One shiny Saturday afternoon in Adams Morgan we walked along the 18th street, observing the well-known diversity of this historic neighborhood. We wanted to discover its mythical uniqueness.
We started our tour at the crossing of 18th Street and Florida Avenue. The multiculturalism of the area is manifested in the name of Adams Morgan itself: Adams School was a school frequented by Caucasians and Morgan School was attended mostly by African-Americans. The inhabitants chose to call their surroundings “Adams Morgan” in the 1950´s in order to combine all the people´s roots of the place. In the 1990´s many artists, students and young professionals moved into the residences between 18th and Columbia Road, thus popularizing the area.
The sidewalks are accompanied by colorful and exotic shops, restaurants and houses which are harmoniously interlinked in a joyful melting pot. Ethiopian restaurants meet Mexican bars, and Tibetan shops are close to jazz clubs. We heard Spanish words, we read French restaurants´ names and we listened to Arabic songs. Additionally, this area has become the main headquarters for hipsters. The most popular shops they attend are second-hand-shops where rare pearls can be purchased next to vinyl discs.
A good way to feel the presence of the artists is to attend the District of Columbia Arts Center. There a narrow, well hidden staircase leads up to the little exhibition hall of Art. In the corner of the room, a man administered bills and documents while sitting comfortably in a big cozy chair. This man was Jay Bowman, the 40-year-old house manager, and helped us investigate the early beginnings of this center. He warmheartedly told us: “The Arts Center was founded by Herbert William White, a lawyer, and it is a non-profit organization where you can hang up anything you want to. Furthermore, the artists can charge prizes from 25 to 300 dollars, but most works are donated. I occasionally bought some masterpieces myself“. Beside the exhibition, you can attend several concerts and theater plays which are performed in the backyard of the DCAC.
After a walk into the sunny afternoon, we stopped by the beautiful antique bakery named The Cakeroom to experience a virtual excursion into the realm of sweetness. This cuddly place almost seduces you to make yourself at home. While waiting in line, we used the opportunity to observe the fascinating decoration. Especially the candelabra beautified and ennobled the lounge, whereby the walls were laced with framed newspaper articles and spiral patterns of rosy boughs. All furniture had a floral design and the shelves exhibited multicolored cookbooks and fine cutlery. Having arrived at the pay desk, the variety of cupcakes and pies with different fruit toppings made a reasonable decision difficult. So we asked the waiter which cakes he recommended and afterwards, sitting at the tables, we shared our personal memories evoked by the architecture. They extended from occidental to oriental compositions. The tall and large living room with a gallery and a balcony inside of the residence, all combined in one single, isolated space reminded us of an Afghan construction, and simultaneously of Notting Hill in England with its tea time.
This experience emphasized the legacy of the multicultural society, which made it a hometown for a plurality of ethnical groups from all over the world until today. It furthermore demonstrated the successful combination of once suppressive, dominant, colonial powers like Great Britain and once suppressed minority immigrants like the Irish and Latinos.
Also by Meriem Bouthiba and Laetitia Vidor