This week for Now and a Long Time Ago, GM is mining the wonderful archive that is the Wymer’s archive from the DC Historical Society. The photo he’s starting with is a view of the old Peck Memorial Presbyterian Chapel at the intersection of Pennsylvania and M St.
GM has visited this building before. Here’s what it looked like from the west:
GM wrote that the church was torn down in 1951 and replaced with the gas station that remains there today. What GM didn’t realize was that there was already a gas station on the lot. It was a Lord Baltimore filling station, which was a regional company with many locations. The larger service station that replaced the church a few years later was also a Lord Baltimore station, and was given an award by the Progressive Citizens Association of Georgetown for beautification in 1953:
A couple of things are interesting about this side note. For one, GM should explain that the Progressive Citizens Association of Georgetown is one of the parent organizations of the Citizens Association of Georgetown. Unlike the original Georgetown Citizens Association, the Progressive Citizens Association of Georgetown allowed women to join. The two organizations merged in 1962 to become the Citizens Association of Georgetown.
Secondly, what’s interesting is that CAG awarded the gas station for “beautification” which is a curious thing to say about a service station that existed only because an historic church was torn down first.
Moreover, the sentiment behind the award is not consistent with a modern day approach to preservation. Specifically, CAG justified the award because they wanted to encourage more business and land owners in Georgetown to build in “the tradition of the early architecture of Old Georgetown”. In other words, they wanted to encourage more buildings like this one that kinda looked like they could have existed in the 1700s. That is not encouraged these days because it is viewed that it cheapens the actual old architecture to imitate it in the modern day. That’s what Disneyland is.
But while that’s the view today, the powers that be haven’t always stuck with that approach, particularly early on after the passage of the Old Georgetown Act (hence the service station getting built). There are a bunch of buildings on M St. (many built on the site of former gas stations) that look old(ish) but aren’t. The former Latham Hotel and the Sun Trust bank building are particularly clear examples of that.
Anyway, GM was unable to determine when the original Lord Baltimore filling station was built. The photo still has signs for the Boys Club, which occupied the building sometime after the church sold it in 1938. The Boys Club left in 1948, which was the first year that Wymer started taking photos (of course, the club’s signage may have remained up after it left). Either way, the photo is from sometime between 1938 and 1941.