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The Unofficial Historian of the Ballpark District

by Nena Perry-Brown

The Unofficial Historian of the Ballpark District: Figure 1
Construction workers watch a Nationals game; photo ©JDLand. Click to enlarge.

As the District hosts the Major League Baseball All-Star game today, it is impossible to ignore the magnitude of development that has completely transformed the immediate neighborhood surrounding Nationals Park. For anyone curious about what has been taking place in the neighborhood over the years, website JDLand.com has been a thorough repository of information.

One of the most fascinating and invaluable parts of the site is the unparalleled level of photographic documentation of that transformation. JDLand founder Jacqueline Dupree, who was born on Capitol Hill, shared with UrbanTurf how the site came to be.

"I moved back to the Hill in the mid-1990s, near the Southeast Freeway, but can safely say I almost never ventured south of the freeway, since at that time it was not a very safe area," Dupree told UrbanTurf. "But in the early 2000s I started to hear about various plans for redevelopment 'down there,' and, having watched Gallery Place/Chinatown begin to change after the arrival of the then-MCI Center, I started paying attention."

The seed of paying attention bore its first fruit in January 2003 when Dupree had her husband drive her around the area to take what ended up becoming "before" pictures (although they also developed a set of previously-forgotten photos, taken in Fall 2000, later that year).

The Unofficial Historian of the Ballpark District: Figure 2
Before and After Shots of Nationals Park. ©JDLand. Click to enlarge.

"I had no grand plan--I just thought it would be cool to have them," Dupree shared. "I already had been posting at JDLand.com as my personal web site since 1996 (I was an early adopter!), so I put the first batch of photos up so that my father could see them, and I started creating some simple pages with links about the projects as I found them so that I wouldn't have to keep looking for them again."

"In about October 2003, I started the blog portion of the site, and then in September 2004 the city announced plans to build a baseball stadium at South Capitol and N, at which point my little project really took on a life of its own," she continues. 

Dupree estimates that, considering building tours, ribbon cuttings and the like, she has amassed over 90,000 pictures of the changing area in the past 15 years, leading her to build a separate app on her computer to keep track of everything and upload images to the website. And she has no plans on stopping.

"Even though I'm not blogging as intensely as I used to, the photos remain my true love, and I will keep taking those as long as things are changing."

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the-unofficial-historian-of-the-ballpark-district/14228