As rain falls, walls rise in D.C.’s Ivy City -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

As rain falls, walls rise in D.C.’s Ivy City


U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan (left) joins the volunteers on a cold, rainy day of work on a new house in Washington, D.C.’s Ivy City neighborhood.

© Habitat for Humanity International/Steffan Hacker

By Teresa K. Weaver and Lara Moore

In Washington, D.C.’s Ivy City neighborhood, a persistent, bone-chilling rain failed to derail the first full day of the Carter Work Project. Quickly, concrete slabs were transformed into fully framed duplexes, and ceremonial wall-raisings gave way to the real deal, as walls were lifted, leveled and nailed into place.

Across Providence Street, a full-gut rehab was transforming a two-story red-brick duplex into a clean slate. Down at the corner of Providence and Capitol Avenue, and two blocks away on Corcoran Street, interior demolition began in earnest on two old houses, with sledgehammers replacing hammers for the first phase of work.

President and Mrs. Carter led an enthusiastic corps of drenched volunteers, which included a U.S. Cabinet secretary, a university president, a hockey champion and a brand-new “desperate housewife.”

Tearing down the house

One group of volunteers, accustomed to new construction and hammers, did not need much time to become just as adept with deconstruction and crowbars.

On Monday, they quickly began ripping out cabinets and sinks from the kitchen, yanking old carpet from the floors, and removing a claw-foot bathtub from the narrow bathroom upstairs.

Removing all household items that may have been contaminated by lead from the interior paint was the day’s objective. After everything is gone, the volunteers will remove the drywall, eliminating the health hazard.

“This is a little different,” said 67-year-old volunteer Tom Gipson, a North Carolina homebuilder and longtime Habitat volunteer who traveled with his wife, Pat, 62, to volunteer for the day. “It’s a new deal but a good deal.”

Lorrie Beck, a seasoned Women Build volunteer from Wichita, Kansas, agreed that although deconstruction is new territory, the venture is just as fulfilling as new construction. Beck, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho, Africa, has volunteered at several Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Projects overseas.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re halfway around the world, in Thailand, or in your own backyard in D.C., everyone needs basic comforts,” said Beck, who works at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The world would be so much worse without Habitat.”

Strength in numbers

The 25 house leaders and assistant leaders who will oversee all demolition, construction and rehabs in D.C.’s Ivy City neighborhood this week represent 400 years’ worth of Carter Work Project experience, according to the calculations of Kent Adcock, president of Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C. Several of the house leaders have volunteered at more than 20 Carter projects over the past 27 years.

Teresa K. Weaver and Lara Moore are writer/editors for Habitat for Humanity International.