If Walls Could Talk: Madam’s Organ

It’s highly likely you have been to the D.C. institution known as Madam’s Organ at 2461 18th St. NW. It anchors the Adams Morgan strip, and has done so since the current patrons were in diapers.

It’s been a while since our last “If Walls Could Talk” post, so let’s kick it off with the legendary Madam’s Organ.

Madam's Organ mural

Madam’s Organ mural

Square 2560, Lot 74

Here is a great map of the area in 1907. The intersection you’re looking at is 18th and Columbia. The building that would eventually become Madam’s Organ is lot number 74.

1907 map of 18th and Columbia

1907 map of 18th and Columbia

The Hertzberg twins celebrate their birthday

The Washington Post on January 24th, 1907, published the Hertzberg twins’ birthday celebration in the social column. Allan and Lewis lived at 2461 18th St. NW with their parents Julius and Carrie.

Julius had originally come to the United States from Germany in 1896 and worked as a dry goods buyer.

Below is the mention of the birthday celebration.

Masters Lewis and Allan Hertzberg, twin sons of Mr. and Mrs. Julius Hertzberg, were hosts at a very enjoyable birthday anniversary party last evening at their home, 2461 Eighteenth street, northwest. Those present were Mrs. and Miss Altman, of New York; Mr. and Mrs. H. Hollander, Mrs. L Heilbrun, Mrs. T. Salomon, Mrs. L Hertzberg, of Baltimore; Misses Blanche Hollander, Clara Price, Florence Price, Helen Sanger, Sophie Sanger, Lillian Heilbrun, Bertha Greenberg, Pauline Kuntz, Julia Salomon, and Theresa Karger, and Messrs. Irvin Harold Price, Louis Greenberg, and Del Reliance. A vocal and instrumental programme was given by Master Allen and Master Lewis.

The vocal programme seems rather odd, given that in the 1910 U.S. Census, the boys were listed as four years old, which would mean they were one at this party.

Hertzberg family in the 1910 U.S. Census

Hertzberg family in the 1910 U.S. Census

Dear Santa

This is a touching one from 1928. This was a Washington Post letter to Santa Claus competition held prior to Christmas of that year. First prize was $20, awarded to Charles Fugitt of 521 Shepherd St. NW. Fourth prize that year ($1) was given to Norman Rosenburg of 2461 18th St. NW.

Norman Rosenburg - November 25th, 1928 (Washington Post)

Norman Rosenburg – November 25th, 1928 (Washington Post)

This is the letter he wrote, published in the newspaper on November 25th, 1928.

Editor of The Post:

“Why I Know There Is a Santa Claus.”

When Christmas comes, of course we always think of Christmas trees, presents, holidays, parties, but when you think hard the first thing that comes in your mind is Santa Claus. For the benefit of those who can not believe me, I will try to make them understand. When we turn on our radio around Christmas we always hear Santa. The radio, which is heard the world over, could never lie. Don’t we write letters and generally get what we ask for> Don’t we all know that Santa comes down the chimney late at night and surprises us? Many books have stories about Santa’s reindeer, his home, his ways, his adventures. Aren’t they written in black and white for everyone to see, by famous writers? Indeed, those who do not believe in Santa Claus, in my estimation, lose most of the joy that live gives.

The radio definitely doesn’t lie, and neither does the Internet.

Man nearly killed in mystery attack

This is a super sketchy story we dug up in the Washington Post from March 16th, 1930. The title says it all.

Severely injured when he apparently was “taken for a ride,” John Byroades, 42 years old, of 2461 Eighteenth street northwest, was dumped out unconscious at Emergency Hospital at 11:15 o’clock last night by an unidentified motorist, who gave an incoherent, mysterious story and ran out to disappear in his waiting automobile.

Byroades, identified only from personal effects in his clothes, was reported by hospital attendants in dying condition, with possible internal injuries and numerous injuries on the head. Belief was expressed that he would not regain consciousness.

The motorist lugged the injured man from his machine, dropped him to the flor [sic] of the emergency room at the hospital, and mumbled a few words to the effect that Byroades had been riding along Wilson boulevard near Clarendon, Va., with ostensible friends when an attack was made, and that Byroades was beaten and then slung out of the machine to the roadway. He was rushed out without making his own identity known.

The hurts received by Byroades indicated that he had been the victim in a terrific mauling. His clothes were badly torn.

Arlington County autorities [sic] early today had not received any reports of the crime, other than that Byroades was in the hospital, where Policeman Will Thompson was dispatched to investigate.

There wasn’t much else about the case in the newspaper. The only other fact reported in another article was that Byroades spent time that evening drinking in an I St. speakeasy. According to him, he was drinking with some friends when they decided to head to another notorious roadhouse in Silver Spring. He ended up being brutally beaten, breaking three ribs, fracturing his skull and was robbed of $200.

Toys for every child

Charles Lazarus, the founder of Toys “R” Us started out with a small store at 2461 18th St. NW. He had returned from World War II, and in 1948, at the age of 25, saw an opportunity to capitalize on the growing baby boom with a store to capture this market, Children’s Bargain Town.

So, every time you order another round at Madams Organ, think about all the happy children who used to roam the building, looking for new toys.

Baby Supermart advertisement - November 4th, 1954 (Washington Post and Times Herald)

Baby Supermart advertisement – November 4th, 1954 (Washington Post and Times Herald)

Today, 2461 18th St. NW is one of the more popular late-night destinations in the rowdy Adams Morgan neighborhood. Far from it’s days as a store where you could buy a crib.

Madam's Organ

Madam’s Organ


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  • http://communionoflight.com/ Frank Butterfield

    This is wonderful! I simply can’t refer to Adams Morgan as anything other than Madam’s Organ when speaking of the area. To me, they are one and the same.

    And… I can only assume you’ve not recently been to the birthday party of a one-year old child (not to mention twins!) and, therefore, would not understand why they would obviously be the ones to provide a “vocal and instrumental programme.” I’m sure it was loud, long, and lusty choruses of crying, banging, singing, screeching, and probably a bit of caterwauling thrown in for good measure!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=12441236 Vincent Verweij

      This is what I was thinking. People back then also had a sense of humor, it seems.

  • Citizen

    Does Norman Rosenburg remind you of Alfred E Neuman?

  • Ian

    Not sure about the diapers comment — it moved twice in the 90s — it used to be on the other side of the street, and before than, it was down by Florida Avenue, but always on 18th.

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