In the nineteenth century, much of Far Northeast DC was open land sprinkled with farmplots. Alley-like unpaved streets straggled between major arteries, changing name frequently as they became lined with unnumbered frame houses.

One of these alley-like streets became 43rd Place NE, whose west side is the blind flank of a liquor warehouse. For a century, its east side was occupied by two frame houses separated by a vacant lot.

The houses' luck started to run out after they had been standing vacant for some time. In late 2002, the city issued "raze violation" notices for them. However, the boarded-up front door of the house at 913 43rd Place soon sported a sign reading "PLEASE!  DO NOT DEMOLISH!".

Eventually a local church rehabilitated it as a "soul saving station". But no such angel appeared for its companion, the asphalt shingle clad house at at 917 43rd Place NE. On a cold, bright day in February, 2003, the Grim Reaper appeared in the form of a yellow front-end loader.

Round 1

A few minutes after noon, the front-end loader presses against the house, which stands firm like a guard blocking a tackle.

For two seconds, it is difficult to tell if the loader is actually pushing forward. Then there is a creaking above the diesel rumblings, followed by a sharp snap.

Round 2

The house is now a horse with a broken foreleg. The left front cornerpost bows outward as the shovel presses near the top.

Masonite panels covered a gaping wound in the facade, perhaps where a front porch roof attached. With surprising delicacy, the shovel scrapes the panels away and further widens the loader's angle of attack.