The images below show aerial views of the park site and its surroundings at different points in its recent history. The orientation is the same for all the photos: Up is North, Left is West, etc. The V Street alley runs horizontally across the top, U Street alley runs horizontally across the bottom, First Street alley runs vertically along the left side, and North Capital Street alley runs vertically along the right side.
Even with the somewhat pixelated resolution, it is possible to make out the large black square roof of the CAMPA building that used to stand at the west end of the park. The building had been closed for 5 years at this point after fire struck in 1990, and was now serving as a place of shelter for homeless people. Drug activity and prostitution were commonplace in the building and across the whole site at this time. Most of the site is asphalt or concrete. The rectangles visible are illegally parked cars and trucks. This satellite image was likely taken before the police raided and cleared the site that same year. Later in 1995, the Embassy of Australia’s “Clean Up the World” event cleaned up the site, sealed the building, and even brought new trees.
Four years later, the extraordinary and sustained efforts of a handful of neighbors show a site cleared of abandoned vehicles and other debris. Strong backs and green thumbs brought large new sections of green to the site, including many new trees and shrubs. The earlier fire damage to the roof of the CAMPA building is more clearly visible in this photo.
The CAMPA building was demolished in 2001. A few months later, CADC received a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to fill the hole where the building used to be, cover the concrete pad on the western side of the property, and begin planting trees and garden plots. Meanwhile the trees and plants in the rest of the park continued to grow. Still, less than half of the property is green space.
Re-establishment of CADC’s formal legal control of the park site in February of 2004 ushered in a period of sustained physical improvements to the park. Though not readily apparent in this photo, the park now sported ten new trees in its western end, and terracing was also added in the northwest quadrant to reduce soil erosion. These improvements were made possible through funds raised at the first annual Crispus Attucks Park Community Yard Sale in May 2004. Notice also that a grass lawn had taken root at the west end, and grass even covered what had been an asphalt drive at the northeast corner.
Changes in 2005 and 2006 were dramatic. In the lower right quadrant of the photo is the “Memory Garden,” made possible by a generous grant from TKF, a foundation that promotes the creation of “Sacred Places” where people can connect with nature. Half of the adjacent concrete pad was removed and replaced with lawn, as were the last remnants of asphalt at the northeast corner. Two equally dramatic changes are less apparent from this photo: (1) the addition of more than 50 new trees and shrubs donated by Casey Trees Foundation, and (2) the removal of the dilapidated chain link fence that surrounded the park, and concurrent installation of an attractive wooden retaining border. Volunteers provided 100% of the back-breaking labor for these last two projects.
2007 brought more big changes. A large grant from the Neighborhood Investment Fund allowed CADC to reestablish water service to the park, install an automatic irrigation system throughout the entire site, level and seed the “great lawn” in the center of the park, and install new paths at the west end. (The location of the water lines is visible from the tilled soil in the eastern two-thirds of the photo). Notice the growing size of the established trees.
By 2010 it’s hard to believe this is the same site that once held an abandoned building. Trees and plants had continued to mature and grow, in the Memory Garden and throughout the park. Note also the new curved “living fence” defining the eastern end of the Great Lawn.
The transformation from telephone switching yard to park is now complete, with the removal of the last concrete pad, in the northeast corner of the park, in 2011. Faintly visible is the “Great Walk,” a path of stone steps traversing the park from east to west. CADC’s primary task is now maintenance and upkeep of the thriving green space.