Washington, DC history

The lost and untold history of Washington, DC.

Southeast Garden at the White House in 1921

Wow … another amazing shot. This one is colorized from 1921, taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston. Incredible details. Thank you Library of Congress!

May 29, 1959. "Prince George Plaza, Hyattsville, Maryland. Night view." An actual mall (a long, open plaza) when it opened in 1959, the shopping center was enclosed in the 1970s and renamed the Mall at Prince Georges. Large-format safety negative by Samuel H. Gottscho.

Prince George’s Plaza in 1959

This is Prince George’s Plaza  in the “Wonder Years” era. It was actually an open-air mall in those days. Reminds me of this mall photo we posted a while back.

Washington, D.C., circa 1920. "Fealy's Corner, 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue." Dr. Martin Fealy's pharmacy at 1024 Pennsylvania Avenue S.E. National Photo Company Collection glass negative.

Excellent View Down Pennsylvania Ave. in 1920

Another beautiful shot down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol. This photo was taken in 1920. Below is a view from the same area today using Google Street View. [googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?q=1100+pennsylvania+ave+se&layer=c&sll=38.882928,-76.991510&cbp=13,319.97,,0,-4.94&cbll=38.882782,-76.991529&gl=us&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=1100+Pennsylvania+Ave+SE,+Washington,+District+of+Columbia+20003&ll=38.882928,-76.99151&spn=0.004635,0.010568&t=m&z=14&panoid=vSM86D19pzsklADPMSejmQ&source=embed&output=svembed]

1903 Baist real estate map of Spring Valley and American University

Map of American University Park and Spring Valley in 1919

For those of you living in upper northwest, you’re going to like this. It’s the Baist map of parts of Spring Valley and American University Park in 1903. I already know a couple GoDCers, living up...

Photo shows a horse-drawn sleigh carrying what may be Melinda and Elise Painter across 14th St. at F St. in front of the Ebbitt House hotel. The modest buildings to the right of the grand hotel housed Newspaper Row, and just across the street at number 501 was Painter's office as Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer. (Source: Ison article on Painter, 1990)

Incredible 1889 Photo of the Old Ebbitt House Hotel

I wish I could take credit for this discovery, but this came in from GoDCer Brian. In the background, you’ll see the Ebbitt House Hotel, the precursor to the popular restaurant of the same name.

Washington, D.C., 1919. "Fourth of July tableau on the Ellipse -- 'Columbia,' 'Liberty' and dancers." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.

Friday, July 4th, 1919

Interesting costumes. Even more interesting facial expressions.

Photograph shows view of Washington, D.C., taken from U.S. Capitol, showing Douglas Hospital, Old Douglas House, Railway Station, The Washington, or Wilkes House, St. Aloysius, Government Printing Office, Glenwood Cemetery, Swampoodle, Old Mill.

View of Swampoodle from Capitol Building in 1861

Here’s a good one to study. This is a view from the Capitol Building looking north, very early during the Civil War.

Washington, D.C., or vicinity circa 1911. "Flights and tests of Rex Smith plane flown by Antony Jannus."

Ghostly Photo of the Test Pilot

Below is a photograph of the Rex Smith aeroplane, being piloted by Antony Jannus around 1911.

Amazing 360-Degree View of City From Capitol Dome in 1863

Wow, these are awesome. Click on them for greater detail because they are pretty amazing. Sorry I just wasted at least 30 minutes of your time at work! Thank you Library of Congress. UPDATE: If you...

Bryce Harper Sports Illustrated cover - Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Roy Sievers, Bryce Harper and Sports Illustrated

In 1958, Roy Sievers of the Washington Nationals (i.e., Washington Senators) was one of the best sluggers in the game. The previous year, he knocked out a league-leading 42 dingers and he would follow it up...

White House daguerreotype by John Plumbe, Jr. in 1846 (Library of Congress)

In Search of a Real White House Ghost

A great article in the Washington Post from November 2nd, 1902 is very apropos for this blog, or at least the name of the blog. We don’t really write about ghosts stories, except for the allegedly...

Smithsonian Castle between 1860 and 1865

Amazing Photograph of the Smithsonian Castle

Thank you Shorpy for an amazing photograph. This appears to be a photo we haven’t yet seen.

Washington, D.C., early 1860s. "Treasury Department in Lincoln's time (Cash Room behind the desks)."

Civil War Ghosts of the Treasury Department

Study this photograph for a while. See any spectral presence?

1300 block of Corcoran St. NW

They Were Neighbors: Five Families on Corcoran Street in 1890 … and a Feud

If you’re not a genealogy buff, you may not know this, but much of the 1890 U.S. Census was destroyed in a massive fire in January 1921. It was a tragic loss for genealogists and historians...

initial map of the Washington Metro system (Washington Post)

Free Rides on Washington Metro’s Opening Day

Two hundred years after the Declaration of Independence, Washington, D.C. was getting ready to inaugurate its own underground public transit system, the new Washington Metro. It may shock you to hear this, but on Metro’s opening...

Washington Post classifieds - Saturday, October 5th, 1895

October 5th, 1895: For Sale, Rent and Exchange

You can get lost in these old classified pages. This one is from the Washington Post on Saturday, October 5th, 1895. Turkish Baths anyone? Shampooer of twenty-two years’ experience. How can you turn that down?

Chain Bridge at the end of the Civil War (Library of Congress)

Why Is It Called Chain Bridge?

In 1872, Congress appropriated $100,000 for a bridge made of iron. Construction lasted until 1874, when it was rechristened "Chain Bridge" without chains.

Two Detailed Maps of the White House in 1903

How much do GoDCers love these old Baist maps? We love them so much that we’re giving you a two-for-one.