Georgetown Time Machine: Southwest

This week for Georgetown Time Machine, GM is visiting a new collection for him, the National Archives. In particular, it is the Archive’s collection of incredibly detailed aerial photography of DC from the first half of the 20th century (thanks to the great Old Time DC for the idea). This particular photo is of the western end of the Key Bridge and the remnants of the aqueduct bridge in July 1931. And the resolution is such that we can really dive in to explore southwest Georgetown in the early 30s!

Right off the bat, we can see that the aqueduct bridge was just a skeleton at this point:

The Key Bridge was constructed in 1923, at which point the aqueduct bridge was closed. It wasn’t demolished until 1933 though, as this photo partially attests. And the abutments remained until the 60s.

Next to the aqueduct bridge, you can see the massive Dempsey’s Boathouse (just next to the still extant Washington Canoe Club), which also lasted until the 60s:

You can see several blocks of buildings that are simply gone now:

Here are two rows of houses along Prospect St. and St. Mary’s. They’re totally gone now and weren’t replaced with anything. GM has often wondered why they were torn down, but hasn’t turned up a reason yet.

This row of buildings was just east of the aqueduct bridge, and included the famous Francis Scott Key Mansion. They were demolished to make way for the Whitehurst Freeway in 1948.

Here is where the streetcar went across to what is now the Hoya Saxa sign, on its way out to Cabin John. Looks like there was a shed to store streetcars just west of GU’s campus:

Not in Georgetown, but GM believes this is the former Dunmarlin estate on Foxhall Rd., once owned by the Duncan and Marjorie Phillips:

Here is E.D.E.N. Southwarth’s home on Prospect, although it was much changed from the time she lived there:

Anyway, click the photo at the top to really explore for yourself. GM looks forward to returning to this great collections again soon.

4 Comments

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4 responses to “Georgetown Time Machine: Southwest

  1. Sam James

    Do you have the link to these great photos, or did you have to visit one of the NARA regional offices? If you have the link to more of the online aerial photo collection in DC can you provide it in the comments?

  2. Sam James

    Thank you! This is a treasure trove of aerials of DC–the original Google street maps. Considering these aerials are nearly 90 years old or older, the details are stunningly well preserved. Here is a link to information on Captain “A.W.” (Albert Williams) Stevens, presumably the same gentleman who took the Georgetown photo in July 1931 (and many other aerial photos on NARA’s website): https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/tag/albert-william-stevens/. He was quite the aviation pioneer. I had never heard of him until today. He took great risks but made so many lasting contributions we are still enjoying today.

    I, too, wonder about the houses on Prospect and St. Mary’s. One of the Sanborn Insurance maps simply listed one of the buildings further westward down Prospect Street as “tenements.” I could never find any information about when (or why) they were demolished in the Washington Star or other DC periodicals. Then again, a lot of the changes occurring during this time ~1930s-1960s involved gentrification in Georgetown and displacing people from their homes (via redlining mortgages, raising rents to unsustainable levels, and evictions), so the documentation of these ills is, unsurprisingly, difficult to track down. My guess is demolishing these buildings was done as a means of displacing people but disguised as “beautifying the neighborhood.” I think someday we’ll figure it out, we just need to keep looking.

  3. Pingback: Georgetown Time Machine: Northview | The Georgetown Metropolitan

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