The colors are as vibrant as the history when it comes to NoMa’s new pole banners. As of last month, 158 new banners flying high above the heads of busy pedestrians were educating people about NoMa’s history. The banners consist of eight historic photographs saturated by a dynamic CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and key, or black) color scheme to catch the eye and build the NoMa brand look.
Each color runs for several block lengths at various points around along major roadways: North Capitol Street, First Street, the nexus of New York and Florida avenues, Massachusetts Avenue, and K, L, M and N streets NE.
The NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) provides the history.
Cyan: Swampoodle Grounds, the Beatles
This baseball field was located where Union Station and the National Postal Museum now sit and served as home for the city’s National League team from 1886 to 1889. The working-class Irish neighborhood around it, known as Swampoodle, vanished with the construction of Union Station, which opened in 1907.
On February 11, 1964, a few days after appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Beatles performed their first public concert in North America at Washington Coliseum, aka Uline Arena. It was the largest venue (8,000+) the Fab Four had played to that point. The photograph used is an Associated Press image from the concert.
Magenta: Scarlet Oak Leaves
The scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea) is native to the central and eastern US and is the official tree of the District of Columbia. Two layouts of the tree’s distinctive leaves and complex veining are used.
Yellow: Women at the GPO
Women worked at the Government Printing Office (GPO), established in 1861, from its earliest days, usually at a lower pay scale than men and in roles that required tedious and repetitive work, such as feeding paper into printers or stitching bound copies. Two photographs are used, both circa 1912.
Key/Black: Lewis Henry Douglass, Earl Lloyd
In 1869, Lewis Henry Douglass (1840-1908), the eldest son of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and a sergeant-major during the Civil War, became the first black typesetter at the GPO. He also served as assistant marshal of the District of Columbia.
Earl Lloyd was the first black man to play in an NBA game, on October 31, 1950. A native of Alexandria, Va., Lloyd (1928-2015) played for the Washington Capitals, which called Washington Coliseum home court. Lloyd would go on to a distinguished sports career and was voted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2003.
The Reason Why
“The BID puts up street pole banners to let people know they are in NoMa, and also to tell a story,” says BID president Robin-Eve Jasper. “Our last set, hung in 2012 and 2014, featured graphics pointing out great things about the growing neighborhood, such as bike lanes, transit options and beautiful landscaping where there were once empty lots. With this banner refresh, we are looking back across 150 years and highlighting things that people might not know about the area. It’s an opportunity to reveal some of NoMa’s rich history and also have a little fun.”
Another Baked Joint
When Baked and Wired opened in Georgetown, 18 years ago, the Velasquez family had no idea they were beginning a “baked” empire. Last month, the family opened their third location, second in Mount Vernon Triangle at 420 K St. NW, called La Betty, their first pure restaurant concept.
“In our family, dinner was everything. We would always sit down together no matter what was going on,” explains daughter Tessa. Even with operating two coffee/bakery locations in Georgetown and Mount Vernon Triangle, the focus has always remained the same: delicious bread. They found their first MVT space, A Baked Joint, while they were looking for more space to be able to provide top-quality bread to the local community. “When we would sit down for family dinner years ago, we realized there were no real places to get high-quality, fresh-baked bread. So that became our focus.”
After the success of A Baked Joint, MVT stakeholders including the building’s developers, Wilkes Group, asked Tessa and the Velasquez family to open a more typical-style restaurant while keeping the same values of homey, quality food. Thus, La Betty was born.
The style of the restaurant is flashier than the food or the prices inside. “We want to provide people with an option to go to a restaurant and not spend a fortune, and eat like they would at home,” explains Tessa. “You can eat in a beautiful space on a budget. Simple and yummy.”
La Betty is open for dinner Wednesday through Monday, from 5 to 10 p.m. It is closed on Tuesdays.
Taylor Barden Golden is a real estate agent with the Stokes Group at McEnearney Associates Inc. A former Hill staffer, Taylor lives in Brentwood with her husband, two dogs and a cat. She’s always on the lookout for new places to explore and ways to spend time outside. Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org; @rtaylorb.