11 Jun 2018

History:

Lost Capitol Hill: Outlaw Way

While reading the D.C. Register live-tweeting as done by Helder Gil every Saturday, I came across the intriguing information that a part of 10th Street NE was to be renamed ‘Outlaw Way.’ Since outlaws have, frankly, never been much of the fabric of Capitol Hill life, this required immediate research.

As it turned out, no person living outside the law is involved in this. Rather, it was some someone with the wonderful name of Pocahontas Outlaw (pictured) who is lending her name to this street. Mrs. Outlaw, born Pocahontas Swinton in 1932, moved to Washington when she was four years old. She married William Outlaw. Together and separately, they went out of their way to make their neighborhood a better place.

The Outlaws ran a restaurant on U Street named the Outlaw Kitchen after he retired from the military. A 1991 article in the Washington Post describes their apple cobbler’s “intense sweetness and gooeyness cut by the flaky pastry on top.” Sadly, the Outlaws had to close the restaurant in 2000 after Mr. Outlaw suffered a stroke. He would continue to help out in the neighborhood, becoming the place where all people in the area could have their packages delivered to avoid them being stolen from their stoops. In 2007, a Washington Post article on his endeavors described how his house would, at some times of the year, be so stuffed with boxes that the living room would be impassable.

A detail of a 1919 Baist atlas showing the 200 block of 10th Street NE. It is the rightmost of the streets shown. (LOC)

Meanwhile, Mrs. Outlaw supported her community in a wide variety of ways, from her work at the local polling place to her volunteer work for ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) It was for this long-time commitment to helping in her neighborhood that her neighbors requested – four years after her death – that the block of 10th Street NE on which she lived be given the ceremonial designation of ‘Outlaw Way.’

The bill, B22-0746, more properly the “Outlaw Way Designation Act of 2018” was introduced by Charles Allen on March 15, and is now waiting for its public hearing on July 9. Given the strong support for those who knew both Outlaws, there is no reason to believe that there will be anything but full-throated support, and that the additional signs with this designation will be added at the north and south ends of the 200 block of 10th Street NE in the near future.

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