker and was an active neighborhood volunteer. In an interview with Stephanie Deutsch, she discussed the community and the many changes she had witnessed.

Read Transcript
Interview Date
February 21, 2002
Stephanie Deutsch
Rachel Mears

Full Directory

DEUTSCH: Linda, why don't you start by telling me how you came to Washington or how long you have been here.

BARNES: Yes, Bart and I came to Washington in 1963. We were living at that time in Holyoke. Massachusetts and we both quit our jobs, Bart was working for a newspaper in Holyoke and I was teaching school. We quit our jobs, looking for an exciting life [interviewer laughs] and we decided that we would send his resumes down the east coast and then across the country and just keep going until he got a good job that he wanted. And, as luck would have it, he got a job almost immediately at the Washington Post. Just happened to walk in one day and there it was. So we came to this area in '63 and lived in a high-rise apartment on Shirley Highway, for about a year and began looking for a house to buy. Of course we couldn't afford Old Town Alexandria or Georgetown or any of the other, kind of traditional, neighborhoods. Somehow, we heard about the Capitol Hill House and Garden Tour. We must have. I think it was held in the summer then, maybe it was still the spring. But we went on the House and Garden Tour in '64.

DEUTSCH: So, it must have been one of the early years.

BARNES: It was one of the early ones and I remember that Dick and Mimi Wolf's house was on it. I'm pretty sure that their house was. I know at least one Philadelphia row townhouse was on the tour that year, maybe two. I think there were two. And we fell in love with this area immediately and realized that it was not only loveable, but affordable.

DEUTSCH: That's a great combination.

BARNES: Yeah. So in January of '65, we moved into our first townhouse on Capitol Hill, which was a tiny little house at Tenth and D Street, Southeast. DEUTSCH: Tenth and D?

BARNES: 1012 D. A little small white brick house that was tiny, but beautifully designed and renovated. We were one of the few renovated houses on the block. Debbie and Austin From [sp? -rm] also lived on that block. Do you remember Debbie and Austin?

DEUTSCH: No, no.

BARNES: It was a very lively block [laughs].

DEUTSCH: Because that was somewhat far out there.

BARNES: It was pretty, what we used to call, fringey.

DEUTSCH: Yeah, fringey. Because I was at 12th and C six or eight years after that and it was very fringey. [interviewer and interviewee both talking]

BARNES: Right. Well, Tenth and D was pretty fringey. We had a house of ill repute on the block. We had an after hours bar on the block, in somebody's basement. But we also had wonderful block parties, so all these people were our best buddies [both laugh]. And we would close off the street and just have parties all night long, it was fabulous. We didn't have bars on our windows. It was pretty remarkable that we felt completely comfortable and people apparently felt comfortable with us. So that was our first house on the Hill. But it was quite small and I was pregnant [pauses], shortly thereafter was pregnant and we began to look for a bigger house. We used to love to just go look at houses just for the fun of it which I guess everybody did [interviewer responds affirmatively] in those days. And we bought a house at Ninth and G Street.

DEUTSCH: Southeast?

BARNES: Southeast, right near the Marine Barracks. And it was a house that needed work, but it was perfectly liveable. I think we bought it for nineteen thousand dollars. I think that was what we paid for it. We moved in there and worked on it and had our daughter. Kate was born in '66 and then the boys followed in 1968.

DEUTSCH: What are the boys names?

BARNES: Michael and David. They're twins [both speaking at same time]. David was born first and Michael was born a few minutes thereafter.

DEUTSCH: So that was pretty intense for you there, 3 kids under 3.

BARNES: Three kids under 3 and this house that we were doing our best [to] make more habitable than it was when we started [laughs] and get it so that it was saleable. So we could make a little money to buy yet a bigger house. So, we had that house on the market for a while. I remember buffing the floors, practically every day, with one kid on each hip [both laugh]. We sold that house and bought the house we're currently in, 640 East Capitol in 1969 and moved in when the boys were about 6-months old. This house was a rooming house when we bought it.

DEUTSCH: As so many houses on East Capitol Street were.

BARNES: Right. And in fact we had a roomer because...

DEUTSCH: The house came with its own roomer [laughs]?

