Georgetown Time Machine: Union Bottling Depot

This week for Georgetown Time Machine, GM is taking a slightly different approach. He’s highlighting an ad in the 1871 Boyd’s Directory. The establishment was the Union Bottling Depot, run by Riley A. Shinn.

It was, in effect, a soda factory, producing soft and hard drinks, like ginger ale or porter beer. It was located on the corner of what is now 29th and Olive:

The company started at this location in 1843 as Rother’s Vinegar Depot. It passed through several hands until Shinn joined in ownership with a Charles Arny. Shinn bought him out in 1863. He renamed the company as the Union Bottling Depot. It was probably named that because Shinn also owned the famous Union Hotel on the same block:

The Streets of Washington wrote a fantastic article about the proliferation of soda dealers like this one, but the relevant part is this:

Georgetown was an early center for the production of ginger ale and other sparkling beverages. In 1847, Julius Rother opened a soda water factory on the southeast corner of Olive and Green (29th) Streets, where a natural spring provided a convenient supply of fresh mineral water. In advertising his new enterprise, Rother offered a statement signed by nine local doctors that his establishment was clean and up to the highest standards. Rother’s carbonation machines were said to be “so constructed as to ensure a full and perfect saturation of gas to a degree heretofore unknown to us.”…

One of DC’s most prominent bottlers in the 19th century was Samuel C. Palmer (1839-1914), a native of Georgetown. In 1861, Riley A. Shinn, who had taken over Rother’s depot, hired Palmer as a clerk. Ten years later, Palmer took charge of the business for himself…

The ad above appeared in 1871, about the time that Palmer was taking over the business.

The Peabody Room even has a bottle made by the bottling plant:

After Palmer took over from Shinn, he changed the name of the business to Palmer and Green (perhaps a reference to the street). Palmer eventually moved the business to 1066 Wisconsin Ave., otherwise known as the Vigilant Firehouse.

One source says this move happened in 1899, however the plant on 29th St. must have closed sometime between 1888 and 1892, when the current row of houses appeared:

(As an aside, this is a great example of how the current homes–which many people might be mistaken into thinking are the original homes on the lot–are actually second, if not third, generations of construction.)

Palmer continued to operate the company there until his death in 1940.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s