After noting that the Jair Lynch Development Partners' 9-story, 95-unit apartment (middle at left) designed by WDG Architecture will be built at 2005 15th Street, NW, a reader felt the site's former life should be acknowledged.
The new Jair Lynch apartment will rise up on what is now a surface parking lot next to the 10-story, 171-unit Campbell Heights Apartment (to the right in the rendering) at 2001 15th Street, but low and behold, the parking lot wasn't always there.
In 1978, the Campbell Heights Association constructed its eponymous apartment as subsidized, unassisted, one-bedroom apartments for senior citizens aged 62 and older.
But first, the property on site had to be demolished. A grand Victorian structure stretching the entire block of 15th between U and V Street, built at the turn of the 20th century as "The Portner Flats," a high-end luxury apartment building offering 485 rooms (with baths!) and an entrance flanked by ornate Viennese-style sculptures.
The Victorian was demolished in 1974, but it became famous first, in 1946, after it was sold by the Portner family and reopened as the Dunbar Hotel, Washington's leading elite black hotel.
In the '50s and '60s, in the lobby of the Dunbar distinguished musical greats could be found - Duke Ellington, Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole, Count Basie - cooling their heels after lighting up jazz dens strung along the U Street Corridor.
"Before public accommodations were integrated in the nation’s capital, the Dunbar Hotel was the only major hotel where blacks could stay," wrote the Washington Times in 2009. However, when the District's other hotels did integrate, in the 1960s, the Dunbar fell into disrepair, was condemned, sold to the District in 1970, and razed in 1974.
The Dunbar was named after Paul Laurence Dunbar, an African American poet born in the late-19th century who died before his time, in 1906; shortly after the Portner Flats were built, but long before the razzle-dazzle heyday of the U Street District that brought with it the short-lived glory that was the Dunbar Hotel.
Washington D.C. real estate development news