Heard on the Hill

Morning smiles along with coffee and pastries from Pineapple and Pearls

Some Thoughts on Home Ownership

Moving to the Hill 16 years ago changed our lives in many dramatic ways. We found ourselves part of a deeply committed community of passionate, interesting people. We also became parents and have enjoyed raising kids in this community where there are many eyes looking out for them. But perhaps our deepest, most aggravating yet rewarding result of that move was the fact that we became homeowners for the first time.

What were we thinking?

There are many days when we are pleased about the sheer dumb luck that brought us to the H Street neighborhood before anyone was talking about a streetcar. That long ago. The fact that soon a Whole Foods will be within walking distance is truly mind boggling. The financial investment we made in this house has paid off. And of course we love all of our neighbors and the larger Hill community, which has proven to be the small town I didn’t know I wanted but have come to adore.

But the practicalities of home ownership? Ugh. Seriously for the birds.

In 16 years we have had two new kitchens, two basement renovations, two washing machines, four refrigerators, five flooded basement incidents, rodents, a burst pipe, frozen pipes, busted water heater, and most recently a tanking AC system that required a top-to-bottom do-over. The never-ending cycle of upkeep and improvements has been a challenge to sanity and bank accounts. It is ultimately rewarding, though I confess that I long for the simplicity of calling a landlord when something goes wrong.

What did we do with all that free time? You know, the days before weekend meant visiting Frager’s Hardware no fewer than three times. A time when snowstorms meant sledding and snuggling and not worrying about the roof’s collapsing. Sigh.

Not being remotely useful with a hammer or drill I had the foresight to marry someone who is capable and unafraid of sawdust, knocking things down, and electrical wiring. In the early years of home ownership he did much of the renovation work himself. While that DIY ethos is a money-saving endeavor for sure, advancing age brings the wisdom to hire professionals. We have been lucky with the contractors, plumbers, electricians, and, gulp, exterminators who have helped keep this old house standing. While I am not saying I have given up on the doorman building fantasy, I enjoy being surrounded by the memories of home ownership mistakes and improvements. Our house is just so US. Almost as much as our kids and sometimes more so, because some days I have no idea where they came from.

East Side Books

I know I am not alone in mourning the loss of Trover Books. I have fond memories of a thrilling midnight release event there for the final Harry Potter book with my then seven-year-old. The store closed in 2009 after serving the Hill for 51 years. While the neighborhood still has two great used book stores, we have had to venture to the wilds of Northwest or, gasp, the suburbs to get new releases. Doom for the independent bookstore has been predicted for years due to competition from the Internet and big-box stores, and indeed many succumbed. But book lovers knew that the visceral joys of browsing the aisles of a bookstore could not be replicated by deep-pocketed competition, and it seems they were right.

Independent bookstores are back. Northwest has several, of course, and even the online behemoth-who-shall-not-be-named is opening brick and mortars because they are just that shameless.

Well, rejoice nerds, for we too will soon have a bookstore to call our own thanks to the efforts of longtime Hill resident Laurie Gillman. The shop, called East City Bookshop, will have its grand opening on the weekend of April 30, which happens to be National Independent Bookstore Day. The following day, May 1, is the annual Literary Hill Bookfest, which celebrates the many, many authors who make the Hill home.

Eager readers should be able to begin nosing around the store during a soft opening in early April. The 3,200-square-foot store will be located at 645 Pennsylvania Ave. It will carry fiction and non-fiction new books for all ages, as well as gifts and book-related items, toys, and art and craft supplies, letterpress cards, and a curated selection of prints and locally made items. There are plans for storytimes, author events, book clubs, and other ways for book lovers to find a home.

“One of the great things about a neighborhood bookstore is that it can respond to the needs and wishes of the community,” said Gillman. “In addition to selling books, there are so many things a bookstore can do to enhance your reading pleasure, extend your knowledge, and add dimension to our neighborhood.” She explained, “We want community input about what you want to read and what kind of events you enjoy. You can tell us what you think on our website, www.eastcitybookshop.com.”

Gillman has already received a lot of feedback from the community since word began to spread before the doors opened. “The neighborhood's response so far has been fantastic! People are very welcoming, supportive, and excited,” she remarked. “I'm loving hearing from future customers as I choose books for the opening inventory and place orders for really cool gifts; there's so much great stuff out there. I love sharing the excitement!” she said.

Why call it East City Bookshop? Gillman said that she wants to serve the eastern side of the city, where there are no general interest bookstores. “I want to focus on the fact that lots of us live in the eastern part of the city, we read books, and we’re interested in a variety of topics. Capitol Hill is just one of the city’s lively, vital eastern neighborhoods, and I hope East City Bookshop’s proximity to many other neighborhoods in Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest will spread the literary love.”

You can also keep up with East City Bookshop on its Facebook page, which has pictures of the work in progress. Happy reading!

What Else Is New?

Mr. Henry’s, the beloved restaurant/home away from home, has recently renovated the downstairs dining area. Longtime customers will not be disappointed since the space retains the same cozy, homey atmosphere, just slightly more contemporary. The space had not had a good facelift since the 60s so it was probably time. During the renovation the upstairs continued to host a full roster of music including jazz and bluegrass. The downstairs menu remains its glorious burger/nachos self, while the upstairs features items like risotto and steak.

More Coffee on Barracks Row

Pineapple and Pearls, the little sister to Rose’s Luxury, has opened the coffee and sandwich part of the space. Currently offering three sandwiches, sweet rolls and coffee in sleek, downright fancy packaging. The sandwiches will have to suffice since the fine dining, reservations-taking part of the restaurant is still months away.

High-Flying Fun

The Washington outpost of The Trapeze School of New York has reopened in a new location in the Navy Yard at 1299 New Jersey Ave. SE. Larger than the original location near Yards Park, the school is offering an expanded array of classes in trapeze, aerial arts, and conditioning. Grand opening events are planned for later this spring, so stay tuned to their social media for updates.


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