Tag Archives: History

Nothing Ever Changes Here

Here’s the scene: the city installs new unattractive streetlights, the Georgetown Citizens Association objects, and the business groups complain that all these attempts to make Georgetown look like the 18th century is just going to drive business away.

Last week right? Nope. 1958.

GM stumbled upon an old Post article the other day when researching 3107 M St. It’s called “Lights Heat Up All Georgetown” and it’s from October 2, 1958. Continue reading

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GM’s Archaeological Dig

Over the weekend, GM having some work done in his small garden. Specifically, one corner of the garden was being prepped for the planting of a new tree. To accomplish this, the soil needed to be cleared of several feet of sand and clay that sat just below the topsoil. In doing so, several interesting artifacts were found.

 

The most interesting find was this chard of china. It appears to be from a small plate. The makers mark is from a company called the International Pottery Company of Trenton, New Jersey (“Trenton makes, the world takes!”). According to this site, this particular mark (with the name Burgess and Campbell appearing on the bottom) started being used sometime around 1879. Continue reading

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Georgetown With One Red Shoe

Those familiar with Tom Hanks’s early wacky movie phase probably remember the spy farce The Man With One Red Shoe. GM happened to catch it over the weekend. While he was vaguely aware that it had some scenes in Georgetown, he didn’t realize that in fact significant chunks of the movie were filmed here.

While it’s somewhat fun to see your neighborhood splashed on the silver screen, it’s significantly more fun to see what it looked like in 1984 similarly captured. Check out these stills GM captured:

Here’s the house Tom Hanks’s character lives in. It’s 3331 O St. Here’s that house now:

One thing you might notice right away is just how much more tree shade there was in 1984. Some of that could be film filters or other effects, but the block seems to have been under a much thicker canopy back then.

Another thing, GM’s not certain but he believes this house is a single family home. In the movie it is portrayed as having multiple apartments in it. That also could be film trickery, but it does appear that some of the interior shots were genuinely from inside this house:

That picket fence is still across the street. You can also see by this photo that the street was in much better shape than it was before the recent renovation. There were hardly any patches at all (although you can see the tracks were already dangerously above the cobblestones). Continue reading

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The Morning Metropolitan

Photo by Michael Foley Photography.

Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:

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Georgetown Flooded (in 1918)

As GM hunkers down for Hurricane Sandy to pass, he thought he’d travel down memory road for an article he’d previously written on the great Georgetown flood of 1918:

Potomac Flood

“Potomac floodGeorgetown, D.C.” [created between 1909 and 1923]

Unfortunately there were multiple floods of the Georgetown waterfront in that time period, but GM is relatively confident this flood was from Feb. 1918. Check out this excerpt from a Washington Post article from 2/19/1918:

30,000 Throng Aqueduct Bridge and Neighboring Roads to Witness Wreckage Left By Weeks’ Flood

Everybody nearly was out on the Aqueduct bridge yesterday…watching the ice in the Potomac go by. There were close to 30,000 of them during the height of the ruch witnessing and commenting on the greatest flood the Capital has seen since 1889…A young woman stood on the bridge. She was filled with poetry by the maelstrom which whirled beneath her feet. She grasped her escort by the arm “Ain’t it wonderful what nature can do?” she breathed.

This appears to match up with the photo because the article describes the destruction of several boathouses near the bridge, including the Analostan Club House (Theodore Roosevelt Island used to be called Analostan Island, as well as Mason’s Island). There are a couple other photographs in the LOC’s collection of the same flood from above that show wreckage to the boathouses, so that’s why it would appear to be the same flood:

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The Qualitative Changes in Georgetown’s Population

Yesterday, GM traced the quantitative changes in Georgetown’s population over the years. During his research, he was browsing the 1940 Census population schedules. Specifically, he looked up who was living on his block in 1940. And they point to some equally significant qualitative changes in the population.

In 1940, in GM’s house there lived Jack and Doris Dickerson with three of their children and a nephew. Jack was a caretaker at the National Cathedral. He made $935 a year. That is the equivalent of approximately $59,000 in today’s money.

Nowadays the block is occupied mostly by lawyers or other white collar workers. But in 1940 it had:

  • plumbing estimator & foreman (he was positively rolling in it at $3,300 a year)
  • apprentice plumber
  • helper at a metal sign factory Continue reading

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The Historic Population of Georgetown

GM was pointed to a great resource the other day: The National Historic Geographic Information System. It sounds totally boring, yes! But what it is is a wonderful repository of census data going back to 1790. GM used this data to reconstruct the historic population totals for Georgetown going back into the early 20th century, and the results are surprising.

 

The first Census GM could find in the database that had coded the totals to a level below statewide was 1920. GM found the total population of Georgetown at that point to be 16,577. GM has some skepticism of that number, though. Unlike all the other years, he had to piece together the data from enumeration districts, not Census tracts. The fact that the total was so much higher than the other years suggests that this may not have been an accurate method.

So setting aside 1920, the story really begins in 1930. The population was 14,139. The population was 78% white and 22% black.

The total population inched up in 1940 to 14,958, with roughly similar racial demographics. But in 1950 two clear trends began. The total population dropped sharply, and the black population virtually disappeared. By that Census, the black population in Georgetown had already dropped from 3,258 to 1,841. By 1960 it was down to 509, or just 4% of the population. Continue reading

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Location Matters, But Does Name?

 

Yesterday, the Atlantic Cities website published an amusing piece wondering whether home value is affected by the street it’s on is called a “street” or, say, “lane”. Apparently a report by Trulia found that homes are worth the most is they’re on an avenue (average $117 per square foot) while they sell for the least on those humble “streets” ($86 per square foot).

This got GM wondering, would Georgetown homes be worth more if Georgetown still had the old street names? The street designation was the same with the old street names, but the given names, so to speak, were more distinctive (for the most part, that is, the east-west streets west of Wisconsin were just numbered first through eighth).

To test this theory, GM looked at the last three years of real estate sales in Georgetown and split them into two groups: streets with either letters or numbers (e.g. 30th or P St.) and streets with some other name (e.g. Dumbarton or Volta). Continue reading

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The Morning Metropolitan

Photo by BeyondDC.

Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:

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The Morning Metropolitan

Photo by Ehpien.

Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:

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