Connecticut Avenue Business District

The neighborhood’s major commercial road is Connecticut Avenue NW, which, in addition to commercial establishments, is home to apartments, a regional branch of the D.C. Public Library, and the Chevy Chase Community Center. Unlike many urban neighborhoods that have lost local businesses to large chains and suburban malls, the small, generally locally owned businesses along Connecticut Avenue remain, and are well patronized by the local population. These businesses include Magruder’s Supermarket, established in 1875, and the Avalon Theatre, which opened in 1923 as a silent film house and ran until the theater underwent renovations in 2003. In addition to historical commercial buildings the area has multiple parks including Rock Creek Park, Lafayette Park and Livingston Park.

Contact: Commissioner Chang whose Single Member District #5 covers the East Side of Connecticut Avenue, NW between Legation and Chevy Chase Circle, or Commissioner Gosselin whose Single Member District #6 covers the West Side of Connecticut Avenue, NW between Legation and Chevy Chase Circle.

American City Diner

Commissioner Gosselin with the approval of the Commission sent a letter to DCRA dated February 15, 2022 regarding the legality of the advertisement on the American City Diner’s billboard and to request an inspection of the property to determine if it should be deemed a “blighted property” and no longer exempt from tax penalties. 

On March 22, 2022, Commissioner Gosselin posted on Chevy Chase Chatter the following:

WHAT TO DO WITH THE PANELS ON THE MORRISON STREET SIDE OF AMERICAN CITY DINER?
 
In mid-February at my request, ANC 3/4G asked the city’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) to inspect the American City Diner as blighted and to review the use of the billboard above it to advertise the property and billboard itself for lease. The owning Hinton family and the leasing agent immediately removed the advertising, uncovering the “There’s No Way Like the American Way” banner underneath. This morning, a crew arrived to start making at least interim improvements to the property. In conversations with the crew, constituents learned that the plan was to paint over the portraits that line the parking lot facing Morrison Street. They emailed me to say that they thought this would be a loss to the community. My friend and constituent, Arthur Allen, and I have hatched a plan that the owners have graciously agreed to. We want to know what other residents think.
 
The crew is going to take down all of the panels in the next few days and temporarily stack them at the site. Arthur and I believe that, at minimum, we ought to save the nurse portrait at the end of the row near the exit from the Child’s Play parking lot. According to Arthur, the backstory to it is this:
“The nurse portrait that Reggie Holliday painted above the diner parking lot occupies a small but not insignificant spot in the recent history of patient activism in America. Reggie painted it as her husband was dying of kidney cancer in 2009. After his death, as Congress was debating the Affordable Care Act, she created a large mural depicting her late husband’s journey through a needlessly complex health care system. Later, Reggie expanded her patient advocacy with a set of more than 150 paintings on the back of jackets, which she called The Walking Gallery. Many health care leaders commissioned their own jackets, among them Karen Dasilva, a senior HHS official in the Obama Administration.”
 
Our question for the community is: What do you want to do with the rest of the panels? Should they be saved to be re-erected elsewhere at some point? If most people say “yes,” there’s a catch; we need to farm them out to residents to store. If most people say “no,” Arthur and I will shoulder the cost of getting them over to the Benning Road transfer station. One way or the other, we need to have all of the panels off the diner site by Friday evening.
 
Let us know what you think by posting here or emailing me at: peter.gosselin@anc.dc.gov
 
Peter Gosselin
Commissioner — District 6 (west side of Connecticut between Western, the Circle & Military, east side of Connecticut to Chevy Chase Parkway between Kanawha & Legation)
ANC 3/4G

On March 23, 2022, Commissioner Gosselin informed the Commission that the American City Diner panels along the Morrison Street parking lot have been taken down. His constituent and friend, Art Allen, talked with Reggie Holliday, who painted them. All she would like saved are the three panels with the nurse’s image. Commissioner Gosselin and Mr. Allen got those out of the pile and moved them to Mr. Allen’s house. 

There apparently is a law, the Visual Artists Rights Act, that gives artists some say in what comes of their works in public spaces. Commissioner Gosselin will be speaking with a lawyer who knows the law well.

A photo of where the remaining panel portraits are located outside of the American City Diner can be found here and a photo of the wall after the portrait panels have been removed can be found here.