Today GM is inaugurating a new series: Ghosts of Markets Past. In it, he will identify homes throughout Georgetown that once held a commercial business (not always a market though). At one time, Georgetown was dotted with such establishments. But after restrictive zoning was put in place in the 1950s, and overall purchasing habits shifted towards larger regional supermarkets, these buildings were gradually converted to housing.
Of course some still remain, and they represent some of the most treasured assets of the neighborhood. But this series is about the ones that didn’t stay open.
And today GM starts with 2701 Dumbarton St. Records indicate that this building was constructed in 1869 and the original owner was Richard A. King.
The property is mentioned in Black Georgetown Remembered as hosting a “mom and pop” grocery. When it was listed for sale in 2014, it was described as one of the area’s first grocery stores. A mention in the Washington Evening Star indicates that as early as 1918, it hosted a market. In this case a market owned by L.H. Ferguson:
In 1927, the market was listed for rent, with listing reflecting the fact the property was at the epicenter of Georgetown’s historic African American community:
In 1933, it hosted a taxicab office:
By the 1950s, however, mentions of any business at this address stop. It would appear that is when the property shifted to solely residential.
Of course, throughout its life, this building has been at least partially residential. It was very common for the shopkeepers themselves to live above the stores. None of the mentions of this property specifically mention such a connection. But they do say that in the 1930s, a resident of this address got arrested for rum running:
In the 1950s, the property was occupied by a distinguished WWII Navy veteran, Rear Admiral Charles H. Miller:
While this obituary is from the 1970s, Miller is mentioned as living at this address as early as 1957 in another article. This is somewhat notable seeing as this address was near the epicenter of the historic black community of east Georgetown. Miller’s presence indicates that even at this time when the black population was near its peak, it was still an integrated community.
Here is a photo of a girl who is likely one of Miller’s granddaughters cooling off by a fire hydrant in 1966:
Earlier in the century, the property was occupied by W.C. Payne, an African American who apparently was active in politics:
It is likely this is the same W.C. Payne that ran for Vice-President in 1904 on the National Liberty Party ticket.
Lots of history in a small corner building!
If you have any recommendations (or helpful tips!) for a future edition of this series, let GM know!