Before the Bulldozers: Historic Southwest D.C. Exposed

Video file

Sound: Footsteps, then music, drum beats, full of wonder, some nostalgia. Camera clicks throughout.


T​his was 4th street, and all of these photos were taken by one man:  Joseph Owen Curtis. But how that world disappeared, who made it disappear…It wasn’t just father time.  It was something else.

Sound: ​Music begins to race and build.

CHLOETHIEL: Urban Renewal has taken a low income area and definitely upgraded it.


It’s all about to go.

EGGIE CUT: We all ‘bout to go.

IMANI: The great majority of 23,000 mostly Black residents that were displaced in the 1950s redevelopment never returned. But thanks to Joseph Owen Curtis, they can never be erased.

Sound: Camera clicks.

IMANI: This is Before the Bulldozers: Historic Southwest DC Exposed.

Sound: Music builds to a crescendo, then ends.


The experience is unlocked through a mobile app for iPhone and Android. It can be downloaded by searching "Before the Bulldozers" on iPhone and Android devices. 

An audio guide will lead you step-by-step through the neighborhood, while the world around you becomes the visual for the story. You’ll be able to contrast the current-day urban environment with historic images overlaid on the same location through augmented reality. You’ll hear re-imagined voices of the past, becoming immersed in the 1950s when the neighborhood was undergoing its massive transition. Old photographs, empty courtyards, and modern high rises will become symbols as you grapple with how things came to be.

System Requirements

iPhone:  Works on any iPhone device, iPhone 6 and earlier will not have AR capabilities. 
iPad and iPod:  Works on all models
Android:  Works on all models

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