Tag Archives: History

Now and a Long Time Ago: the Georgetown Waterfront


This week on Now and a Long Time Ago, GM returns to the Georgetown waterfront. According to the Library of Congress, the photo above dates from anywhere between 1909 and 1932. GM’s looked closely, and the only building in the photo whose construction GM can date if the Capital Traction Power House towards the center right. But that was built in 1910, so that doesn’t help much. So all GM can say is that this photo is from somewhere between 1910 and 1932.

Here’s the shot from today:

Before getting into the differences, GM is struck by the similarity of angle, which suggests that the old shot may have also been taken from the Key Bridge. Since that span was constructed in 1923, it would narrow the window a bit.

While GM can’t quite date the old photo, he can identify a few of the buildings in the shot. Beyond the Capital Traction Power House there’s the flour mill:

On the riverbank there’s a boathouse for canoes: Continue reading


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The Library’s Useful Tools


Yesterday, GM ran an article about the history of the Corcoran School on 28th St. GM relied heavily on a free asset that he’s not sure many people are aware of: the entire Washington Post archives. And he got them with an assist from the DC public library.

Here’s the page full of the online newspaper and magazine articles that the library offers free for any library card holder (not a card holder? Sign up online here.) Of particular interest to GM are the Post archives, which go back to 1877, but there are other more limited archives for other newspapers like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.

GM’s of the position that any randomly selected newspaper from the past is going to be fascinating. But luckily for those looking for a particular piece of information, the archives have a strong search function. Continue reading

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The Morning Metropolitan

Photo by Jim_Malone.

Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:

  • Georgetown football victory wins bride for student (in 1927).
  • GM heard that the Magic Wardrobe closed its Middleburg store last month, so it seems highly unlikely the Georgetown location will reopen after a tax dispute shut them down last week.


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Now and a Long Time Ago: M and 33rd

This week on Now and a Long Time Ago, GM slides over to M between Wisconsin and 33rd. Due to some technical difficulties with his computer, GM doesn’t have one of those nifty slide features working today, but you get the drift.

The photo above was taken in 1966. The building at the center is the Reckert House, which is one of the oldest commercial buildings in Georgetown and one of the only wood frame structures on M St. It was built in the late 18th century.

It was at one point owned by Francis Dodge, who owned the Dodge Warehouse on the corner of Wisconsin and K. By the early 20th century it was owned by George Reckert who ran a grocery store there. Starting in 1960, it housed the Columbia Glass & Mirror Co., which as you probably recognize from their current location in Glover Park (they even use the same font for their sign!).

Columbia Glass & Mirror stayed at this location at least until the early 1980s. GM’s not sure when they left, but it’s now Anthropologie:

If you look closely at the old photo, you can see that Clyde’s was there already (they opened up just three years earlier in 1963. Interesting fact that GM discovered while researching that previous fact: Clyde’s is named after the River Clyde in Scotland.)

On the left you can see that there’s just air where the Georgetown Park condos now loom.

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West Georgetown Was Once “Obsolete”

Photo courtesy of GGW.

Greater Greater Washington published a great article the other day that delved into the sad story of mid-century urban renewal. It focused on the conclusion that the National Capital Park and Planning Commission (NCPPC) reached when it labeled huge swaths of central DC to be “obsolete” neighborhoods. And more interesting for GM, a large chunk of west Georgetown fell into that category.

The Commission identified neighborhoods as obsolete when over 50% of the dwellings needed major repairs and/or had no internal plumbing. And in its judgment, as of 1940 all the blocks west of 36th St. in Georgetown fell into that category (i.e. from P all the way down to Prospect between 36th and 37th).

This is a part of town whose poverty GM has discussed in the past. The scene was well captured by the photographer Carl Mydans:  Continue reading


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Ghosts of Buildings Past

On Monday, GM posted an article showing how the waterfront has changed since 1918. One element of the old photo that GM found particularly interesting was the line of buildings along Canal Rd. and Prospect St. south of GU:

From another old GM post, you can trace back through the Library of Congress to find the survey records from 1920, which show these properties:

Continue reading

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Now and a Long Time Ago: Waterfront

This week for Now and a Long Time Ago, GM heads down to the waterfront and digs up the story of the great flood of 1918.

This is a story GM covered before. The Post reported on February 19, 1918:

30,000 Throng Aqueduct Bridge and Neighboring Roads to Witness Wreckage Left By Weeks’ Flood

Everybody nearly was out on the Aqueduct bridge yesterday…watching the ice in the Potomac go by. There were close to 30,000 of them during the height of the ruch witnessing and commenting on the greatest flood the Capital has seen since 1889…A young woman stood on the bridge. She was filled with poetry by the maelstrom which whirled beneath her feet. She grasped her escort by the arm “Ain’t it wonderful what nature can do?” she breathed.

The only boathouse that appears in the old shot that has survived in the green Washington Canoe Club you can see square in the middle of the new shot.

Another item in the old shot that catches GM’s eye is the block of rowhouses on Canal at the bottom of the hill. Nowadays that’s just a hillside of trees. Continue reading


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Now and a Long Time Ago: M St. and 30th

This week on Now and a Long Time Ago, GM again focuses on Georgetown’s transportation past. The spot in question is M St., west of 30th.

The old photo is from DDOT’s archive. It’s from 1959 and it shows a desolate M St., presumably late at night. Down the center of M St. are the streetcar tracks, which were used only a few more years. On the south side of the street, it appears that M St. once had a service lane like there is on K St. downtown or up in Cleveland Park. GM’s not sure, but he suspects the purpose of this service lane is to give a place for people to stand while they wait for the streetcar.

On the corner where Juicy Couture is now once was Birch funeral home. Just to east of this building, where now stands Cusp was a Sinclair gas station.

It’s tough to make out any of the stores on the north side, but you can see the Riggs Bank golden dome glowing in the distance. Continue reading

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The Morning Metropolitan

Photo by Bsivad.

Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:

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Now and a Long Time Ago

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Last year, GM ran a series of articles where he took a photo from a pile of photos taken in 1993 and overlayed them with current photos. The series, dubbed “Now and Not So Long Ago”, was meant to highlight how much has changed in Georgetown over a very short amount of time.

Well, GM still has some photos left from that pile that he hasn’t used, but they’re all pretty boring at this point. So GM is going to use the same technology to compare photos from today with photos from a genuinely long time ago, in other words Now and a Long Time Ago.

And today, GM starts that series with a photo he’s discussed before. It’s a photo of poor children playing in the street from 1935. The house they’re standing outside of is 3617 O St. While in the 1930’s this neighborhood was home to working class, mostly Irish Catholic, families, today it is part of the Georgetown University campus.

According to the Census, in 1930 this house was occupied by George and Ethel Collins and their two children. George was a driver for the DC government and paid $22 a month to rent the house. Continue reading


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