Enclave typically connotes an area that uses spatial strategies, both architectural and planning, to isolate it from the surrounding areas. It is frequently used to describe ethnic enclaves or gated communities. However, enclave is also used to describe areas that a made to be isolated. This isolation goes hand-in-hand with the idea of advanced marginality. That is, while low-income people have made absolute gains in wealth and consumption possibilities, they remain afflicted by a poverty of socio-spatial connections. This makes it difficult to convert economic capital into social or cultural capital.
Kenilworth has always been on the edge of Washington, DC. It transitioned from farming area to white middle-class suburban community. Also, thanks to Walter Shaw and Helen Fowler in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the area became home to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, which would later become a National Park. By the 1950s, White Flight combined with transplants from nearby, historically-black Deanwood and those displaced from redeveloping Southwest into Kenilworth Courts, a public housing unit, to remake the neighborhood. By the mid-1950s most white families had left for good.
Today, Kenilworth is one of the most isolated neighborhoods in Washington, DC. Part of this is geographical. To the west, the neighborhood is bounded by the Anacostia River, to the north, an impassable border with Maryland. South of Kenilworth is a branch of the river and another purely residential community: Paradise-Parkside. However, the formation of Kenilworth’s enclave is not merely geographical serendipity. Rather, in 1954 Kenilworth Avenue was built into a multi-lane highway, 295, bounding Kenilworth to the east. At the same time, trolley lines disappeared replaced by buses. It is unclear to what extent this was a lack of intentionally by planners and to what extent it was the deliberate creation of an enclave as the neighborhood’s demographics changed rapidly.
Imposed enclaves are not only characterized by spatial isolation, but also by a poverty of connections and services. Kenilworth today has no businesses and no retail. Its recreation center was torn down in the early-2000s when it was found to have been built on a World War II munitions dump. It has an elementary school; however, that school is slated to close. Kenilworth was not always this way. Beginning in the early 20th century and continuing until 1968, Kenilworth Avenue was the location of several businesses, restaurants, shops, and even a Safeway. However, with the damage following the riots, these businesses left and never returned.
The image below is a poignant one. It shows the partially built footbridge over the highway; a cruel reminder of the paucity of options in or out of Kenilworth. This bridge is in juxtaposition with the Safeway, recently damaged in the riots of 1968. It would never re-open. The two events evoked by these juxtaposed images were foundational ones for the formation and production of an isolated enclave in Kenilworth.
Graham, Stephen, and Simon Marvin. Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition. London: Routledge, 2001. Print.