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Three Things We Miss About Old Saloons in Washington

We miss the days of old saloons in Washington. Here's a look at 3 saloons we'd love to visit again: J.J. O'Keefe's, The Indian and Oedekoven's. Learn more about each one and why we miss them.
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D. Mullany's Saloon at 14th and E St. NW in 1913
D. Mullany’s Saloon at 14th and E St. NW in 1913

We haven’t done a good “Three Things …” post in a while, so here’s one listing three old saloons in Washington.

We dug through the old newspaper archives and came across a classified listing of businesses in The Washington Post from 1901. There was a section on local saloons, so we picked out three, and did a little research on them.

1. J.J. O’Keefe’s at 1116 7th St. NW

J.J. O'Keefe's advertisement - 1905
J.J. O’Keefe’s advertisement – 1905

The first one we had to look into was J.J. O’Keefe’s. His original saloon was located at 1116 7th St. near current-day Mt. Vernon Square.

Below is an article that we found in The Washington Post from 1902, detailing the saloon’s successes.

Nowadays progress is the main thing. Mr. J. J. O’Keefe is the living example of American hustle and genuine success. J. Pierpont Morgan wins in his own field, but when it comes to actual up-to-dateness in the saloon business at the National Capital Mr. O’Keefe has won out in a manner that is nothing short of phenomenal.

In order to accommodate his vastly increasing trade, Mr. O’Keefe is now compelled to remove from his present location to a magnificent new buffet at 1124 Seventh street, just four doors above his former place of business. to-morrow the splendid new saloon of this popular host will be thrown open to the public.

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The superb fittings, exquisite decorations, and most modern appliances will charm the regular patron, as well as the casual visitors.

The fine green wall paper is imported direct from Ireland, the ceiling is delicate moire, and the woodwork is white enameled, making a combination of good taste and art that is rarely seen anywhere in America.

Mr. O’Keefe and the artists whose combined efforts have produced this original and unique result are to be congratulated by all who love the beautiful.

The bar proper is fifty-six feet long, with buffets and plate-glass mirrors of the same length. Such a display of fine bar fixtures cannot be seen anywhere south of New York.

Mr. O’Keefe handles all the leading brands of wins and liquors, who esale [sic] and retail, and the connoisseur can always find the best of everything at his place.

Mr. O’Keefe cordially invites his multitude of friends and patrons to inspect his new and handsome resort to-morrow. They will be more than thrice welcome. He will be there personally to extend the glad hand and a bottle of Congress Hall whisky will be given to each customer as a souvenir of his opening.

O’Keefe’s sounds like the perfect Irish pub for a Guinness on a rainy fall day. We should bring this one back.

2. The Indian at 9th and E St. NW

There once was a great saloon, right downtown, at 9th and E streets, called “The Indian.” We dug up a little more on this establishment from an article published in 1909.

At “The Indian,” corner of Ninth and E streets, is to be found one of the finest private collections of taxidermy in this section of the country. Among the interesting mounted specimens are to be found the heads of many elk, deer, moose, walrus, and other mammals of the larger type, while the collection of birds and smaller denizens of the hills and vales to the number of nearly 300, collected from every country and clime, from the coast of Greenland to the Cape of Good Hope, and including almost everything from a Caribbean swordfish to a South African armadillo, make up a collection of which any one might well be proud. It has been brought together under the personal supervision of Ward Savage, proprietor of “The Indian,” who is an enthusiastic huntsman, at the expense of a large share of his time, and represents no small outlay of money. The collection is on exhibition at all times to visitors, as well as others interested in the subject.

As you can imagine, it was probably quite a sight to grab a drink at The Indian. More hunting lodge than saloon, but pretty fascinating ambiance, I’m sure.

Ward Savage was originally from Kentucky, marrying his wife Cora in 1908, and according to the 1910 U.S. Census, was living at 1326 Riggs St. NW with his wife and 2-year-old daughter Mary.

Ward Savage in the 1910 U.S. Census
Ward Savage in the 1910 U.S. Census

3. Oedekoven’s at 13th and H St. NE

Leo Oedekoven is a good German name and he owned a saloon at 13th and H St. NE in the early 1900s. We found a couple interesting articles about him the the newspaper archives. The most interesting was one about a lawsuit filed by the Heurich Brewing Company against him.

Judge Barnard, in Equity Court No. 2 yesterday heard the injunction suit instituted by the Chr. Heurich Brewing Company against Leo oedekoven, a saloonkeeper, to restrain the defendant from selling beer brewed by other brewing companies as brewed by the complainant. The defendant claimed to have purchased about a month prior to the institution of the suit several quarter-barrls of beer which he insisted he still had on hand, and that from this he was serving such customers as asked for Heurich’s brand. He denied that he had misrepresented any of his sales, as did his barkeeper. The complainant alleged that for one month prior to the institution of the suit the defendant had not purchased any beer from it.

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Judge Barnard, in rendering decision, held that the complainant had a right to protect the reputation of the beer brewed by it, and that if defendant was simply using kegs as a cover to his action, he should be enjoined. The court ordered the injunction to be continued until the final hearing of the case.

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