Monday, October 19, 2009

Ruth Abbott - Widow of Sammie Abbott -- Dies

Was married to Sammie Abbott- artist and 1930s labor organizer who later became Mayor of Takoma Park after serving as perhaps the central figure of the local grass roots activism against the 1960s era freeway planning

Ruth Abbott
at the Franklin Street area overlook of the Metropolitan Branch RR
looking towards the U.S. Capitol Building
on un-built D.C. I-95 tour, 1997
(I-95 was not planned to run along this western side of the RR- which to the north runs directly alongside Catholic University of America,
instead being routed through residences to its east)

Ruth G. Abbott

ABBOTT RUTH GRACE ABBOTT Of Takoma Park, MD died October 14, 2009 at age 89. She was married to Mayor Sam Abbott, with whom she had three children: physician Abraham Abbott (wife Sonata); artist Susan Abbott Arisman (husband James); and writer Nancy Abbott Young. She is also survived by grandchildren: Jim Abbott, wife Alyson, daughter Ashley; Roxanna Abbott Lewis, husband Eric, son Maxwell; Nathaniel Vaughan; and Colin Arisman. Services will be held by the family. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in Ruth''s memory to the Public Citizen Health Research Group, c/o Dr. Sydney Wolfe, 1600 20th St., N.W., DC 20009.

Ruth Abbott at the I-95 stub
(since paved over with parking)
on un-built D.C. I-95 tour, 1997

Ruth Abbott at Barney Circle Underpass
on local highway tour 1997

SE Freeway Truncation

Glen Harper,
who favors building the ICC highway via environmentally advanced road design,
with Ruth Abbott 1998
on Glen Harper's ICC Tour

Sammie Abbott poster, November 1964

Sammie Abbott art

Looking down Cedar towards
the junction with Birch

The Abbotts were spurred to oppose the North Central Freeway - the north-south route for I-95 and I-70S in northern Washington, D.C. with the public unveiling of 'Route #11' - "Railroad-Sligo East" with its destructive and out of the way route deviation through some of the oldest areas of historic Takoma Park, Maryland,
inexplicitly disregarding the John F Kennedy Administration November 1962 proposal for a North Central Freeway strictly hugging the existing B&O [Metropolitan Branch] RR

According to Ruth, the woman who lived in that house, depicted to the right in his rendering, in 1964 had refused to sign their petition against the North Central Freeway

In 1964 the Abbotts lived on Birch,
at the very spot marked in the above 1964 report illustration with the number "320".

Afterwards, they resided on Holly
at the spot where the 1964 plan placed the northbound on and off ramps

1964 Option #11 I-70S segment leaves RR in Silver Spring

1964 Option #11 I-70S segment cuts through Takoma Park,
on longer route
through 471 houses, including the Abbott's

1964 Option #11 I-70S segment at New Hampshire Avenue

Under this 1964 plan, the North Central Freeway intercepted an I-95 Northeastern Freeway at Fort Totten
that was routed in D.C via the Fort Drive Route -- Fort Circle Park -- between Gallatin and Galloway Streets, and in Maryland via North West Branch Park

Further south, the 1964 plan's I-95 segment ran fully east of the RR's parallel industrial belt, displacing over 200 dwellings
in the Turkey Thicket neighborhood
between Taylor Street and Michigan Avenue NE,
69 south of Monroe Street and west of 10th Streets NE, plus
the historic 1837 vintage Brooks Mansion

1963-1964 Study
37 route options

JFK 1962 Plan-
freeways and rail transit

This plan proposed that the North Central Freeway tightly hug the existing railroad to reduce its local impacts, yet was entirely disregarded -- without explanation -- by the 1963-64 North Central Freeway study with its 37 routes all over the NE map inflaming local opposition. It was not until late 1966 that a supplementary report was released that followed the 1962 plan.

1966 Supplementary Study
B&O Route North Central Freeway
(officials waffled on this, refusing to commit
to this far less impactive 1966 plan

while continuing consideration of the 1964 plan
as late as 1968!)

1966 B&O North Central Freeway I-70S segment in Silver Spring, Maryland
with cut and cover tunnels alongside Montgomery Community College

1966 B&O Route North Central Freeway
I-70S segment
3 lanes hugging each side of the RR

1966 B&O Route North Central Freeway
I-70S segment
at New Hampshire Avenue

1966 B&O Route North Central Freeway,
retains I-95 interception at Fort Totten (with added jog of route westwards further into Fort Totten Park), with Fort Drive-Northwest Branch Park Route
for I-95 connection to the stubs at the Capital Beltway

1966- Proposed 'air rights' cover,
I-95 segment
alongside Catholic University of America-
disappears from subsequent 1971 version;

1966 B&O Route North Central Freeway instead employs industrial zone along RR's east side,
entirely sparing Turkey Thickett and Brooks Mansion, limiting local residential displacement to the 69 south of Monroe and west of 10th Street. By 1970, the plan is further refined (either by running even closer to the RR or via substituting a sloped embankment with a vertical retaining wall) to reduce this number from 69 to 34, with the 1971 proposal showing this highway in a cut and cover tunnel from a few hundred feet north of Michigan Avenue, to just south of Rhode Island Avenue, with replacement housing atop.

The proposed I-266 'Three Sisters Bridge'
pointing at Georgetown University

Notably, it was this area of Brookland near Catholic University of America -- the 69 houses reduced to 34 by the 1970 revision, along with the Three Sisters Bridge next to Georgetown University -- that apparently received the ECTC's greatest protest activity during the late 196s-early 1970s, as opposed to the 600+ targeted by un-built D.C. I-95's southernmost segment -- the North Leg East that would connect to the existing Center Leg (3rd Street Tunnel) at New York Avenue and 4th Street.

1971 B&O Route North Central Freeway,
I-95 segment
Washington, D.C. Brookland - CUA area

1971- retains the I-95 Northeastern Freeway Fort Drive-Northwest Park route

1971- alternative of I-95 Northeastern Freeway via New Hampshire Avenue-PEPCO Route- see 1973 Maryland report
connecting through the field of the Order of the Eastern Star home

'The Freeway Fighter's Primer' ECTC June 1971

'An Open Letter to Every Member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives'
Reginald H. Booker, ECTC, June 23, 1968

1970 ECTC poster-
shows 1966-71 North Central Freeway with the 1955- version of the Inner Loop
with the cross-town I-66 North Leg via an open trench along Florida Avenue and U Street NW eastwards to New Jersey Avenue past which it transitions as a raised berm. Though dated 1970, the poster does NOT show the I-66 K Street Tunnel alternative proposed by U.S. National Capital Planning Commission's Elizabeth Rowe in 1965, and then already the official preference of Federal and D.C. officials -- with the D.C.Department of Public Works being the holdout -- and included as an east-west alternative to the SE/SW Freeway, even after the deletion of the north-south North Central/Northeast Freeway

anti-freeway ECTC poster (excerpt)
dated January 1970,
with Sammie Abbott as publicity director
and, as one of its Chairmen- Marion Barry,
who later became D.C. Mayor, and
in 1996 advanced the 1st official proposal since the 1970s
extending I-395 via a new tunnel design

Ruth attended the 1998 D.C. Historical Society panel Freeways in Washington- see a review.

1998 D.C. Historical Society panel Freeways in Washington
Keith Melder, (author "City of Magnificent Intentions"), moderator, with
Angela Rooney, Douglas Willinger and Jeremy Korr

Angela Rooney, Douglas Willinger, and Jeremy Korr

audience with Ruth Abbott (center)

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