Regular Life on Pennsylvania Avenue in 1865

This photo is a great moment in time, showing life on Pennsylvania Avenue in 1865, right at the end of the Civil War.

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View on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.[Soldiers, civilians and children stand in front of a large brick corner building.]
View on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.[Soldiers, civilians and children stand in front of a large brick corner building.]
Source: New York Public Library

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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  • Publius Washingtoniensis

    These look to be “The Six Buildings” or “The Seven Buildings” on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, west of the White House. Note the children, one of whom has a “hoop,” the young African American boy, surely in a waiter’s uniform — smart blue jacket and apron — standing in front of a tree, and the troops dressed in gray standing at ease along the house wall at the right. Gray uniforms have come to be associated exclusively with the Confederacy, but they were fairly common in militia and volunteer units, at least early in the war. And of course, cadets at West Point still wear gray 150 years later. Another thought: many contemporary photos show the trunks of street trees painted white to about the eight foot level. Does anyone know why?

    • suspicious_package

      It does look a bit like the 6 buildings, but the stairs and roof are not right, and the windows are too far apart. The 7 Buildings had a rounded corner with a door at the corner. But still, not sure where this is.

    • Jessica Ferrer

      The trees were painted white so that horses (wearing blinders) discerned them a bit easier.

    • ET

      I have seen things saying that the paint protected the tree bark from cracking/splitting brought on by extreme temps. Don’t know that there is any scientific validity to that but it was a thought.

    • Sheila

      Trees were painted white to protect them from sunburn in the summer and cold in the winter. They also helped with certain bugs in the summer too. Bugs that bored into trees. They still do that in Southern Maryland a lot. The trees that line the drive to my development are painted each year. They used lime and many bugs won’t go near it.