Category Archives: Now and a Long Time Ago

Now and a Long Time Ago: 33rd and N St.

This week on Now and a Long Time Ago, GM heads back to Camelot. Or rather just before.

GM’s never been a huge fan of the Kennedy nostalgia, particularly as it relates to their connection with Georgetown. There were a lot more interesting things going on in the neighborhood back then and the obsession of everything Kennedy is more than a little creepy.

That said, GM has always liked the photo from 1959 of Kennedy swooping one-year-old Caroline up in his arms as Jackie watches on in front of their home on N St. It’s by Mark Shaw, who took many intimate portraits of the family.

Now with his own one-year-old daughter, whom he also loves to swoop up in the air, GM’s fondness for this shot has grown.

Little has changed physically from 1959. The side-porch of the house on the right was enclosed, and (as is almost always the case with these now-and-then-shots) there is far less tree coverage.

Kennedy ran for president from this house, and left it to head to his inauguration on a freezing and snowy January day less than two years later.


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Now and a Long Time Ago: Q and Wisconsin

This week on Now and a Long Time Ago, GM swings up to Q and Wisconsin. The old photo is care of Old Time DC and it was taken in 1973.

It shows the northwest corner of the intersection. At the time it was the location of Jack Bryant’s used car lot. This location was the site of a used car lot since at least the 1930s. GM found ads from that time period for a National Auto Sales Co. at that address.

By the 60s, the lot had gained a European focus. GM found an add for a 1960 Porsche Super Roadster being sold by Little Cars at this address. It was offered at $1795. Nowadays this model can sell for up to $180,000. (If GM ever gets rich, this is the car that he wants to keep at his beach house.)

Jack Bryant seems to have taken over the lot sometime in the early 70s, just a few years before the photo above. Continue reading

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Now and a Long Time Ago: M and 30th

This week, GM finally gets back to Now and a Long Time Ago. And it’s the corner of 30th and M that he visits.

Unfortunately, GM was unable to find out anything about the shops that once occupied these spaces. At the center is Wayne’s, which was a TV repair shop. On the right is a stereo/record shop called something “fidelity”. GM can’t really add anything else. Continue reading


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Now and a Long Time Ago: M and 31st

This week on Now and a Long Time Ago, GM slides down M St. a bit to M and 31st. Today the three buildings in question hold a German television station, Sports Zone, and Georgetown Tobacco.

The first thing that GM noticed looking at the Library of Congress’s shot of these buildings from 1966 is that the huge windows were there already. GM always figured they were a more recent addition.

Well according to the report of the American Historical Building Survey, the windows are original to the building. It was built around 1909 and the AHBS describes it as “an unusual structure for Georgetown…[which] typifies an increasingly rationalisitic and functional early twentieth century approach in commercial.” In essence, this building is a proto-modern structure. While it still embraced the classical ornamentation, it pointed towards the clean and glassy aesthetic that would ultimately dominate 20th century architecture.

It makes this building historically interesting in a way unlike most historic buildings in Georgetown. Which makes it all the more unfortunate that it’s currently occupied by such a crummy store that rather than use the windows to open up the interior to the outside, uses the windows to erect billboards. (Arguably these billboards are already illegal, but if they’re not, they will be once DDOT adopts new signage rules next year.)

To be fair, back in 1966 the tenant, a furniture store called the Door Store, also blocked all the windows (at least in this case it was with curtains, not ugly ads). It would be such a better use of this beautiful facade for the interior to be opened up to the outside.

In the 1920s, this property was a furniture store. It appears to have become a Sears retail store in the 1930s.

By the 1950s, it was a Western Autos autopart store. On April 29th, 1951, a recently fired employee tried to break into the safe after hours. He failed, and decided to burn the building down. He was arrested and convicted for arson, receiving a 3-9 year sentence. Continue reading


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Now and a Long Time Ago: M and Wisconsin

This week on Now and a Long Time Ago, GM swings by M and Wisconsin. Today, this is the location of Calvin Klein Underwear, the former Unos, and the ever going-out-of-business Riccardi’s.

In 1966 the scene was somewhat different. For one thing, there was a huge neon sign on the side of the building. It spelled out “Comley’s” and it was advertising the George A. Comley flower shop that stood at that spot. Comley started selling flowers in Georgetown in 1905. His shop was located originally at 1204 32nd (which, confusingly, it was Wisconsin Ave. was called back then) right next to W.T. Weavers and Sons.

It seems that Comley’s wasn’t open too much longer after this photo. By the mid 70s, this was the location of the Old Thread Oriental Rug company. Continue reading

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Now and a Long Time Ago: Wisconsin and Volta

This week in Now and a Long Time Ago, GM swings up Wisconsin Ave. to what is now the George Town Club. While this is not a terribly interesting selection from a visual point of view, the history of the property is in fact quite rich.

Or is it?

The George Town Club is a rather exclusive private city club that was formed in 1966. According to its website, the building it is housed in was once Suter’s Tavern.

That is not an idle claim. Suter’s Tavern (actually it was the Fountain Inn, it just was run by someone named John Suter) was one of the popular taverns that existed in Georgetown in the 1780s. It was supposedly the location of where George Washington set up his headquarters while surveying the future federal city. Pierre L’Enfant also supposedly stayed there. And Thomas Jefferson left this 18th century version of a Yelp review when he said “no man on the Atlantic coast can bring out a better bottle of Madeira or Sherry than old Suter.”

Its exact location is a mystery. But most historians agree that it was somewhere between Bridge St. (now M St.) and the river, just east of High St. (Wisconsin). In the early 20th century, most were convinced it was one of the frame houses that stood at the northwest corner of 31st and K. But by the 1940s, many were claiming that the Old Stone House was Suter’s Tavern (it most likely was not).

But where did the idea that the tavern was really all the way up at Wisconsin and Volta (or rather High St. and Fourth as it was called then)? There were not many buildings up in that part of Georgetown in the 1780s. And while the portion of the property that has wood siding could theoretically be from the 18th century, most of the rest of the properties on that block are from the mid to late 19th century. Continue reading


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Catching Up on a Few Now and Thens

GM had some computer problem in August that prevented him from publishing the “swipe” versions of his Now and a Long Time Ago series. Now that his computer is back in shape, he went back to pull a few of them together. Enjoy:

P and 33rd Continue reading

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