Georgetown Time Machine: Dumbarton Ave.

This week for Georgetown Time Machine, I’ve dug up an Ebay find. It’s a postcard showing a pencil drawing of Dumbarton St./Ave., just west of Wisconsin Ave.

The date of the card or the drawing itself is not readily apparent from the listing. The back of the card isn’t that helpful either:

The fact that the card calls the street Dumbarton Ave. instead of Dumbarton St., suggests it’s a bit old. But the distinction between avenue and street was pretty muddy for a long time for Dumbarton. (In short, it was once an avenue, was renamed a street, but lots of people kept calling it an avenue. That usage, however, seems to have petered out mostly by the 1970s.) So my first guess would be mid 20th century for the card.

Of course there are more clues. Most obviously the drawing features a bookstore at 3148 Dumbarton. It appears to be called Sorel’s Books. I figured the name would pop-up right away in an old newspaper search, but sadly there is not a single mention of it in either the Post’s or the Washington Star’s archives.

The last clue is the name of the artist: Jo Danforth.

Thankfully that was a fruitful search. She appears to have been an artist living in the middle part of the 20th century. She even had an art show at the Georgetown Library of her water colors of the neighborhood in 1951:

Later Danforth’s work was shown at the Smithsonian as part of an exhibition by the National League of American Pen Women:

Sadly, other than some further announcements of showings of her art, I cannot find anything else about Danforth, including an obituary.

But I think it’s fairly safe to say that the image is from the late 1940s to early 1950s. It seems reasonable to conclude that there was a bookstore there called Sorel’s Books, but it’s possible that Danforth simply made it up to make the image more interesting. (Or changed the name for some reason). Any old timer’s remember?



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2 responses to “Georgetown Time Machine: Dumbarton Ave.

  1. kerlin4321

    No memory of the book store. The street scene depicted here is the final stretch of Dumbarton before it ends at Wisconsin Avenue, so it’s on the east not west side.

    I’ve lived in Georgetown since the mid-60s so it will always be “Dumbarton Avenue” to me.

  2. Thomas Neale

    Right on this being the east side of Wisconsin and the street name: it was avenue when I came to town in 1965.

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