BARNES: Yes. The owner at the time had not wanted to let her roomers know ahead of time that she had sold the house because she didn't want them to leave too soon. And this one fellow went off on vacation to Florida and so she never did tell him [interviewer laughs]. He came back to discover that there were no people living here. I mean she hadn't told him anything. This was back in the pre-rent control days [laughs]. So, we had this very elderly man who was a printer at the Washington Star, the Evening Star, who did not want to move.

DEUTSCH: It was very convenient for his work.

BARNES: Very convenient for his work and he was going to retire within a year and he just didn't want to move. On the other hand, he really didn't want to live in a house with all these kids either and we certainly didn't want him here [both laugh]. So, I would get the kids and put them into the stroller and take him around, or put them in the car and take him around and show him other places that he might live. He was here for, probably close to a month, but we finally did find him another place across the street actually, as it happens.

DEUTSCH: Because there were lots of rooming houses up and down East Capitol Street.

BARNES: There were, but we couldn't find him a room. We ended up putting him in the apartment building.

DEUTSCH: At Sixth and East Capitol?

BARNES: At Seventh and East Capitol. I can't remember the name of it if it even has a name, but it was small apartments and it worked out just fine for him. I think that they maybe were even furnished because this place had also been furnished when he was here. So that's kind of how we started on Capitol Hill.

DEUTSCH: So it was just luck [interviewer and interviewee both talking]?

BARNES: It was pretty much luck that we got here at all, that we could find a house we could afford. Then we did what typically people did, we moved around a little bit from house to house. Ended up with really a wonderful house right after the riots, the prices dropped again.


BARNES: So we got this really great house for forty-five thousand dollars [laughs].

DEUTSCH: Did you have a lot of work to do here?

BARNES: A tremendous amount, tremendous amount. None of the hall lights were on switches, for instance because by code they all had to be on all the time because they all were on 20-watt bulbs. The thing that Bart loved about the house more than anything was that it had a wonderful wood-paneled phone booth on the second floor [interviewer laughs] which unfortunately, the phone company came and took away. They would not let us keep it.

DEUTSCH: Oh [disappointed tone].

BARNES: We really wanted to, but they wouldn't let us keep it. There was, it's kind of rudimentary kitchen in the basement, but because we, like everybody else were incredibly house poor we had to make that a rental unit as quickly as possible. So we had to put a kitchen up here and a kitchen downstairs and a bath downstairs because there was not a bath down there.

DEUTSCH: Was that when you put in this kitchen. Has it been renovated since then?

BARNES: No. This is the original 1969 or 1970 kitchen. Most of the appliances, in fact, are original [laughs] to that date. I can't believe it, but my refrigerator and freezer date from then [interviewer responds affirmatively]. I hate to think about replacing all this stuff, but I guess we're gonna have to.

DEUTSCH: What were you doing then? You obviously had these three little kids that kept you fairly busy.

BARNES: Yes, I had three little kids. That kept me busy. Actually my stepfather became intrigued with this area and decided that he thought it was a good idea if we bought some houses and renovated them and held some and sold some. And so he kind of set me up in a little family business and probably owned not all that many houses because he had a serious auto accident within a year of when he started buying property down here.

DEUTSCH: Had you done work like that before?

BARNES: No, no. He taught me how to do it.

DEUTSCH: Was that his business?

BARNES: He had a lot of businesses, but that was one of the things he knew how to do. I worked on kind of a family real estate business for a few years.

DEUTSCH: Renovating houses and then selling them?

BARNES: Selling them or keeping them for rental property. Did that and then in '71, the boys were two-and-a-half or three and they were finally in nursery school or cooperative nursery, Frank Kraemer, who had sold us our first and second house, said "Oh, you can work in real estate part-time. It's really easy." [Laughs]. I believed him and went into the real estate business, part-time, which turned out to be full-time very quickly. I don't think it's a job you really can do part-time. I got into real estate in '71. We juggled kids and jobs and guilt and all of those things for quite a number of years, thereafter. They didn't have wonderful daycare centers then the way they do now.

DEUTSCH: And Bart was still at the Washington Post?

BARNES: Bart was at the Post. Actually, he's been there ever since [interviewer and interviewee speaking at same time].

DEUTSCH: He and David Deutsch must be the only two people who...

BARNES: Kept their original?

