Shabby Houses on Mass Ave

Here’s a shot by Carl Mydans from 1935. We found it on the Library of Congress’ site, but we’re not sure where this is on Mass Ave. Any ideas? Go to lunch, show your friends, debate it and post your thoughts in the comments below. Are these homes still there?

- click image for more -
Section of Massachusetts Avenue showing block of shabby houses with outside toilets and water supply
Section of Massachusetts Avenue showing block of shabby houses with outside toilets and water supply

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 …

  • It looks like a double digit number over the door on the first house, but hard to make out, unfortuntately.

  • Approx 20 Mass Ave. NW, looking towards Columbus Circle. The tall building’s the current Phoenix Park Hotel, Sunlife Bank building on the corner is the giveaway.

  • DCHistory

    We think it’s the unit block of Massachusetts Avenue NW, right by Union Station. The structure at the end appears to be what is now the Suntrust Bank. Interesting note about the bank building, it was originally the Childs restaurant and was an earlier work of Williams van Allen, who went on to design the Chrysler Building in New York City.

    The houses no longer exist, however, and were replaced by what is now an office of the Department of Homeland Security.

    • Dougl

      Hurrah, good to see others recognize one of the very few works by van Alen! And in DC no less.

      • Audrey Burtrum-Stanley

        I wrote the obit for Van Alen on FIND A GRAVE. Sadly, there is little info on his career’s structures as his wife burned all his papers after his death. He is, however, such a respected figure, a NYC Arch. Award was named (as ‘the greatest honor’) after him. I wish you’d pub. a pic of this SUNTRUST BANK bldg.

  • Right on, Ben! The small building with the arched front facade looked so familiar! Guess the Phoenix Park used to house a “…..Lantern Cafe” at one point.

  • Matthew Gilmore

    Another photo on the Library of Congress website by Mydans shows more of the block: LC-USF33-T01-000147-M1. Childs Restaurant (now Suntrust Bank) at 2 Massachusetts Avenue is visible in the distance; so these houses are directly across from the still-standing Gales School–where 20 Massachusetts Ave NW is now. see your previous:

  • Tish

    it’s the unit block, south side of Mass Avenue between North Capitol & First Street. Phoenix park hotel in the background. The Dept of Homeland security is on that site now. No house.

  • Rabi Hussein

    Good catch!

  • Sheila

    Did anyone notice the statue of a man on a horse at the end of the block? Well, it’s gone now anyway, makes me wonder which one it was.