This week for Georgetown Time Machine, GM is checking out a photo of the old M St. Bridge. The photo, from the DDOT archives, shows the bridge in 1911 before it was rebuilt into its current form fifteen years later.
GM would try to sum up the history of this bridge, but Wikipedia does it well enough already:
The original wooden bridge at the site was the first bridge in the current District of Columbia, being constructed in 1788 by the City of Georgetown two years before it was incorporated into the District. The bridge reportedly collapsed during a severe storm, leading to a legend that the ghosts of a stagecoach driver and his horses that drowned in the collapse could be seen thereafter, still attempting to cross the bridge.
It was replaced by a heavy wooden drawbridge in 1800, as Rock Creek was at that time wide and deep enough that sailing ships needed to transit the bridge, although the creek became unnavigable by the 1830s due to silt from upstream construction and agricultural uses, as well as construction of a quay obstructing the mouth of the creek. A covered wooden bridge replaced the drawbridge in 1839, followed by a steel-truss bridge in 1871, which was closed in 1925 because it had become structurally unsound. Remnants of the western abutment of the 1871 bridge still exist adjacent to that of the current bridge.
What GM can add is that in the distance you can pretty easily make out the Blue Mouse Theater:
This theater was opened just a year before the bridge photo was taken. Here’s what the Georgetown African American Historic Landmark Project has to say about it:
When the theater opened its doors in 1910, it served the African American population of the West End of Washington City and Georgetown. Originally hosting Vaudeville performances, it was later converted into a motion picture house. The theater was renovated and reopened on February 13, 1932 as the Mott Theater (named for the abolitionist Lucretia Mott). As late as 1954, the theater was leased for plays and other entertainment events.
It appears to have been torn down in the 50s.
The M St. bridge obviously still stands, however, and here’s what it looked like a few decades after being rebuilt in the 1920s, which is basically how it appears today: