Friday, May 14, 2021

Gentrification Forces Black-Owned Funeral Parlor in DC to Close After 80 Years

WASHINGTON, DC JUNE 26:
Richard Ables Funeral Director of Hall Brothers Funeral Home, closes and sells the funeral home in Washington, DC on June 26, 2019. The funeral home is closing indefinitely.
(Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

*Washington, D.C. has lost its only black-owned funeral parlor to gentrification, after 80 years in the district.

The Hall Brothers Funeral Home only handled four funerals last year, the number driven low by the death of clientele or locals being driven out by gentrification, per NBC News.

The parlor’s owner, 77-year-old Richard Ables, says of the neighborhood: “If we saw a white person, we’d ask, ‘What are you doing here?’ Now it’s the opposite.”

Ables sold his dying business last week, nearly 80 years after it was founded by his uncles.

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According to the report, the property housing the parlor sits on a block that is now home to an increasing number of young, white professionals.

As noted by the Houston Chronicle, from the 1950s through the 1980s, Hall Brothers performed as many as 140 funerals a year. In 2018, it handled four.

“They moved out or died out,” said Ables of his lost clientele. The publication notes that when the furnace gave out last fall, Ables didn’t bother calling a repairman.

“What’s the point?” he said. “I’m sitting in here dying with the business,” he added. “It’s time to go.”

On Wednesday, Ables sold the property for about $2 million, more than twice the assessed value, the report states.

“All of this should go to a museum or somewhere,” Ables said of his numerous ledger books and records of people who died. “I just don’t know where to send it.”

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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