DEUTSCH: Yes, David has been at WETA since 1965.

BARNES: Wow [laughs].

DEUTSCH: Only job he's ever had.

BARNES: Yeah, that's practically true of Bart. He had this job at the Holyoke Transcript for two years, but then at the Post.

DEUTSCH: So when did you start getting involved in other things?

BARNES: It actually happened pretty quickly after we arrived here. I don't know how I initially got involved, but the first thing that I did was to become involved in Friendship House. There was an organization at that time called Circle on the Hill which was the charity board...

DEUTSCH: Was Marguerite Kelly involved with that?

BARNES: She was involved with that.

DEUTSCH: She's told me about it. She said it was the thing, that's what you did.

BARNES: It was, that's what you did. That's kind of the volunteer activity that everybody got involved with. In those days, Market Day was held at Friendship House and Ellen Berg-who was a neighbor of mine at Ninth and G-and I ran Market Day one year and decided to have it over at the Eastern Market. The rest of the board had something to do with that decision, but I think Ellen was pretty influential in coming to that conclusion that we needed to broaden...

DEUTSCH: Get more people to come?

BARNES: Get more people to come and also it used to be that the crafts that were sold were mostly things that board members made. We opened it up to local artists.

DEUTSCH: That seems very old-fashioned now, doesn't it?

BARNES: Doesn't it?

DEUTSCH: Things that the board members made.

BARNES: Yes [laughs]. That was the first year it was actually held at the Eastern Market.

DEUTSCH: What year was that, can you remember?

BARNES: It had to have been in [pauses], I would say it must have been in '67 or '68, maybe. I'm very bad about dates so I'm not remembering.

DEUTSCH: So, Friendship House...

BARNES: That was the very first thing I became involved in and then of course as all parents do, we became involved in our kids' schools.

DEUTSCH: Where did your kids go to school?

BARNES: Two of them went to Burgundy Farms School. At first all three went to Southwest Nursery School, which was a co-op. Then two of them went to Burgundy Farm, which is also a co-op. David went to a variety of schools beginning with National Child Research Center and a number of other schools. His schools were not cooperatives, but Kate's and Mike's were co-ops. So we became involved with those and I ran the Burgundy Farm auction Fair Day two years, I think, in a row. And then, just volunteered doing any number of little things.

DEUTSCH: What about St. Mark's? I know you were...

BARNES: Yeah, we first went to St. Mark's in 1971 and actually became involved in '72. I think it was that very first year I had a job doing something in the education program in St. Mark's and I think I've probably held almost every job there is.

DEUTSCH: Now, when you were senior warden was that the beginning of the transition? At what point in the transition...

BARNES: That was just before Jim [ed: long-time rector Jim Adams] announced he was retiring.

DEUTSCH: Just before?

BARNES: Yeah. It was the next year that he announced that he was retiring, so we didn't have that, we had the kind of tail-end of the legacy campaign and the refinance of the work my year or my two years. I was senior warden and I don't even remember what years that would have been.

DEUTSCH: Maybe '96, '97.

BARNES: Earlier.

DEUTSCH: Earlier?

BARNES: Maybe '95. Something like that. In the meantime, I had also been involved in real estate volunteer work [uncertain] both for DC Association of Realtors. I almost always was on a committee and for a number of years, had appointed positions on the Professional Standards and the Ethics committees.

DEUTSCH: What does that consist of?

BARNES: It's kind of a self-policing group of people who listen to complaints from members of the public or other members of real estate, one person against another person.

DEUTSCH: That would be a city-wide...

BARNES: That was a city-wide job. Then on the Hill, I was president of the Capitol Hill Broker's Council one year. After that, on the CHAMPS board, and then president of CHAMPS.

DEUTSCH: When CHAMPS was originally founded?

BARNES: Well, it was a fairly young organization. I will have to get dates because I am not remembering...

DEUTSCH: Be careful. Oh, I was afraid you were going to walk away [both laugh, 229].

BARNES: I'm just so bad about dates, I don't remember.

DEUTSCH: Well, it doesn't matter.

BARNES: But, I remember that one of the things that I did was gave testimony before the City Council on BIDs. In favor of having a BID which the city has, of course, approved our right to have and Capitol Hill is trying to form one.

DEUTSCH: And is going to have one, it looks like.

