How Turkey Thicket Was Founded

As described by Mary Kane, daughter of the founder and told to Joy Jones


            Mary Kane told me her memories about how Turkey Thicket got started.  She knows because her mother, also named Mary Kane, is the person who started Turkey Thicket. 


            The Kanes lived at 4310 Thirteenth Place NE.  Mr. and Mrs. Kane moved to Brookland on March 5, 1935.  Back then, Turkey Thicket was a field.  There was a tool cabinet on the field where baseballs, bats and other sports equipment was stored, but according to Mary Kane, it was always being broken into. “My mother had this idea that you could build a clubhouse,” said Mary Kane. 


            At that time, Washington, DC did not have a mayor.  The city was run by three commissioners who had to get permission from Congress for various projects.  The commissioners kept turning Mrs. Kane down.  She went door-to-door to get signatures on petitions from her neighbors to support her idea of a clubhouse for the neighborhood children.  She kept going back to the commissioners to get their support.


            Finally, in the spring of 1948, the Turkey Thicket clubhouse was opened.  “She was real happy,” remembered Mary Kane, her daughter, who was three years old at the time.  “I remember she was running up and down the steps of the clubhouse.”  That building is the same one that had been in use until it was torn down in 2003 to make room for the new Turkey Thicket recreation center.


            Mary Kane remembers the first paid director at Turkey Thicket was a woman named Mrs. Gaines.  Although at first Mary Kane didn't like hanging out at Turkey Thicket, she later enjoyed a cooking class she took there in the sixth grade and was active at the clubhouse for around two years.


            Brookland was an all white neighborhood until the mid-fifties when blacks started moving in.  Some whites left because they did not like the idea of having black neighbors.  Often real estate salesmen would pressure the whites to sell their homes because the salesmen could make money on the sales.  “Real estate people tried to scare them [the whites] away,” said Mary Kane.  They would tell the white residents that their homes might become less valuable if too many black families lived close by.  Mary Kane said her father told the real estate people, “It’s okay if the property values go down, we’re not planning to move.”


            Actually, Mary Kane said the community improved when blacks moved in.  Many of the blacks were college-educated people with professional jobs while the whites were less educated working class people.  “Turkey Thicket was segregated for awhile, but my mother fought that, too,” said Mary Kane.  Her parents remained residents of Brookland until their deaths.  Mrs. Mary Kane, founder of Turkey Thicket, died in 1993, her husband in 1998.