The block begins with a burned-out, brick-strewn lot taken over by T-shirt vendors. Beyond the street, tourists are refueling at the Hard Rock Cafe. Up the artery are Ford’s Theatre and the abode area Lincoln died, which is a few accomplish from a $60-an-hour beating parlor.
Then there’s the Waffle Shop, a admired eggs-and-scrapple-and-lo mein academy with a $3.95 spaghetti special. And Honest Abe, a gift abundance affairs U.S. Capitol toenail clippers, is aing aperture to a half-vacant architecture draped with a banderole able that D.C.’s hottest bistro is “coming soon.”
Acceptable to 10th Artery NW, amid E and F streets. It’s tacky, touristy, celebrated and austere — sending all the alloyed letters of Washington’s annoyed downtown, disturbing to reinvent itself.
The block aspires to be air-conditioned but succeeds abandoned in actuality ironic. It’s downtown’s Rorschach test. Abounding possibilities present themselves, and not all of them could abide ancillary by ancillary in a sane cosmos or an organized downtown. But they do on 10th Street.
The affair from “The Flintstones” animation wafts up the block from the aged tenor saxophone of Joseph Tate, 53, a artery artist who frequently occupies the bend alfresco the Hard Rock Cafe. The Darwinian law of bill in the cup has accomplished him what tunes assignment on 10th Street: apish melodies that address to homesickness and goofiness.
“I best this bend because it’s a hot bend in day-tripper season,” Tate says. “For a continued time, I anticipation it was boring dying. I had anticipation in a few years it would be history.”
But now Washington’s burghal is assertive for what burghal leaders and acclimatized assemblage such as Tate adumbrate could be a arresting transformation into a bounded ball center, with added affair restaurants as able-bodied as cine theaters and contemporary stores.
And aback this block of 10th Artery finds itself propelled from a analytical aisle to the amphitheater of the action, with appointment projects to the west, the proposed new opera abode and the Convention Centermost to the north, the Mall to the south and, aperture Dec. 2, the MCI Centermost sports and ball circuitous to the east.
“That’s the aperture in the doughnut of all the action bottomward there,” says Leonard Greenberg, who is aggravating to advance acreage on the block. “That area’s action to become an 18-hour-a-day location.”
But there’s some altercation over what the new burghal should be. Tenth Artery has its charms, and not all of them will survive the makeover.
“That artery has a adjacency feel to it,” says Brad Botwin, 40, a Business Department agent and cafeteria addict of the Waffle Shop. “It’s like a absolute city.”
He considers 10th Artery a ambush from the “sterile” facades and focaccio sandwich places a his appointment at Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street. He fears that the blow of burghal is acceptable a theme-restaurant playland. “Most of Washington is axis into that,” he said. “They’re animadversion bottomward streets like area the Waffle Shop is.”
It’s a abbreviate block — 120 accomplish from one end to the other. It has red-brick sidewalks with atramentous splotches from old chewing gum.
A day and a night on 10th Artery acknowledge slices of the conflicted body of burghal Washington — in the belled box bench at Ford’s area Lincoln was shot; beneath the guitars on the bank at the Hard Rock; in band for the T-shirt that reads, “Future President, Washington D.C.”; admiral at the beating parlor.
Days activate at 5:30 a.m. at the Waffle Shop.
The assemblage are a mix of blue-collar workers, appointment advisers and artists, ache for waffles and grits. They say it’s one of the aftermost diners in the city, asperous and retro-chic. Tourists are scarce.
“These are my customers, who appear every week, like family,” says Hai Ngo, 50, the buyer for the aftermost 10 years. He’s from Vietnam, but the restaurant appearance Chinese food, as able-bodied as American booth cuisine and breakfast all day.
“It’s affectionate of like a Cheers for food,” Botwin says.
Nobody knows absolutely how continued the Waffle Shop has existed on 10th Street. The hinge stools at the arced counters are identical to the ones apparent at the Civic Museum of American History from the 1960 civilian rights demonstration at the Woolworth’s cafeteria adverse in Greensboro, N.C.
But the Waffle Shop’s canicule may be numbered. The charter is up in December, and Ngo’s advocate is negotiating with Greenberg, the landlord, who additionally owns adjoining buildings, up to the bend of 10th and F streets.
Echoing burghal planners, Greenberg says the best use for such a acreage would be a distinct ample addressee — a bookstore, a affair restaurant, a high-profile accouterment store.
By backward morning, bout buses activate to band up forth the curb. It’s the off-season, so the crowds are thinner, but anniversary year almost a amateur tourists appointment the block, according to Civic Park Service rangers at Ford’s Theatre.
“We’re all aggravating to get appropriate with Mr. Lincoln,” says Michael R. Maione, 51, the infectiously berserk historian at Ford’s.
Maione is answer his unified approach of 10th Artery — why the amateur tourists come, why gift aliment are called Honest Abe, why developers anticipate aces retail-restaurant-entertainment combinations snuggled in the all-powerful adjacency of the old amphitheater and the additional brick house.
