Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The spookiest places in Columbia Heights, part 1: abandoned Hebrew Home on Spring Road

It's almost Halloween, which usually means scary stuff -- haunted houses, ghosts, and the like. However, with the lack of decorations around this year, I was thinking of other avenues for scary stuff: what are the spookiest, eeriest places in the neighborhood? Old, abandoned buildings, creepy outdoor spaces and the like. So this is the first in a series of posts leading up to Halloween of what I think are those spots: the old abandoned Hebrew Home at 1125 Spring Road NW.

The Hebrew Home building takes up almost the whole block on a quiet stretch of Spring Road. It was opened in 1925 as a home for elderly Jewish people. There was an addition added in 1953, but soon that was overcrowded and the home moved to Maryland, where it still operates.

The Spring Road building was sold to the city in 1968. It seems to have been used for homeless housing various classes after that, and apparently was a mental health center as well. At some point around 2008, the entire building was abandoned. (The Park View DC blog has a bit more.)

There aren't any signs left, just a blank one in front, but there are still some faded stars of David on the facade and some ghostly, scratched out Hebrew lettering on the building as well.

And the inside is weird: a City Paper photographer went inside and took photos of what he saw -- some remnants of classes, religious material, newspapers from 1999, snack machines and furniture strewn about, confusing graffiti. It looks like the city, or whoever was working in the building, just picked up and left one day; things are strewn about like they had just finished some classes and activities. The inside actually looks to be in decent condition, but I think it would be pretty creepy with the lights off.

Something else odd is that that the lights are still kept on sometimes, and I've thought I've occasionally heard air conditioning too when passing by -- maybe that's just the city making sure it doesn't deteriorate. But that means that if you walk by at night, there's this huge, deathly quiet old building just sitting there with dull light shining out of a few windows.

Nothing has been done since it was abandoned, and about a year ago I emailed Councilmember Muriel Bowser about it, as it's in her ward. She said the city was considering uses for it, including workforce housing, and one of her staffers elaborated:
The District owns the building and although it has always had great potential given its character and location, the capital markets were such that private development wasn’t a great option. It seems like a good time now for the District to focus its energies on developing an RFP that will serve the community and use the building to its highest use. As far as I know there are no specific plans for the building—either how it will be used or what form of property interest will be conveyed—but we are encouraged that occupancy is on the horizon.
Hmm. Old abandoned building, mental health center, elderly residents, items strewn about like everyone just all decided to leave one day. That's a pretty good recipe for Halloween spookiness.

Photos from the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington and Google Maps.


  1. Thanks for the write up and the links! I pass by that building during my daily dog walks.

    Back in the early to mid 2000s, the ANC4C used to meet there as well as the Petworth Action Committee. And then one day, the building was no longer utilized.

    We often wonder why the lights remain on if it's abandoned.

  2. I used to live nearby and often wondered about this building. I had a clear view of it from my roof deck a couple of blocks away.
    On sunny days in 2011 and 2012, I would occasionally see the french doors on its top floor flung wide open, though I never did see any people on its terrace. Seems a shame for such a lovely building to sit empty; I hope the district will put it to good use.


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