This week for Now and a Long Time Ago, GM again returns to the marvelous Wymer’s Map collection. In particular, GM is showing what the row of buildings at the foot of Wisconsin Ave. used to look like.
It’s not so different from how it looks today, honestly. The first three of the four buildings show are still around. The center one is called the Dodge Warehouse, but all three are fantastic examples of the commerce-oriented architecture that once dominated lower Georgetown.
The three buildings were built in the late 18th century and are genuine federal style buildings (unlike all the Victorian style homes in Georgetown that real estate agents call federal). The Dodge Warehouse was owned by various Dodge family members throughout the 19th century. Francis Dodge originally bought it (along with his brother Allen) in 1807 for $3,000 (which is supposedly about $56,000 in today’s dollars, but that’s probably not a terribly reliable calculation).
Here’s a lovely account of the warehouse written early in the 20th century:
… Still lower down was the Dodge warehouse, a never ending source of delight. The firm was engaged in trading in their own vessels with the west Indies and South America, and were large importers of sugar and molasses. Each year a sale took place, the “wharves being covered with hogsheads, and buyers from the large cities of the North attending. On these occasions, the boys were allowed to move about through the rows of hogsheads supplied with long straws, which they would dip through the bunghole open for inspection and feast on the molasses drawn out. The counting house was capacious, and decorated with curios brought from the tropics, such as flying fish, shark’s jaws, and sword-fish and saw-fish. On the sale days elaborate lunches were served, with fine cigars and every variety of drinkables for the guests. Out from the counting room extended a wide platform overlooking the river, furnished with chairs and benches, which on warm summer afternoons was used as a meeting and lounging place by the friends of the proprietors.
Interestingly, in 1966 there were plans to convert the building to a museum about Georgetown’s port town history.
Maloney Concrete, the occupants of the closest building (which no longer stands), was founded in 1929 by Charles Maloney. His son John took over the business in 1969. The company provided concrete to projects all across DC, but its most famous contribution was to the construction of Metro. To this day there are still very passionate arguments about the merits of the concrete used in Metro stations. Would that we all had such impact long after we leave this Earth.