A queen-sized hug

Queen Elizabeth II visited Washington, D.C., in the spring of 1991. Her itinerary included parts of the Capital City typically avoided by most visitors, royal and otherwise. An affordable housing development in the city’s Southeast was one of the places Queen Elizabeth visited.

In 2007, I interviewed people who were involved in coordinating the visit and who were principals in the housing development. The Washington, D.C., Local Initiatives Support Corporation continues to post excerpts from the oral histories done to document their history.

The latest LISC post includes excerpts from my interview with development executive Chris LoPiano. In 1991, LoPiano worked for the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization, the non-profit that developed Drake Place, the place where the queen got a royal welcome from Washington resident Alice Frazier.

Alice Frazier hugs Queen Elizabeth II. Credit: The Washington Post, May 15, 1991.

Alice Frazier hugs Queen Elizabeth II. Credit: The Washington Post, May 15, 1991.

In the LISC oral history excerpt, LoPiano describes the visit and how even the best preparations can go astray:

Before the incident, Frazier told the Washington Post, “I’m used to hugging people.” Then a 67 year-old-old grandmother, Frazier noted that she and the queen were both mothers. Frazier said that she would hug the queen and she added that she also had plans to hug then-President George H.W. Bush and then-Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon.

Less than a month after the queen visited Frazier in front of the new affordable home on Drake Place, the street was renamed “Queen’s Stroll.” In 2005, Alice Frazier died at age 81 of Alzheimer’s while living in a nursing home. Frazier’s last years were not as magical as the moment in 1991 when she became an international celebrity. The Fraziers’ home was foreclosed and the family was divided for a while as they moved in with other family members in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Read more about the queen’s visit in Chapter 5 of Tony Proscio’s book on D.C. LISC,  Becoming What We Can Be: Stories of Community Development in Washington, DC

© 2013 D.S. Rotenstein