The day has finally come. The warehouses by the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station have been buffed clean, continuing for years the inevitable trend, slowly sweeping across the city from the Red Line to downtown; the disappearance of graffiti.

Warehouses by Rhode Island Ave. Metro station no longer covered with graffiti.

Photo by the author.

To most, the bellwether of neighborhood change in the city is and always will be, rightfully or wrongfully, ethnicity. Through my eyes, however, it’s graffiti. I read the winds of demographic change by literally reading the writing on the walls that align the Metro’s Red Line, or lack thereof. 

Earlier this year, the long-standing “BORF” tag was buffed from the Takoma Metro station by the proprietor of Visions Lighting, Inc. Little as ten years ago graffiti dominated downtown buildings. No longer.

Reached by email, Roger Gastman, a former frequent of the Rhode Island Avenue warehouse rooftops and author of Free Agents: A History of Washington, DC Graffiti, wrote, “I don’t really have much to say — it’s just part of what happens to all graffiti spots!”

With the mixed-use development of adjacent Rhode Island Row a new day is dawning for the neighborhood. For many decade-long riders of the Red Line adjusting to the new sights will take some getting used to.

And that’s a good thing no matter how you look at it.

Graffiti strewn warehouses by Rhode Island Metro Station (Red Line) in summer of 2010.