If Walls Could Talk: Mockingbird Hill

Congratulations to the latest winner of our “If Walls Could Talk” poll: Mockingbird Hill at 1843 7th St. NW.

Mockingbird Hill
Mockingbird Hill photo by Jamie Liu

Vice squad raid for illegal gambling

We came across a story in the Baltimore Afro-American from July 21st, 1928 detailing a raid on Shirley Hamond Brown’s home at 1835 7th St. NW. The raid netted a gill (i.e., a quarter pint) of gin and uncovered illegal gambling in the home. Among those busted included John Chambers Opey, 37 years old, of 1843 7th St. NW.

Young man murdered at “Howard Social Club”

The obituaries in the Washington Post on January 7th, 1938 listed a young man, Joshua Collins of 1843 7th St. NW as recently deceased. He was only 27 years old.

Doing a little more digging, we came across this article in the Washington Post from January 4th.

Detective Sergt. Aubrey M. Tolson, of the homicide squad, notified the Treasury yesterday that he found a counterfeit $20 bill on the body of Joshua W. Collins, colored, 27, 1711 Thirteenth street northwest, who was stabbed to death in the “Howard Social Club,” 1843 Seventh street northwest, Christmas Eve.

Carroll C. Brown, colored, 21, 624 I street southeast, was detained, and Tolson declared a counterfeit $5 bill was found in Brown’s pocket. Brown told Tolson he had gotten the bill from Collins.

Both bills, Sergt. Tolson stated, had been through a bank and had been marked “counterfeit” in large red letters, but the police notice had been partially eradicated.

Zoe Collins, wife of Joshua (The Baltimore Afro-American)
Zoe Collins, wife of Joshua (The Baltimore Afro-American)

Okay, so the paper’s fact checking wasn’t that good. It seems he was not from 1843 7th St., but that was the location of his murder.

Even more digging, and we came across another article with a photo of Collins’ wife, Zoe. The story detailed how he was a former prizefighter, and the stabbing happened during an altercation at the club, which was a gambling den, though this time, it was stated that the crime occurred on New Year’s Day. The story also claimed that Collins was well known as a “bully” and Mrs. Collins had to vehemently deny those charges to the reporter.

Okay, so the only consistent detail is that the murder happened at 1843 7th St. NW, but it seems that the other details are a little fuzzy. There’s definitely more to this, so a little more GoDC digging and we came across another article from the Baltimore Afro-American, this time from Saturday, January 15th, 1938. This one changed the date again, claiming that the murder was the day before.

Underworld secrets of alleged Seventh Street gambling houses which pose as “social clubs” were disclosed at the District morgue on Tuesday when witnesses recited the circumstances under which Joshua W. Collins, 27, former amatuer prizefighter, was fatally stabbed, Friday about 6 a.m.

The coroner’s jury ordered Carroll C. (Pinky) Brown, alias Carroll Whisonaut, held for grand jury action in connection with the slaying after Brown, upon advice of his attorney, testified that he killed Collins in self-defense.

Brown said that the argument which preceded the slaying, began when Collins, reputed to be a “bully” around the club, refused to make good a $5 counterfeit bill he allegedly passed to Brown during a dice game.

Brown told the jury, “Collins knocked me down and I cut him with my knife.”

According to witnesses, who identified themselves as members of the “social” organization, Albert (Big Head) Smith, who gave police his address at 1901 Seventh Street, Northwest, is proprietor and general manager of the club.

Brown, reportedly a former employee at the postoffice and White House, left the premises after the stabbing and gave himself up to Sergt. A. M. Tolson of the Homicide squad, Sunday, after learning of Collins’s death.

He told the jury he knew Collins as a fighter, a “tough man” and a user of dope and was afraid when Collins advanced on him.

Brown gave his address as 624 I Street, Southeast. Collins was reported to have lived at 37 Myrtle Street, Northeast, and later at 1711 Thirteenth Street, Northwest.

Disclosures of gambling in the so-called “social club” were revealed when the defense counsel, Fred J. Icenhower, white, attempted to draw the club regulation from witnesses. the attorney repeatedly asked witnesses, who are members of the club, “What are the dues?” and “What is the purpose of the club?”

Smith, reputed general manager of the club, denied gambling was one of the club’s activities, testifying the boys spent most of the time playing whist. Others admitted playing cards but couldn’t remember playing for money.

With respect to club dues, seven members testified paying various amounts ranging from $25 cents a month to $12 a year. Earl J. Thomas confessed being the man who “cut” the games in the club.

Carroll (Pinky) Brown sits calmly at Washington morgue as he tells the coroner's jury about the altercation at the Howard Social Club - The Baltimore Afro-American
Carroll (Pinky) Brown sits calmly at Washington morgue as he tells the coroner’s jury about the altercation at the Howard Social Club – The Baltimore Afro-American

A new radio shop

In the spring of 1939, a new radio shop was opening up at 1843 7th St. NW. Below are some advertisements we dug up from The Washington Afro-American.

Mid-City Radio Shop advertisement (1939)
Mid-City Radio Shop advertisement (1939)
Mid-City Radio Service advertisement (1939)
Mid-City Radio Service advertisement (1939)

Beat to death with a bat

Here’s a crazy story we dug up in the Washington Post from January 20th, 1947.

A coroner’s jury yesterday ordered Leroy Marshall, 49, of 1843 7th st. nw., held for action of the grand jury in connection with the bat death of Jesse Holcomb, 63, of 436 S st. nw. Police said the two men were fighting on June 14 shortly before Holcomb was found unconscious on a vacant lot, in the 1700 block of Marion ct. nw. Holcomb died Monday at Freedmen’s Hospital of head injuries.

Another story that I came across claims the murder weapon was actually a brick. Either way, a horrible way to die.

Bakery goes bankrupt

Here’s a story that we dug up in the Washington Post from November 13th, 1953. A German-owned bakery had an office in the building and was declaring bankruptcy.

Holzbeierlein & Sons, Inc., a Washington bakery since 1893 and producer of “Bamby” bread, yesterday filed a petition of voluntary bankruptcy in District Court.

Founded by Michael Holzbeierlein and always a family-owned establishment, the bakery ceased operations yesterday.

According to the petition, the bakery has liabilities of $155,602 and assets of $149,590. It was located at 1817-1825 Wiltberger st. nw., with an office at 1843 7th st. nw.

Attorney Harry A. Grant, who filed the petition for the bakery said the insolvency was caused by the greatly increased cost of labor and supplies and the inability of the bakery to raise prices because of stiff competition.

The bakery employed about 70 persons and had 30 trucks on the streets.

Liquor store banned from selling

If you lived in the neighborhood in the summer of 1971 and were looking to buy some booze to celebrate the summer solstice, you were out of luck. Below is a story we found in the Washington Post from June 8th of that year.

Three D.C. liquor stores will be barred from selling liquor on June 21, The D.C. alcoholic beverage control board found the stores were behind in payments to wholesalers.

The stores are Pinckney Liquors, 1843 7th St. NW, Jacobson’s Market and Liquor Store, 924 10th St. NW, and Annapolis Liquors, 800-04 11th St. NW.

Saddle up to the bar at Mockingbird Hill, enjoy a glass of sherry, and share some of these stories with the bartender.

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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