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A Season of Discovery at St. Elizabeths

Elton J. Hayes | , WI Staff Writer | 8/1/2012, 3:14 p.m.

"I saw the advertisement from an email I got from a listserv," Allen said. "It looked like it would be a good activity," the Southeast resident said.

Later during the afternoon, visitors enjoyed a unique musical experience. The shuttered hospital's red brick buildings served as the backdrop for a stage where an array of singers and musicians showcased their talents before an appreciative audience. But, a spirited performance by the African Heritage Drummers and Dancers brought the crowd to its feet. A group of young men ages eight to 20, jammed on djembes - African hand drums - which reverberated throughout the campus and compelled the crowd to clap their hands to the rhythm of the drums.

Public access to St. Elizabeths East Campus has been restricted in the past, however, organizers used the event to showcase the development of the property to the community on Saturday. The District, sought to drum up local support to revitalize the facility which is set to welcome 4,400 U.S. Coast Guard employees in 2013.

The District and potential developers hope to transform the grounds into a multi-purpose property with residential, commercial and possibly an educational facility.

A number of Ward 8 residents said that they also hope the development project will give the ward a whole new look and feel.

Merritt, who has lived in Ward 8 for many years, remains optimistic about the ward's future. She said that the Season of Discovery event on the grounds of St. Elizabeths, counts among many of the interesting locales, breathtaking vistas, art museums and historic landmarks that Ward 8 has to offer. She fully expects that similar festivals and special events will prompt tourists and District residents alike to cross the Anacostia River to learn about the area's rich and storied past.

"I think that it's going to [spark interest] and grow," she said, referring to the redevelopment of St. Elizabeths' grounds and the surrounding neighborhoods. "I'm hoping that it will. Anything that they can do to attract people to this side of the river is good."