Three Things About The Westchester at 4000 Cathedral Ave. NW

We’re on a roll with these “Three Things…” posts, so why not crank out another one. This time, we’re going to focus on The Westchester at 4000 Cathedral Ave. NW.

Christy, The Westchester’s resident ambassador for GoDC sent in the suggestion and, after a little digging in the archives, it appears that the building has some interesting tales to share. Thank you for your kind words Christy, always much appreciated.

The Westchester (Flickr user Anomalous_A)
The Westchester (Flickr user Anomalous_A)

The above photo was taken by Flickr user Anomalous_A. Check out the their other photos, because there are a number of other great shots of the building.

So, without further ado, the next installment of “Three Things…”

1. New Westchester building to house 800 units, beauty shop and drug store

Here’s a great article from the early days of the building, published by the Washington Post on November 22nd, 1931 … when America was in the painful throes of the Great Depression.

The newest and largest unit at the Westchester, recently completed at 4000 Cathedral avenue northwest near Wesley Heights, provides many unusual features and conveniences to its residents, which already number more than 400.

The dining room, for example, is now open from 7:30 a. m. to 8:30 p. m., serving excellent food at reasonable prices. Pleasingly varied and well-balanced menus offer a choice of many tempting dishes, with both a la carte and table d’hôte service. Meals can also be sent up to any tenants who so desire and are served in apartments by very capable waiters.

Let me pause it right there. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say those perks probably do not exist any more, but how sweet would that be? I imagine it was quite a glamorous place to live in the 1930s. On second thought, after a little Googling, I found out that there still is a restaurant in the building. I have to check it out.

It continues …

The basement of this new building cleverly conceals a drug store and a Piggly Wiggly store–which, aside from carrying a full line of high-grade groceries, will have a meat market and a vegetable department–offering everything, in fact, that will be needed in the kitchens of the Westchester’s residents. Both of these stores are being rushed to completion now and should be open very soon.

In the basement there is also a 300-car garage, offering 24-hour service, and a modern laundry plant, equipped with the latest electric washing machines and hot air driers–for use by any tenants who desire to use them.

Adjoining the main lobby of the new building, there is a thoroughly up-to-date beauty salon, which makes available to the Westchester’s residents a complete beauty service, at standard rates, without necessitating a trip downtown. The men living at the Westchester have been quick to take advantage of the convenience of the barber shop, which is also located near the main lobby of the new building.

Sounds like an incredible place to live.

Dining Room of The Westchester Apartments by Theodor Horydczak in 1947 (Library of Congress)
Dining Room of The Westchester Apartments by Theodor Horydczak in 1947 (Library of Congress)

2. Diplomat attacked by thugs inside The Westchester

Every “Three Things…” post needs to have a little crazy story in them. This is that crazy story, published by the Washington Post on August 25th, 1934.

Hussein K. Navab, secertary [sic] of the Persian Legation, was mysteriously assaulted yesterday in his home at the Westchester Apartments, 4000 Cathedral avenue northwest.

Answering a knock on the door of his apartment, Navab was confronted by two well-dressed men who addressed him in English. The attaché does no understand the language and when he sought to convey this to his visitors, one of them pulled a blackjack and slugged him on the right side of the head.

Navab was dazed momentarily. Then he ran through the halls shouting for help. His assailants fled from the sixth floor to a waiting car in the driveway and sped from the exclusive residential neighborhood.

Navab was unable to give police any reason for the assault. No attempt was made to enter the apartment, or rob him, he explained, and the only factor which might have given a clew [sic] to the motive for the assault–the remark made by one of his assailants–was not understood by him.

There was no further report in the papers about capturing or even identifying the assailants. My guess is that they got away. What a bizarre experience for Navab.

Grounds of The Westchester Apartments by Theodor Horydczak in 1947 (Library of Congress)
Grounds of The Westchester Apartments by Theodor Horydczak in 1947 (Library of Congress)

3. Republican Senators have no water pressure

Here’s a good story from the Washington Post. This was published on July 26th, 1947.

More than 300 units comprising the upper floors of the fashionable Westchester Apartments, 39th st. and Cathedral ave. nw., have been without water since 11 p. m. Thursday. Eight Republican Senators live in the apartment development.

Water department and building engineers worked all day yesterday, but had not been able to find the trouble.

Arthur J. Harnett, manager of the Westchester, said water department men were still working last night and that the water supply “would be all right” by 7 a. m. today.

Harnett said he had heard several theories as to the cause of the trouble, but cared to advance none himself.

The water was originally turned off Thursday night so that an additional fire line could be installed in the buildings. When it was turned on again at 7 a. m. yesterday, only the residents on the lower floors were able to get any.

Among the occupants without water are diplomats, Washington socialites and Government figures.

The Senators are Raymond E. Baldwin (Conn.), C. Wayland Brooks (Ill.), C. Douglass Buck (Del.), Homer Ferguson (Mich.), Harry P. Cain (Wash.), Wayne Morse (Oreg.), Alexander Wiley (Wis.) and Chapman Revercomb (W. Va.).

Harnett laughingly said he “guessed we don’t have any Democratic Senators here.”

Other prominent persons were reside at the Westchester are: Raymond Foley, Lieut. Gen. Leroy T. Lutes, Milton P. Slesinger, Maj. Gen Everett F. Hughes, Rear Admiral Robert O. Glover, Judge George D. Neilson of Municipal Court and Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Giles.

That’s a pretty impressive list of tenants and I suspect they were not terribly pleased to forgo their morning showers before hitting the Senate Floor.

By the way, July 26th, 1947 is the day President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, establishing the Department of Defense by merging the Departments of War and Navy, in addition to creating the separate military branch of the Air Force. The Act also established the new Central Intelligence Agency.

If you live in the area or near the building, share this on Facebook or Twitter to show your friends, or better yet, pin the photos on Pinterest.

Main lobby of Westchester Apartments by Theodor Horydczak in 1947 (Library of Congress)
Main lobby of Westchester Apartments by Theodor Horydczak in 1947 (Library of Congress)
Elevators of The Westchester Apartments by Theodor Horydczak in 1947 (Library of Congress)
Elevators of The Westchester Apartments by Theodor Horydczak in 1947 (Library of Congress)
Grounds of The Westchester Apartments by Theodor Horydczak in 1947 (Library of Congress)
Grounds of The Westchester Apartments by Theodor Horydczak in 1947 (Library of Congress)

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • jeff

    This is a great entry! Would be cool if you could do something similar on the Northumberland Apartments!

  • Jim Fanslau

    Great article. Warren Buffet delivered papers to the Westchester an Sen.Barry Goldwater also lived here.

  • I worked at the Westchester for 7 years. It hasn’t changed a whole lot from its conception.