Posted tagged ‘history and culture’

WAMU Features Mt. Pleasant’s Woodner — and How It and the Neighborhood has Changed over the Years

June 28, 2017

A view of the Woodner through the center of a round patio and staircase in the back of the building.
Tyrone Turner / WAMU

This morning I awoke to hear this WAMU feature on Mt. Pleasant’s Woodner Apartment building and its history. I found it to be an interesting history on how life in the building, and the surrounding Mt. Pleasant and Columbia Heights neighborhoods, have changed over the years. The article touches upon segregation, gentrification, and the impacts that change has on a neighborhood.

While the focus of the feature is on the Woodner and Mt. Pleasant, I find that the story is relevant to all Ward 1 neighborhoods and well worth the listen.

The Washington Times Sealed Bonnet Contest of 1907

March 16, 2017

One of 16 commemorative loving cups awarded to drivers who completed the 1908 Washington Times Sealed Bonnet Contest.

Georgia Avenue has played many roles since its creation in 1810. One of its more important functions  has been as a gateway into and out of Washington for commerce and transportation.

So when I found a loving cup that commemorated an early automobile endurance test and was able to fix part of the route as being on Georgia Avenue, I was eager to learn more about the event. One of the things I was able to learn was that the trophy was originally one of sixteen such cups that were created for each of those who completed the course in the time allowed. As the goal of an endurance test is to complete the test, there were no official “winners” of the event, merely those who finished and those that did not.

The loving cup is engraved with details of the event, with the full inscription as follows:

The Times

Sealed Bonnet Contest

December 10, 1907

Driver, Isadore Freund Car, Packard

Perfect Score

Washington, Frederick, Ellicott City

Washington

The inscription provides plenty of clues to help track down the story behind the contest — including that it was sponsored by the Washington Times newspaper, that is was a “Sealed Bonnet Contest”, and that the route was from Washington, D.C., to Frederick, Md., to Ellicott City, MD, and back to Washington.

Sealed Bonnet contests were automobile endurance contests that were intended to draw the public’s attention to the durability and reliability of automobiles. They were called “Sealed Bonnet” contests because seals were placed on mechanical parts and the hood (bonnet) of the car to prove that no mechanical repairs had been made during the contest. While the Washington Times contest was not the first such event in the nation (I know of one that was held in New York on May 4, 1907, and I’m sure there were others), it was the earliest such contest organized in Washington, D.C.

Luttrell Garage on 14th Street, where cars were inspected in preparation for the contest.

As suggested by the cup’s inscription, the contest began in Washington. Specifically, the event began at the Luttrell Garage located at 1711-1713 14th Street, NW, where drivers had their cars inspected and sealed the day before the contest, December 9th. The building which once housed Luttrell Garage still stands today.

From Luttrell Garage, the route followed the Seventh Street Pike (Georgia Avenue) north through Silver Spring, Leesboro, Norbeck, and Olney. Here it turned and went through Laytonsville and Damascus on its way to Frederick. Once at Frederick cars turned around and traveled to Ellicott City through New Market, where again cars changed course and headed back toward Silver Spring where they could pick up the Seventh Street Pike and return to the garage on 14th Street. The map below roughly shows the entire 118 mile course.

Weather played its part to make the contest more difficult than expected. Drivers began the contest at 8 a.m. From Washington to Olney they encountered a driving rain. Upon reaching Olney and turning toward Laytonsville, the drivers encountered what was described as a sea of mud. Twenty five of the twenty six drivers successfully navigated the muddy conditions. While a few drivers were able to pull through the mud without stopping, every driver encountered difficulty as the mud came up to the bodies of the cars. The rain continued nearly until reaching Frederick, where it began to break. By the time drivers neared Ellicott City they encountered clear skies with a bright moon. Upon leaving Ellicott City, drivers were again confronted by bad weather, this time by a squall of snow, hail, and rain.

Twenty six drivers had entered the contest. Remarkably sixteen completed the course without mechanical problems and within the time permitted. Each of these would receive a silver loving cup trophy commemorating their accomplishment. Four cars did not finish due to mechanical failures that included a broken cylinder, a broken spark plug, and a broken axle. Six drivers were disqualified.

The contest captured the imagination of Washingtonians and helped popularized automobiles in the District of Columbia. One result was that automobile dealers reported an unexpected increase in the sales of all types of cars following the event. Capitalizing on their success, the Washington Times held a second Sealed Bonnet Contest on June 9, 1908, which was sanctioned by the American Automobile Association and received wider interest that the 1906 event — including drivers from Baltimore and Philadelphia.

