1900s Frozen in Time at 14th and Pennsylvania Avenue

What do you see in this photo of Pennsylvania Avenue? It’s an amazing scene from the early 1900s, where you can see the Willard Hotel prominently positioned, as well as the old Washington Post building and the Treasury Building in the background. Let’s do a little analysis of this old image to see what we can find.

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early 1900s view of 11th and Pennsylvania
early 1900s view of 11th and Pennsylvania

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Source: Library of Congress

For some reference, here is the 1903 map of the intersection. If you click on it, you’ll be able to see a larger version.

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14th and Pennsylvania Avenue in 1903
14th and Pennsylvania Avenue in 1903
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The White House and Treasury Building
The White House and Treasury Building

Of course we can’t miss this sign on the from of the Washington Post building.

Washington Post building
Washington Post building
Gerstenberg's on E Street
Gerstenberg’s on E Street

At the corner of 12th and E St. was a very popular and leading German restaurant in Washington run by Ernst Gerstenberg. He had originally immigrated to the U.S. in 1883 with his wife Augusta. They lived at 1343 F St. NW, close to their restaurant, and hosted a number of immigrant and local boarders from Germany, Austria, and Ireland, many of whom worked in their restaurant.

Postal Telegraph Building
Postal Telegraph Building

The Postal Telegraph & Cable Company was a large operator of communications networks in the early 1900s. It was originally founded in the 1880s by John William Mackay and ultimately consolidated into Western Union in 1943 (Wikipedia).

Engel's on E Street
Engel’s on E Street

Engel’s was a restaurant owned by William A. Engel (who died in 1948). In his obituary, it noted that he was a native of Buehne, Germany started Engel’s Hotel in the early 1900s at New Jersey and C St. NW and it was “internationally known for its food.” He arrived in Baltimore at the age of 19 and then moved to Rosslyn shortly thereafter to become the foreman at the old Portner Brewing Company. He then moved to D.C. a couple years later to take the same role for Pabst Brewing Co., remaining with the company for about a decade, until he started his hotel business. His original site was condemned in an act of eminent domain to build Union Station, so he opened his new restaurant with bowling alley at 1327 E St. NW on Newspaper Row.

The Engel family, William, his wife Catharine (from Maryland and of German descent) lived at 249 New Jersey Ave. NW — no more homes there, being close to the Capitol and Union Station — with their five children: Charles, Joseph, William, Marie, and Francis.

The National Remembrance Shop
The National Remembrance Shop

The National Remembrance Shop was located at 1333 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Below is text from one of their advertisements.

EVERYONE visiting Washington desires to take away something as a remembrance of the visit to the nation’s Capital, or as a gift for the friends at home. It is the aim of the National Remembrance Shop to supply such things that shall have also some artistic merit. Here are sold wares of gold, silver, wood, china, leather. Pictures. Books of Views and all sorts of things suitable as souvenirs or gifts. The prices are reasonable; the goods are well made and serviceable, and withal pleasing to the eye, even the most inexpensive articles (and there are many such) being of a character to appeal to persons of cultivated taste. The Remembrance Shop is unique in its furnishings and general character, and on its tables are shown many odd things not to be found elsewhere. You are cordially invited to inspect the articles shown here. All visitors are equally welcome, whether purchasers or not. No one is ever urged to buy.

Here’s a cool photo of it on Shorpy.

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Pennsylvania Ave. traffic
Pennsylvania Ave. traffic

Check out the chaos of the above traffic photo. No crosswalks, people wandering across the street anywhere. Be happy there is a little more order to our traffic today (unless of course you’re driving up either Georgia or New Hampshire Ave. where you’ll see a ridiculous amount of jaywalking.

Miller's Saloon
Miller’s Saloon

Here’s yet another German-owned establishment on E St.

Canton Chinese Cafe
Canton Chinese Cafe

I went digging around for stories on Canton Chinese Cafe, but strangely, couldn’t find anything about it in the papers.

Rufus Darby Printing Company
Rufus Darby Printing Company

What’s super crazy is I once did research on one of my old residences here in the city and a Rufus Darby was listed as a former resident. Nuts … and that’s why I love doing this.

Drink Coca-Cola
Drink Coca-Cola

Powerful brand today … pretty much always a ubiquitous brand. Drink coke.

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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  • Is this one of Engel’s sons?: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Engel

  • ET

    Lots to see in this one. I like the mix of cars and buggies.

    I was curious about the Canton Chinese Cafe but the 1907 and the 1909 city directory didn’t list a proprietor only that they were located at 14th and Penn. They didn’t seem to be listed in 1913.

  • Capital Quarters

    I love the circular open balcony at the very top of The Washington Post building… complete with gargoyle. Great perch to watch parades.

  • MMiller

    Boss Shepherd was still out there – before he was warehoused in Blue Plains.