BARNES: Yes, I think that's right. That was an exciting time to be president of CHAMPS. It was a busy time because we had no money, we were really in the hole and so we did without an executive director for at least six months. We had a newsletter every month, which I did.


BARNES: It kept me busy.

DEUTSCH: And then you went on the board of the CHAMPS Foundation? Were you one of the original board members of the CHAMPS Foundation?

BARNES: No, I wasn't. Well, I don't think I was. I first went on as president of CHAMPS, it was kind of part of the deal that you'd go on for the year that you were president and then I continued after that.

DEUTSCH: Where had you grown up?

BARNES: Connecticut, in a small town, rural community. Monroe, Connecticut which is kind of between Bridgeport and New Haven, but in from the coast. My parents were very involved in the local politics. My Dad was involved in a couple of things with the local church and my Mom was involved with the Democratic political machine which in a Republican town and actually ended up doing a number of things state-wide in politics. She was a trustee at the University of Connecticut and on the parole board of one of the prisons in Connecticut.

DEUTSCH: So, when you moved to Washington it was a big change from the way you had grown up.

BARNES: Very big change in some ways, except that I think it was really my parents that taught me that you go out into the community and you do what needs to be done.

DEUTSCH: And in some ways that doesn't matter what the community is.

BARNES: Right. It doesn't matter if it's a small farm community or a little [laughs]...

DEUTSCH: Where did you go to college?

BARNES: Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

DEUTSCH: So, there again that's a small town.

BARNES: That's a small town and that's a school that particularly encourages activism and taught us that it was important to do one's part.

DEUTSCH: Do you see the same thing in your children?

BARNES: They're beginning to do that, yes. I notice it particularly in Kate and less with my boys, but I think their jobs are really high-pressure.

DEUTSCH: Now tell me about the kids. Kate lives... ?

BARNES: She lives in Silver Spring and Mike and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

DEUTSCH: Which is wonderful.

BARNES: Which is fabulous [laughs].

DEUTSCH: Every parent's dream.

BARNES: Oh, I know. Well, just having those two kids and our grand kids in the area is fabulous. We have our one son is in Indiana and that's sort of my biggest sadness is that we can't see him as often and we can't see our granddaughter Alice as often as we'd like.

DEUTSCH: How many grandchildren do you have?

BARNES: We have five grandchildren. We have one whose name is Caitlyn, she's nine and she is a step-granddaughter. Kate has got a son Sam who's two and-a-half, and a daughter Celia who is one. Mike and Juanita have a son Carsten who is two. Then as I say David and Jessica have a daughter Alice and Alice is almost four, she's going to be four in April.

DEUTSCH: Such a pretty name.

BARNES: Yes [laughs]. She's named after Bart's Mom. She was born four days before Bart's Mom died and so it was nice that Alice got to know she had a namesake.

DEUTSCH: Yes, oh that is nice. That's very nice. What are the changes you see... obviously there's a huge amount of change. You've lived in the same house for almost, what twenty-five?

BARNES: Thirty.

DEUTSCH: Thirty years?

BARNES: Let's see. It's over 30 years because we came in '69 to this house.

DEUTSCH: So, what...

BARNES: Well, we miss Mary's Blue Room. [unintelligible sentence]. [laughs]

DEUTSCH: Sorry about that.

BARNES: That's right, that's right. And I remember the Mary's Blue Room protest.

DEUTSCH: Now tell me, I've heard different things about Mary's Blue Room. How would you describe it?

BARNES: It was a really greasy, greasy spoon. Really greasy. It was much greasier than Jimmy T's.

DEUTSCH: Greasy.

BARNES: Yes, in fact that's really what happened to it, it had a grease fire which is why it closed as I recall. Anyway, it was a beautiful building.

DEUTSCH: It was, I have a lovely picture of it.

BARNES: Wonderful bay front and we protested the demolition of Mary's Blue Room. All of us took our children and baby carriages [laughs] around the block.

DEUTSCH: Were there actually the bulldozers...

BARNES: The bulldozers were there.

DEUTSCH: Very dramatic [interviewer and interviewee are both talking].