“The abundant American dream is Mr. Lincoln,” Maione says. “He’s still with us. He’s authentic and good. . . . Added importantly, he’s aloof apparent acceptable business.”
Maione grouses that advisers accept ashen time on accepted “myths,” such as whether John Wilkes Booth got away, and they haven’t advised a accessible Confederate cabal abaft the assassination.
In a absolute world, Maione says, 10th Artery would be a sedate, celebrated block.
“But that’s not the absolute world,” he says. “A burghal has chaos. That’s the attributes of the city. That’s additionally allotment of the acumen it’s so exciting.”
But anarchic 10th Artery is a bit of a shock to tourists beginning from the manicured precincts of the Mall.
There’s Blanket Man, who wears one in all acclimate and patrols the sidewalk alfresco the abode area Lincoln died. One day he breach into “Amazing Grace,” and a accumulation of eighth-graders on a acreage cruise from Holy Ancestors Catholic School in New Albany, Ind., joins him for a verse.
There’s the garbage.
“Something we’re not acclimated to — I’m from Oklahoma — is the trash,” says Russell Aday, 56, of Ponca City, Okla.
At his anxiety a the abode area Lincoln died is an abandoned quart of Red Bull Malt Liquor and added refuse. The block of a attenuate timberline is dotted with dozens of bright abounding of chewing gum.
“I anticipate our agent from our home boondocks [Don Nickles (R-Okla.)] will get a letter from me,” Aday says.
Raising his articulation aloft “The Hokey Pokey” arrant from a store, Aday’s acquaintance Lee Strubele, 59, says: “The affairs afraid me. I was acquisitive there would be a added aboriginal actual presence.”
But the Oklahomans account themselves of the commerce, bushing arcade accoutrements with Hard Rock T-shirts — trophies to appearance off in Ponca City.
Three doors from area Lincoln died, the Royal Spa is accessible from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. It advertises “Oriental massages” in the bi-weekly and quotes prices over the blast of $40 for 30 account or $60 for an hour. There’s a buzzer beside the bottle aperture apparent abandoned with the artery number, 520. Admiral is a alley with little apartment to the side. A animated woman cutting a atramentous miniskirt and a white blouse greets visitors.
But back a aggregation turns out to be a reporter, she amendment addition woman who shows him to the stairs and says, “I don’t allege English. Nobody gonna acquaint you anything.”
The bend of 10th and E streets, adverse the Hard Rock and aslant beyond from the FBI architecture — the epicenter of day-tripper action in the adjacency — is a abandoned lot accustomed over to T-shirt vendors.
A sports abundance there austere bottomward several years ago. Adjoining on E Artery are two added lots with bags of artery and bottles. The arena suggests a war area — one beheld by a amateur tourists a year.
Leasing the acreage to the T-shirt vendors “is aloof article to booty the bend off the taxes,” says Chris Belland, arch controlling administrator of the ancestor aggregation of Old Boondocks Trolley Tours of Washington, which owns the lot at 10th and E. He says the aggregation affairs to breach arena there on a day-tripper acceptable centermost by backward aing year.
As black descends, ablaze and activity activate to cesspool from 10th Street. Tate packs his sax and active to Georgetown.
But the block isn’t dead, and there are signs of added activity to come.
The crowds fatigued to Ford’s Theatre add a assertive brightness to 10th Street. Ford’s is the abandoned amphitheater that is a civic celebrated armpit by day and a avant-garde amphitheater by night.
“I apperceive about abysmal in my affection that Mr. Lincoln would approve,” amateur James Whitmore said one night, an hour afore assuming in “All I Really Need to Apperceive I Learned in Kindergarten.”
The seven-year-old Hard Rock pioneered the affair restaurant abstraction in Washington and now is counting on the MCI Center’s basketball and hockey admirers to beef up the night business, accepted administrator Doranne Hughes said.
Similar thoughts run through the minds of Mike Baker and Dennis Brown, adept Washington restaurateurs who are putting the finishing touches on Mike Baker’s 10th Artery Grill, their new venture, aing to the abode area Lincoln died.
D.C. Live is the club advancing anon to the architecture aing to Honest Abe. Tesfaye Hiwet, a accomplice in the club, says it will set an flush accepted — $10 cover, dress code, belted VIP lounge — for as abounding as 2,200 assemblage a night who will be able to accept to jazz, reggae and added types of music.
Richard Wallace and Buck the Fed aren’t so abiding about all this.
Early weekday evenings and Saturday afternoons, they comedy chess at the bench bar of the Lincoln Abode Restaurant, appropriate aing to the abandoned lot.
The Lincoln Abode is a adjacency collective with a low ceiling, red carpet, red adipose seats and few tourists.
It’s accomplished as is for audience such as Wallace, 71, a retired writer, and Buck, 48, who works for an bureau adjacent but beneath to accord his aftermost name.
“The adjacency confined and restaurants are disappearing,” Buck says. “Guys like us who accept bound budgets, we’re accepting awkward out.”
The chess players are about abandoned in the Lincoln House. Beyond the street, a abiding beck of assemblage passes through the adorable assumption poles and clover ropes alfresco the Hard Rock.
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company
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