(Photograph of a Mitchell Runabout with two of the sixteen Sealed Bonnet trophies on its running board)

Early 20th Century Photo of Rock Creek Church Cemetery Gate House

January 6, 2017

Back in August I found this old photo of the Gate House to Rock Creek Church Cemetery. Based on the other photos that were with it, I’m dating the photo to ca. 1915.

St. Pauls Episcopal church gate house

The gate house is still there and anyone familiar with the cemetery should recognize it. There are two things I like about this photo, though. The first is that it also includes a man standing in Rock Creek Church Road set up to take a photograph of the Soldiers’ Home Cemetery to the east. The other is that it shows that the entrance to the cemetery was once at Harewood Road. Today, the entrance has been moved to the west and is now at Rock Creek Church and Webster. This means that the gate house is no longer located right next to the gate.

The map below is a detail from the 1919 edition of the Baist’s real estate atlas of surveys of Washington, on which I’ve included an arrow showing the direction from which the above photo was taken. It also shows that Webster Street had not yet been constructed to connect with Rock Creek Church Road.

1919-baist-map-harewood-gate-with-arrow

Advertising Spoon with a Link to Georgia Avenue’s Past

December 14, 2016

corby-spoon

I’m always on the look out for old items that have a link to the Georgia Avenue neighborhoods. A while ago I found this advertising spoon from the early 1900s showing Corby Bakery. Below is a close up of the bowl, which has an elevation of the bakery.

corby-spoon-close-up

You can still see the original building at 2301 Georgia Avenue at the intersection at Barry Place.

Corby's Bakery Building(Image from flickr user StreetsofWashington)

1921 Painting with Local Connection

September 16, 2016

A while ago I found a painting of the cherry trees at the tidal basin which caught my eye. It isn’t much, and originally I thought it was a colored photograph, but upon closer examination I realized that it was actually a painting that included the signature E.B. Chappell, 1921. Doing a quick search for the name, I came up empty and set it aside as a project for another day. You can see a photograph of the painting below.

chappell-painting(Painting by Edwin B. Chappell, 1921.)

Last weekend I took up the project again and this time I found a reference that identified the artist.

According to an obituary in the Washington Post, the artist was Edwin B. Chappell. Chappell was born in England ca.  1851 and in his youth immigrated to America, settling in Bedford, Pennsylvania. He moved to Washington, D.C. in 1918 and lived in the Petworth neighborhood at 4020 Third Street, NW, from 1919 until his death in 1925. He was known for painting pictures of the Japanese cherry blossoms in Potomac Park.

Sadly his latter years were not without pain and suffering, as sixteen years prior to his death he injured his back in an accident when he fell from a scaffold. About a year prior to his death, Chappell fell from a ladder and broke his arm, and in the summer of 1924 he was struck by an automobile which left him crippled and despondent.

1909 Mural in Anderson House Shows Automobile Driving Through Park View

August 26, 2016

Here’s a connection to the neighborhood that I wasn’t aware of (though I’m sure many already do). In reading up on the history of the Anderson House — located at 2118 Massachusetts Avenue in the Dupont Circle neighborhood — I read a reference to murals inside by H. Siddons Mowbray that drew my interest. Today, the house is the national headquarters of the Society of the Cincinatti, and according to their Website, the Mowbray murals in the Key Room and Winter Garden are his only works in Washington, D.C.

I was particularly interested in the description of the two Mowbray murals in the Winter Garden, which are of Washington, D.C., and its surroundings. Between the two murals, they map Larz and Isabel Andersons’ favorite local driving routes and nearby landmarks — some of which include the National Zoo, Old Soldiers’ Home, Great Falls, Arlington House, and Mount Vernon. They were painted in 1909 so its a nice reference to car culture at the beginning of the 20th century. Its also an interesting representation of how much of D.C. was developed and where people would drive on outings at the time.

I’ve not had a change to go to the Anderson House yet (which is open to the public for free), but was able to find a blog post online here that provides more information on the house as well the image below of the mural that shows driving routes up Georgia Avenue, along Rock Creek Church Road, and through the Soldiers’ Home.

Anderson House mural soldiers home(Photo from Museum a Week blog.)

Century Old Photos of the Soldiers’ Home Lakes

August 24, 2016

Recently I came across the following two photos of the lower Lake at the Soldier’ Home. The lakes are located just east of the no closed Park Road gate. Judging from the other photos in the collection, I believe the images date to around 1913. I especially like the geese/ducks/swans on the water and the houses on the small island for them.

soldiers home lake

soldiers home lake


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