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Three Men Jump to Their Deaths off Washington Bridges in 1946

In 1946, three men jumped to their deaths off three bridges in Washington, DC. Learn more about their tragic stories, from their family's perspective and the details of the day, in this blog post.
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I came across a sad and shocking article in the Washington Post from Saturday, July 20th, 1946. Three men jumped to their deaths off of three bridges in Washington.

On Thursday, Samuel Hall, a Pullman porter living at 1327 T St. NW, jumped to his death off the 11th Street Bridge into the Anacotia River. He had been in a taxi with a Mrs. Pearson and her 9-year-old son. The details in the article are scant, but it says that he had been estranged from his wife for three years and she was separated from her husband. They had been arguing earlier in the day about visiting his family in Virginia.

While crossing the 11th Street Bridge, Hall claimed a letter he had been reading had blown out the window. He asked the driver to pull over so he could retrieve it. The passenger door opened, and by the time the taxi cab driver turned around, Samuel was gone. He had jumped off the bridge into the river.

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The following day, two more committed suicide by jumping off bridges over Rock Creek.

Massachusetts Avenue Bridge circa 1941 (Library of Congress)
Massachusetts Avenue Bridge circa 1941 (Library of Congress)

The first man, Kenneth Prescott, 36, was seen on the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge (built in 1939) a few minutes before 8 a.m. Below is the Post’s report of the encounter:

Prescott was seen on the Massachusetts ave. bridge a few minutes before making the leap by Benjamin W. Costenbader, 112 11th st. ne., and Robert S. Barclift, 23 Longfellow st. nw., employes of Tolman’s Laundry, who were in a truck.

“I saw him looking over the rail,” Costenbader said, “and then he began squeezing through one of the openings in the railing. He had a newspaper in his hand like he had been reading it.”

“I pulling up right opposite him and he looked me right in the face before jumping.”

Prescott landed on the bridal path 150 feet below, and Dr. John C. Rawlins of Emergency Hospital said death was instantaneous. Park police declared it was the first suicide jump from the Massachusetts ave. bridge.

Prescott’s convertible couple was parked nearby.

Mr. Prescott had no symptoms of mental illness and members of his family couldn’t find any reason why he would jump to his death, claiming it was likely an accident. He was a graduate of Central High School (now Cardozo) and George Washington University, receiving a mechanical engineering degree in 1932.

Prescott was gainfully employed at the Naval Gun Factory since 1938; he was still single and living with his parents just over the District line, near Westmoreland Circle.

There is something very odd about this and surely there is a hidden story there. Unrequited love?

Calvert Street Bridge circa 1923 (Library of Congress)
Calvert Street Bridge circa 1923 (Library of Congress)

The second man, James Crawford, 47, worked for the city post office. He was last seen by his wife Margaret leaving the doctor’s office downtown around 11 a.m. She put him in a taxi after the appointment and he was supposed to be heading home. Instead, he exited the cab near the Calvert Street Bridge and jumped.

Apparently, according to the doctor, he had been suffering from a “nervous condition,” which I’m guessing is anxiety, depression, or a nervous breakdown.

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