Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cool old book on Columbia Heights

Got this as a tip from the blogger at Red Sky at Night, it's a great book from 1904 extolling the virtues of Columbia Heights written by the "Columbia Heights Citizens' Association." You can download it here for free.

It's a really fun read packed with fascinating stuff, and is only about 30 pages. There's tons of pictures of houses, some which still exist and some which don't. Many of the addresses are on streets that have since changed names, like Kenesaw, Yale, Binney, Princeton, Whitney, and Roanoke. A lot of the streets in the area had college names, some of which still do, like Kenyon and Harvard, I think partly because Columbian College was located in the neighborhood on College Hill (now Meridian Hill). The college moved downtown after the Civil War and to Foggy Bottom in 1912 -- it's now the George Washington University. There's also University Place over near the Dunkin Donuts. Here's an old plan showing some of those old streets and their modern names.

The history part is new to me: it talks about the neighborhood first being part of Stone's Farm, named for Englishman William J. Stone who moved to the area in 1815. He built a house in 1842 at the NE corner of 13th and Clifton, which was later the home of General John A. Logan, as in Logan Circle. That corner is now an apartment building.

Some of the stuff is pretty funny, like this part from a summary of reasons to live in Columbia Heights: "Second. It is free from malaria." There's also a part saying that selling and making liquor in the neighborhood is outlawed by an act of Congress, which "furnishes the best possible safeguard for the children and young men of Columbia Heights." Boo!

Another interesting part is this: "There are not a few who believe that from the beginning these heights have been destined to be the site of the new Presidential Mansion. It is well known that President Garfield and Senator Sherman shared this belief ; and it may well be that the child is already born who will see the future President seated upon the southern veranda of the Executive Mansion on the Heights, looking out upon a panorama that will include the Capitol and the Monument, with university and cathedral domes on either hand." This is referring to Meridian Hill Park, as some people tried to get the White House to move there. Obviously it didn't happen.

I could go on and on about the book, but like on Reading Rainbow, "don't take my word for it." Let me know some of your favorite parts or questions in the comments.


  1. i wonder what people will think of this blog a hundred years from now.

  2. this is dopesky dude

  3. Thanks for the link! Glad you enjoyed it...

  4. This is very cool. I live in the house pictured above. I was surprised to see it.


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