Prize Corn Crop at the Soldiers’ Home — Newsworthy in 1911

Agriculture within the District is a foreign concept to Washington residents today, but 100 years ago it was not only commonplace it was seen as one of the economic assets that could be promoted by the Chamber of Commerce. However, by 1911 — when the article below was published — much of the farmland along lower and middle Georgia Avenue was fast being developed into the suburbs and neighborhoods familiar to us today.

The Soldiers’ Home was an exception to the changing rural landscape around it. With nearly 500 acres of land from 1872 to the early 1950s, the Home not only supported the retirement community for which it was created, but also farming and a dairy that had the first accredited herd in the United States.

Below is an article reporting on corn grown at the Soldiers’ Home in 1911. The article was published in the September 23, 1911, issue of the The Washington Herald. The image in this post accompanied the article.




 Stalks Tower to Height of Seventeen Feet.


W. McGrath, Scientific Farmer, Shows How Land In and Near the District of Colombia Can Be Turned to Rich Account with the Proper Treatment.

The value of the soil in and around Washington for the production of corn is indicated by the crop which has been grown at the Soldiers’ Home this summer. The crop has just reached its maturity, and well demonstrates what Washington soil tilled by a trained hand along scientific lines can produce.

The corn at Soldiers’ Home is seventeen feet tall. The height can be fully comprehended in the accompanying cut, when it is known that the man in the white jacket is six feet tall. The view of the corn is impressive, with the tall stalks extending over a vast area and waving slightly to and fro in the gentle autumnal breezes. It is indeed a surprising sight, when it is considered that the Home is just about in the heart of the District and not very far from the center of the city proper.

Scientific Farming.

The crop at Soldiers’ Home was raised by William McGrath, the farm superintendent. Mr. McGrath has taken a course at the Maryland Agricultural College, and the value of scientific farming is shown in the result of his year’s labor in the fields. The ears of corn are of excellent quality. They are unusually large and perfectly formed.

The success of the Soldiers’ Home crop probably will induce many persons to purchase land in and surrounding the District for the growing of corn. Experts of the Bureau of Soils, Department of Agriculture, say that there are thousands of acres of land within a radius of twenty to fifty miles of Washington which can be purchased now for $2 or $3 an acre, and which, by scientific culture, could be turned into most valuable trucking ground.

The officials of the Department of Agriculture are much interested in the results that have been obtained at the home. The committee on publicity of the Chamber of Commerce will soon give Prof. Whitney, Chief of the Bureau of Soils, a hearing on the value of surrounding lands. The Chamber will then be able to advertise to farmers the attractions of excellent though cheap land within a few miles of all the conveniences offered by the city. This booming of the surrounding country will greatly benefit commercial Washington.


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One Comment on “Prize Corn Crop at the Soldiers’ Home — Newsworthy in 1911”

  1. Angry Parakeet Says:

    My curiousity is piqued – what is this “scientific farming” mentioned a number of times?
    I’m from “corn country” (West-Central Illinois) and was a summer laborer in the corn fields for a company called Dekalb – you must know of it

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