If Walls Could Talk: Mad Hatter

I had the pleasure of speaking to a great class at AU last week. One of the students asked if we had ever done a piece about Mad Hatter on Connecticut Ave. We haven’t yet, so this one is for you, Blaire. (By the way, Blaire told me her parents named her after the Blair House … and added an ‘e’ at the end  of her name.)

Let’s dig into a little history for the building at 1319 Connecticut Ave. NW.

The Antiques Dealer

Mrs. Julia D’Wald Cordley was a dealer in rare antiques, having moved to Washington in the  1920s from New York with her husband Frank. She was originally from Ohio, born in 1873 as the child of a Polish immigrant father and German mother.

She ran a prominent antiques business, initially out of 812 17th St. NW, but then moved to the space currently occupied by Mad Hatter, for close to a decade. The old Washington Post newspapers were rife with ads for her period furniture, silver, and rugs.

Mad Hatter needs to create a speciality cocktails calls Mrs. Cordley. What do you think?

Mrs. Cordley's antiques store
Mrs. Cordley’s antiques store – May 5th, 1930
Mrs. Cordley's retirement advertisement - April 20th, 1937
Mrs. Cordley’s retirement advertisement – April 20th, 1937

Interestingly, we dug up a few more advertisements for Mrs. Cordley through 1939. Her retirement sale went on for about two years!

Curved Eloquence

A few years after World War II, the building was occupied by The Jenny Shoppe,  a ladies fashion store. Below is an advertisement from the Washington Post which ran on leap day, 1948.

The Jenny Shoppe - February 29th, 1948
The Jenny Shoppe – February 29th, 1948

The store wasn’t there much longer. By the following summer, it had been replaced by Davanne Millinery, a high-end hat shop for women.

Wash and Wear Wigs

Need a wig? If you did in 1970, you would have stopped by Wig Fair to pick the “The Juliette,” a wash and wear stretch wig. Sounds like a name for one more Mad Hatter cocktail.

Here’s an advertisement from the Washington Post, published on Friday, August 21st, 1970.

Wig Far - August, 21st, 1970
Wig Far – August, 21st, 1970

Jewelry Holdup

After serving time as the home of wigs, a new tenant moved in. Cornelius Zwennes moved his store from Georgetown to Dupont Circle and in 1973, his store was targeted in a holdup. Below is the Washington Post article from May 10th, 1973, detailing the crime.

Since teeny boppers and other street people had become a Georgetown fixture, jeweler Corenlis [sic] Zwennes decided after 20 years there that Connecticut Avenue was “a better place for high grade merchandise.”

Yesterday after his one-year-old shop at 1319 Connecticut Ave. NW was the target of an attempted robbery, Zwennes said he was “not so sure anymore.”

The incident occurred around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and Zwennes captured the accused robber, identified by police as John Willie Adams, 25, of 3200 16th St. NW. Police said Adams was on parole from a 10-year sentence he received in July, 1968, for burglary and grand larceny.

Zwennes was prepared. He had a burglar alarm system, unused since the shop opened in April, 1972. He also had a pistol, acquired three weeks ago, after another jewelry store five doors away was robbed.

Zwennes was out of sight in his mezzanine workshop, setting a diamond in a pin. His wife, Christine, was downstairs waiting on a man who was carefully scrutinizing a ring.

“I like it a lot, I’m going to take it,” Zwennes said he heard the man say.

The man then allegedly put a hand in his pocket, shoved the pocket towards Mrs. Zwennes, as if he had a gun, and said, “Now don’t make a move because this is a holdup.”

Zwennes overheard the remark, pressed the alarm system and came down the steps, pistol in hand. “When he saw me coming down the stairs with my gun, he sneaked out the door and tried to mix with the (rush hour) crowd,” the jeweler said. “I followed him, crept up behind him, put the gun in the center of his back, and in about a minute the police arrived.”

As the man left the store, Mrs. Zwennes snatched the ring from his hand. Police who searched Adams said they found no gun. Adams was charged with robbery.

Hello Handsome!

By the 1980s, the spot was where Nickleby’s set up shop.

Nickleby's - 1983 ad
Nickleby’s – 1983 ad

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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  • David Gordon

    I think they can name four or five cocktails from these advertisements.

  • Alex

    So, when did the place begin its run as a bar? Has the name of the bar always been the Mad hatter or were there previous iterations?