The Poor Kids of Georgetown

I know it’s probably hard to imagine, but Georgetown wasn’t always the bastion of Washington’s wealthy. Back in the 1930s many working class and even poor families lived in the neighborhoods now mostly occupied by lawyers, politicians and rich diplomats.

Below is a photograph from September 1935 taken by Carl Mydans. The caption states that it’s a group of young, poor children playing on a street in Georgetown. The best part is the sheer joy on the face of the kid to the left.

poor children in Georgetown, playing on the street (1935)
poor children in Georgetown, playing on the street (1935)

I wonder what happened to these children. They appear to young to be destined for the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific during World War II.

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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Washington, D.C., circa 1931. "Fifteenth Street at Pennsylvania Avenue." Note the traffic lights, which made their D.C. debut in 1926, as well as the traffic-cop gazebo at center ("NO LEFT TURN") and streetcar switch tower to its left. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.

Looking Up 15th St. at Pennsylvania Ave. in 1931

This great old photo shows the view looking north on 15th St., just east of …

  • Hard to tell their ages (3-4?) but if 4 in 1935, they might’ve made it into the last days of WWII, or served as part of the occupation forces of Japan or Germany. Also, the Korean War would’ve happened when these kids were of age.

  • FloridaFFfromMd

    My grandmother was born in DC in 1918 and grew up in Georgetown

  • Kathleen Franklin

    Any one of the little girls in photos like this one could be my mother, who was born in 1931. I grew up in Georgetown, as a fourth-generation resident in the same house my great-grandmother purchased in 1909. We sold it in 2009 – a century of one family in a terrific old neighborhood. My great-grandmother, a Killeen, was the matriarch of a working-class family whose men were butchers, saloon-keepers (specifically, Wisconsin and Dumbarton), and the odd bootlegger — look up Eddie Killeen sometime. The house still stands at 3117 N Street and you can read my tribute to it in a May 3, 2009 “XX Files” column from The Washington Post. I have fond memories of growing up there. Alice Longworth Roosevelt lived across the street, and Averill Harriman was down the block. I went to Georgetown University, worked at Blimpie’s and then at the old Record and Tape Limited (before it was renamed Olsson’s) at 1239 Wisconsin Avenue, roller-skated on those bumpy brick sidewalks, climbed fire escapes (and crept across the flat rooftops), and watched the neighborhood change from a real “neighborhood” – with little grocery stores, pharmacies (remember Doc’s, anyone?) bakeries, hardware stores, etc. – into a glorified strip mall dotted with Starbucks and chain stores. I miss it, and I wish I could live there again, despite the changes.

  • Sheila

    My Great Grandmother and my Grandmother both grew up in Georgetown too. My Grandmother was 4 yrs. old in the 1900 Census and they lived on 31 St. Street. My Great Grandmother had lived there most of her life too. I miss the old neighborhoods of DC too. There was not one home that didn’t have tons of rose bushes in the yard, almost everyone had huge gardens, and people talk to each other over the fence back then too. Everyone hung their laundry out on a line, and no one ever worried about anyone getting hurt or robbed. My father was born, in 1920, in a house in DC that’s still there today. The house on the corner was a bakery, and my father, when he was very small, used to go to the corner to buy the daily bread. That bakery even baked for the White House back then too. It was a real country atmosphere in DC back then, and it’s a shame that we are basically the last generation to remember it that way. Oh, and I really miss the streetcars too.

  • Paul Dixon

    My father lived on Olive St. Where he was born in 1905