BARNES: It was a very dramatic moment. I remember being there with Mary Martha Rockwell. She's the one who dragged me down there. I guess I had all three kids then, so they were all in strollers or backpacks or something. I miss some of the shops, like the Emporium, Leonard Kirsten's Emporium. I don't know if you remember the [unintelligible word].

DEUTSCH: Oh the Emporium on Pennsylvania Avenue.

BARNES: It was a wonderful little gift, first a little gift shop and then kind of a deli.

DEUTSCH: Yes, I do remember that. And the Capitol Hill Wine and Cheese which was a few doors down.

BARNES: That's right. So, I miss some of those places. That's a difference. We have more national chains like Starbucks and fewer Mom and Pop... and also fewer Safeways.


BARNES: A lot fewer. We used to have one around the corner here on Seventh Street. And there was one on Seventh across from the Eastern Market and one on Seventh down the other side of...


BARNES: Between E and G. So we miss those. But I think we have a lot of the same diversity on Capitol Hill that we used to have. It hasn't totally changed.

DEUTSCH: No, the feel is still much the same.

BARNES: I was recalling the other day that we used to have an expression in real estate. We'd say "With your bedsheets at the windows, this house would look fabulous."

DEUTSCH: [laughs]

BARNES: Because that's all any of us could afford was bedsheets to hang in the window. And I think that's less true. I think there is actually a lot more... maybe it's the two-income family. It's probably as much a change nationally as it is Capitol Hill. There are two people working and bringing in enough money to afford actual...

DEUTSCH: Curtains [laughs].

BARNES: Or blinds or [laughs]...

DEUTSCH: You probably remember when I moved into my house and there was nothing covering the windows for about a year.

BARNES: Yes, my house is that way [both laugh]. I don't have anything covering my windows still or a lot of my windows at least.

DEUTSCH: Do you and Bart have plans to retire to Florida?

BARNES: No, I think we'll retire right here. I can't imagine moving. I just can't imagine moving. There are times that I really don't like the winter weather. But mostly I love being able to walk to the corner store and walk to the Eastern Market and walk to the subway and walk to the museums. I just can't imagine not being able to do that. I see people who have to drive every...

DEUTSCH: And your desire to do that doesn't get less as you get older, it kind of gets more.

BARNES: I think that's right. I think that's exactly right. I love being able to go into Grubbs and talk to Eddy and know that he hired my kids when they were teenagers. That's real important to have those roots. It is for me.

DEUTSCH: Well, that's part of what makes it feel so much like a community.

BARNES: That's right. So, no plans to retire to Florida.

DEUTSCH: Anything else you think we should... ?

BARNES: I'm trying to think, something just crossed my mind and now its disappeared from my head, I thought it was important to say about Capitol Hill and I can't think what it is. I'll have to append it with a written report or something [laughs]. I can't think of... [Tape stops then starts again].

Just tell you a little bit about being on Capitol Hill during the riots in '68. We were at that time living at Ninth and G Street, Southeast which is right near the Marine Barracks. There were a lot of businesses along Eighth Street. There was a furniture business and a couple of big liquor stores and they all were looted during the riots. As it happened my mother and my step-father—my step-father was an invalid—were here visiting at the time of the riots and actually had Kate with them down at one of the museums when the tear gas was being used on the mall...

DEUTSCH: Oh my gosh.

BARNES: ... clearing people. They raced back to Ninth and G and my mother decided that I should definitely move to a hotel because Bart was requested...they had all the reporters staying overnight at the Post. They just put up cots and the reporters would go out and report and then they'd come back to the Post and crash for a few hours. We watched people carrying furniture out of the furniture store on Eighth Street.

DEUTSCH: Did you move to a hotel?

BARNES: [laughs]. I moved to a hotel. My mother kept saying before we could go that we had to hide our liquor [interviewer laughs]. Of course we had nothing but cheap wine [interviewer laughs]. I said "Mother, why should I hide my liquor? They've got [interviewer/interviewee both talking,]...

DEUTSCH: They're looting the liquor store.

BARNES: Getting brand new bottles of high-priced stuff [laughs]. That was actually a very exciting time in a lot of ways because I think in some ways it brought the Capitol Hill community together closer and the diversity of the Hill became more important to everyone on the Hill. That we preserve that.

DEUTSCH: You didn't feel scared?

