Mapping Georgetown: A Georgetowner Leaving Her Mark


“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”  ~ Lady Bird Johnson

One day, as my mom and I were picking weeds along the alley bricks, I decided to give [the alley] a name…. When I saw they had a string for me to pull to reveal the ‘Cashell Alley’ signage on Volta Place, 12-year-old me became giddy with joy. I was practically jumping out of my boots.” ~ Raya Kenney

 

Today’s Mapping Georgetown story inspires on so many levels — to all who love our Georgetown community, who take joy in the fulfillment of youthful dreams, and to the women in history who’ve made such a lasting and vital impact.

Raya Kenney grew up in what is now Georgetown’s Cashell Alley “as all Volta Place kids do,” she wrote to us, calling it a “play-pretend wonderland.” Before leaving Georgetown to attend her first year at Kenyon College in Ohio, she not only named the alleyway in which she grew up — literally putting it on the map just off Volta Place NW — but she became the founder and CEO of the National Memorial to the Women Who Worked on the Home Front Foundation, dedicated to commemorating in the nation’s capital the “over 18 million American women who kept the home front running in support of the World War II effort.” Many of those women, she wrote, served as “codebreakers, pilots, machinists, butchers, engineers, lumberjacks, farmers, etc.” D.C. Delegate, Dr. Eleanor Holmes Norton currently supports her foundation’s efforts. (The groups’s website can be found here: WWIIWomenMemleorial.org.)

Here’s the inspiring Mapping Georgetown story we received from Raya:

Raya Kenney’s Mapping Georgetown Story:

Raya Kenney’s Mapping Georgetown story. Courtesy Mapping Georgetown.

I grew up in Cashell Alley. All the Volta Place kids do. That alley watched me ride my bike (which took a while to do – LOTS of scraped knees and elbows!) That alley watched as I danced with my mom as we brought in the groceries. That alley watched as all of the kids played together. Hide n’ seek. Tag. Chalk drawings… We converted the space into our very own play-pretend wonderland.

Cashell Alley didn’t always have a name. But one day, as my mom and I were picking weeds along the alley bricks, I decided to give it a name. Several trips to the Georgetown Library’s Peabody Room later, after looking at prints of old maps, building timelines and floor plans, and construction permits (among other documents) we learned that apparently the Cashell family owned the property that was later subdivided into the 8 Volta Place row houses and lots in 1923.

It’s crazy to think that, as I grow, Cashell Alley will always be there too. A reminder of all the growing we’ve all done. Cashell Alley raised me and found itself a name. Now get out the chalk. Who’s ready for a game of hopscotch?

I remember the day of the alley ceremony like it was yesterday. When I saw they had a string for me to pull to reveal the “Cashell Alley” signage on Volta Place, 12-year-old me became giddy with joy. I was practically jumping out of my boots. You can see it in my face. I was absolutely beaming. It all felt so special, and the magic was heightened by the fact that I was surrounded by so many wonderful and supportive friends and neighbors. 

I had gone around the neighborhood months prior; getting signatures from neighbors to make sure everyone supported the idea of potentially naming the alley. Watching it all happen right in front of my eyes now was so surreal. “There was the DDOT truck! There was the shiny new pole! There was the sign!”

Jack Evans, the D.C. Council member, had handed me yet another large, green, reflective “Cashell Alley” sign to keep as a souvenir. Eight years later, I still have it above my window in my bedroom.

 

Then 12-year-old Raya Kenney looks up at the new Cashell Alley street sign as she beams in delight. Photo courtesy Raya Kenney.

 

Raya meets with Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans and representatives from DDOT.

 

Raya with her parents below the new “Cashell Alley” street sign. Photo courtesy Raya Kenney.

 

Raya, holding her commemorative street sign, with Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans.

 

In the alley on the day of the official unveiling, Raya Kenney, surrounded by friends and family, holds up the newly named “Cashell Alley” street sign presented by Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans. Photo courtesy Raya Kenney.

 

Raya Tells Us About Her Background:

Raya Kenney is a first-year at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. Until packing up the back of the car and driving to a campus over 6 and a-half hours away with her parents last semester, she had lived in Georgetown nearly her entire life. 

Raya is the CEO and Founder of The National Memorial to the Women Who Worked on the Home Front Foundation. Their goal is to get a memorial built for the over 18 million women who worked during WWII. Their legislation, introduced by D.C.’s representative, Dr. Eleanor Holmes Norton, just recently passed the House of Representatives. 

On school breaks, Raya works at Shop Made In DC, a local store dedicated to representing D.C.’s makers and artists. 

Having attended The Children’s House of Washington for pre-school, Hyde-Addison for her elementary years, and finishing out middle and high school with homeschooling, the entirety of her early schooling was encased within the same five familiar blocks of beautiful Georgetown sidewalk and road. 

“My neighbors often feel like extensions of family, and familiar faces pass me almost every day as I walk around the city. This place and its people will always be my home. I cannot imagine it any other way,” she said.

***

Here are some articles pertaining to Raya’s contributions:  https://www.thegeorgetowndish.com/articles/young-georgetowner-aims-name-alley

https://georgetownmetropolitan.com/2016/09/16/alley-kids/ — “This was when the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts (NDCA) wrote a play that used Cashell Alley as the setting. I got to help co-write it with Ray Ficca (the NCDA’s director) and it was later read at the Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival!,” Raya said.

It was a genuine pleasure meeting you, Raya Kenney!  At a very young age, in a very nourishing environment, you starting practicing the power of persistence and hard work toward a noble cause. We wish you all the best in your work for women on the home front during the Second World War, you fine choice of Kenyon College, and all that you have to look forward to in your remarkable life!

 


To learn more about the Mapping Georgetown project see https://georgetowner.com/articles/2021/07/19/marilyn-butlers-vision-for-mapping-georgetown/.

To submit your Georgetown recollections to Mapping Georgetown go to www.mappinggeorgetown.com  or visit the Georgetown Public Library to pick up a physical map-story form to fill out.

Marilyn Butler can be reached at: marilyn.butler@gmail.com.

 

 

 

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