Georgetown Time Machine: Down Goes Key Mansion

This week for Georgetown Time Machine, GM returns again to the wonderful archive of the Historical Society of Washington, DC for a photo of the demolition of the famous Key Mansion.

The photo is from 1948 and shows the former home of Francis Scott Key in the process of deconstruction. It was taken down in order to construct the Whitehurst Freeway. It stood, essentially, across the street from the former Exxon gas station.

The Streets of Washington wrote an elaborate and detailed history of the building. This also included its grim fate: it was deconstructed with the aim to be preserved and reconstructed somewhere else. But the entire house went missing and nobody knows where it went. (In truth, President Truman vetoed the funding of a bill to reconstruct a replica of the house using the old bricks. So the bricks probably just ended up in other projects.)

Preservation was already a bit of a lost cause in 1948. Immediately prior to its demolition, the building looked approximately like this:

This was basically nothing like what the building looked like when Key lived there:

So “saving” it as Key knew it was already impossible.

Other interesting bits in the old photo include the ruins of the old aqueduct bridge footings (which weren’t removed with dynamite in 1962).

You can, of course, also see the Potomac Boat Club, but that still looks the same. Through the woods just to the right of the old Aqueduct Bridge abutment you can make out the shadow of Dempsey’s boathouse.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Georgetown Time Machine: Down Goes Key Mansion

  1. Minor but significant nitpick. The Key Mansion was east of the Aqueduct Bridge. The former Exxon gas station is directly north of the Aqueduct Bridge. If the Key Mansion had essentially been across the street from the gas station, it might have been spared.

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