Designed as a luxurious apartment home with a café, spacious parlors, dining rooms, and retail space on the ground floor, the Kenesaw initially housed members of Congress and wealthy Washingtonians in the early 20th century. By the 1960s, a combination of white flight and natural dilapidation resulted in a severely rundown building. The Kenesaw changed hands multiple times before being sold to Antioch College, which planned to use the building for a Law School.
By the 1970s, when controversy surrounding ownership of the building began to heat up, residents at the Kenesaw were mostly low-income families, elderly apartment dwellers, and immigrants who had made the best of a building beset with internal and external problems. Many developers saw the building as profitable for its location at the edge of Mount Pleasant and Adams Morgan; when Antioch attempted to sell the building off for a profit, the apartment became an icon of communal resistance against large organizations outpricing low income renters.
The building’s residents composed a diverse group dedicated to salvaging the building from sale. Residents fought together to buy the building, but a bidding war with a larger corporation ended in mixed emotions and mixed ownership results. As of today, the building continues to struggle with repairs as a combination of condo owners and co-op residents continue to debate costs that may increase their rent.
The Kenesaw is significant on its own, but also as host to pieces of the Hispanic Heritage of Mount Pleasant. The Kenesaw hosted the Spanish Catholic Center underneath the building, and currently holds a branch of Barbara Chambers Children’s Center in its basement.
Walterene Swansion Special to The Washington Post. (1978, Mar 02). Kenesaw tenants' co-op hopes to purchase building: Kenesaw tenants' co-op hopes to buy building. The Washington Post (1974-) Retrieved from http://proxyau.wrlc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/kenesaw-tenants-co-op-hopes-purchase-building/docview/146983076/se-2?accountid=8285
Christopher Dickey Washington Post, Staff Writer. (1978, Dec 16). Tenants' victory: Government-funded corporation buys Kenesaw for its residents the Kenesaw is saved for its tenants. The Washington Post (1974-) Retrieved from http://proxyau.wrlc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/tenants-victory/docview/146833888/se-2?accountid=8285
Mark Poletunow interview by Patrick Scallen (November 18, 2017), Humanities DC, DC Oral History Collaborative.