BARNES: I didn't feel the least bit threatened. Nor did Bart. We felt perfectly safe and actually my Mother did too, truth to tell, but she was worried about her little grandbabies I think, since there were three of them. Yes, there were by then at that time.

DEUTSCH: How long did the looting and all that go on?

BARNES: It was several days, a number of days. I've kind of forgotten.

DEUTSCH: And of course it was worse up on H Street.

BARNES: It was much worse on H, although Eighth Street was pretty bad, but there was a lot more commercial establishments.

DEUTSCH: And then there was the fire?

BARNES: Big fire that just raged all along on H Street.

DEUTSCH: That did not come down here?

BARNES: No. I don't remember that there were fires on Eighth. There certainly were no store windows left. That was quite a time to see National Guard troops. On the one hand it was a little scary and on the other we felt really attached to our neighborhoods. We kind of all pulled together. That's the way it felt. So, yes I was at a hotel with my Mother for two days.

DEUTSCH: While Bart was downtown at the Post.

BARNES: While he was at the Post [laughs]. It's funny, I don't remember a whole lot about the riots themselves. I do remember the feeling afterwards of we have to stick together as a community. I can remember feeling strongly about that.

DEUTSCH: In some ways you came out of it a stronger community. You were in real estate, was there a noticeable difference?

BARNES: Actually, I wasn't. Well, I had this little family business.

DEUTSCH: You weren't really doing much then? Because I can imagine the period immediately after that would have been challenging.

BARNES: Prices went way down, they did. We were trying to sell our house on G Street and it was actually on the market for a year because we just felt that we had to get our price, which we did, but it took a long time and we got this house for a lot less than we would've had to pay just a year before. So... yeah, the market definitely went down.

BARNES: ... in the immediate period right surrounding the riots everyone in the neighborhood was kind of very careful of each other and very tender towards each other and wanting very much to preserve our community. I remember as the economy got bad, there did come to be a time when feelings were fairly high and when I occasionally would feel somewhat threatened. We had some rental property on 12th Street, Southeast which I would have to sometimes go and collect rents. I remember by '69 or '70 when the economy wasn't so great, going and feeling just a little bit reluctant to do that and just not feeling totally comfortable. But, immediately surrounding the riots we felt just fine being in the neighborhood. But in tough economic times, there was often a sense of disparity in terms of what we had. What other people on Capitol Hill had.

I guess I should say that really became quite apparent in what happened. I think it was noblesse oblige disappeared and it's a good thing that it did in terms of we're going to make things right for everyone instead of everybody being into self-help which I think people today are much more willing to help themselves and really I think about the Friendship House board for instance and it is not a bunch of white ladies telling black people how to conduct themselves and how to live and how to have a settlement house. But there was a real need for people to be able to operate on their own and set their own standards and not be operating at the whim of some wealthy white woman.

DEUTSCH: Was that the way it was in the early times when you were on?

BARNES: I would say that in the early days it felt a little, Circle on the Hill felt a little...

DEUTSCH: A little bit like that?

BARNES: A little bit like, you know, we were telling other people how to live. We knew the right way.

DEUTSCH: Be like us.

BARNES: Be like us and your life will be just fine. It was a real learning experience for me. I grew up in a very liberal household and it was hard for me to learn that I couldn't run other people's lives for them and have it be okay.

DEUTSCH: What do you think were the things that contributed to that change?

BARNES: Oh boy. I think it certainly some it is living together and understanding that we each have cultural attributes of value. That's probably the biggest difference or the biggest reason for that change, I think is that we really were able to see each other with some reality.

DEUTSCH: Also, the other way of doing things didn't work very well.

BARNES: And it didn't work. And it just didn't work. That's right.

DEUTSCH: Created a lot of resentment and...

BARNES: Yeah. I think it's hard even today to talk about that with a lot of comfort. I think we're not quite over it.

DEUTSCH: Certainly something that we've worked on in the foundation is the idea of we're there to enable you to do what you want to do.

BARNES: And what you most value, we can't tell you.

DEUTSCH: We don't know, you tell us what needs to be done and we'll provide the money.

BARNES: That's right. That's right. Yes, I think that's a very different way of operating from those early Circle on the Hill days. That was much more like a Junior League operation. Not to say anything against the Junior League, but...

DEUTSCH: Of course not [they laugh].