September 16, 2015

Photos: D.C.’s Lost Murals

By Avery Kleinman

Many of Washington D.C.’s most impressive large-scale, colorful works celebrating the city’s diversity, culture and history are now gone. They were torn down (or in the process of being torn down) to make way for new construction and development. In their place? Apartment buildings that look similar to structures you might find in any city in the world.

Before we explore the city’s historic murals today on The Kojo Nnamdi Show, and look into how disappearing street art reflects the city’s changing demographics, here is a collection of six local murals that have been lost to development.

Photo courtesy of Aniekan Udofia

Marvin Gaye Mural. Photo courtesy of Aniekan Udofia

Marvin Gaye Mural in Shaw

“Marvin” was painted in 2013 by Aniekan Udofia to honor Marvin Gaye, one of D.C.’s best-known residents, at the corner of 7th and S Streets NW. It was taken down for new construction a year later, but Udofia painted a similar tribute to the musician across the street.

Photo Courtesy of

Three Macaws Mural. Photo courtesy of murallocator.org.

Three Macaws Mural in Adams Morgan

“Three Macaws” was painted by Byron Peck in 1994 with the help of nine local middle school students. The Mayan theme is a tribute to the city’s Central American community and was painted following 1991 riots that erupted in the area after a police officer shot a Salvadoran man.  It was located at 1718 Columbia Rd. NW before being demolished last year to make way for a new condominium building.

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Columbia Heights Community Mural. Photo courtesy of DC Murals.

Columbia Heights Community Mural in Columbia Heights

This mural was painted on the side of the La Casa Homeless Shelter in 2001 by Marela Zacarias. It was taken down in 2011 to make way for the Highland Park apartment building, located next to the Columbia Heights metro station.

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Duke Ellington Mural. Photo courtesy of DC Murals.

Duke Ellington Mural in U Street Corridor

“Duke Ellington” was originally painted by Byron Peck and nine local students in 1997 at 12th and U Streets NW, in the neighborhood where the jazz artist grew up. It was later repainted on large removable panels on the True Reformer Building at 1200 U Street NW. It was taken down for repairs, but since it was painted on removable panels, the work remains intact and will be reinstalled soon.

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The Family Reunion Mural before (above) and after (below). Photo by Caitlin Carroll.

Black Family Reunion Mural in U Street Corridor

“Black Family Reunion” was painted by Byron Peck in 1994 on the corner of 14th Street and Florida Avenue NW to celebrate the diversity of the U Street Corridor. It was covered up by an apartment building built immediately adjacent to it in 2012.

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The Frederick Douglass Mural before (left) and after (right). Photos courtesy of DC Murals.

Frederick Douglass Mural in Mt. Vernon Square

Frederick Douglass, a portrait of the famous abolitionist who lived in D.C., was painted in 1995 with the help of 14 local students. It was covered up in 2012 by new construction.

And…

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Chuck Brown Mural. Photo courtesy of DC Murals.

Chuck Brown Mural in Petworth

“Chuck Brown,” a portrait of the “godfather of go-go” who called D.C. home, is on the building that housed the recently-closed Caribbean restaurant Sweet Mango Café.  It was created by local teacher Charles Jean-Pierre and his students. The building has been purchased by developers, who plan to knock it down and build an apartment complex. Go visit while you still can at the entrance to the Georgia Ave/Petworth metro station, 3701 New Hampshire Avenue, NW.

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