|The Post Building is on the left in this circa 1908 postcard (author's collection).|
|Stilson Hutchins (Source: Library of Congress).|
The new building was designed by Appleton P. Clark (1865-1955), a native Washingtonian who has been called the "dean" of Washington architects. Although he had no formal training as an architect, Clark designed many distinguished D.C. buildings. Surviving examples include the Victor Building at 9th Street and G Place NW (see our previous post), the facade of the Homer Building at 13th and F Streets NW, and the stately Roosevelt Hotel at 2101 16th Street NW.
For the Post building, Clark used the imposing Romanesque style that had been highly fashionable in the 1880s, producing an appearance that "happily combines an air of richness with an assurance of solidity," as the United States Government Advertiser put it at the time. The roughly-finished Indiana limestone is the same material that was later used, in smooth-cut ashlars, to clad the office buildings of Federal Triangle. It was solid indeed—two feet thick on the sides and four feet thick in front. Whimsical touches graced the building's lively façade: the carved heads of an eagle and an owl gazed down on visitors approaching the main entrance, suggesting patriotism, wisdom, and round-the-clock vigilance. A delicate, engaged Venetian Gothic balustrade crossed above the second floor. The unusual roofline with its pronounced gable featured decorative crockets and gargoyles at its corners and a unique little circular window within a crow's nest-like balcony at the top, a fearsome carved lion glaring down from its bowl. Stonecutter James F. Earley (1856-1906) did all the carving of the figures in situ, once the stones had been laid.
|This circa 1921 photograph shows the building with its eastern 1906 addition (Source: Library of Congress).|
Reporters likewise were equipped with the latest high-tech gadgetry: cast-iron Remington typewriters that were far speedier than writing out stories in longhand. The composing room featured 10 Linotype machines, which streamlined typesetting by allowing compositors to key in a full line o' type at a time, to be cast into a single recyclable lead slug, rather than having to set each letter individually in a frame. The Linotype machine had been invented by Baltimore native Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1883 with the active support of Stilson Hutchins. In fact, Hutchins had sold the Post to concentrate on marketing and securing worldwide patents for this revolutionary invention, which would earn over $3 million for him.
|The Post Building is the gabled building at the center of this postcard view (author's collection).|
|The 1912 World Series scoreboard (Source: Library of Congress).|
|After the Munsey building expanded to take over its original location, Shoo's moved to this spot at the other end of Rum Row. (Source: Library of Congress).|
As well-known as any of Rum Row’s fixtures was Gerstenberg’s Restaurant, immediately to the west of the Post building. Gerstenberg’s was renowned for its beer, of course, but also appreciated for its steaks and German cuisine. The Post’s 1921 article offers this fond encomium:
Along around the evening hour, when the appetites which called for foodstuffs had been whetted and whipped into shape by the tang of tinkling iced Manhattans and dry Martinis, the old timers repaired themselves to Gerstenberg’s where steaks were the piece de resistance—great, juicy, luscious steaks, with a wreath of garnishments on the side, potatoes, crisp and brown, a leaf of lettuce, and a strenuous stein of beer, the steak costing 50 cents, with the accouterments thrown in, and the beer—Wurtzburger and Pilsner—at 10 cents a mug, each mug draped with an iridescent cloud of foam that oozed over and ran down the cool, earthen side of the stein like the filigreed lace veiling of a bride.To the east of Shoomaker's saloon was the aging Lawrence Hotel, which would be torn down and replaced in 1905 by the soaring 12-story Renaissance Revival headquarters for Frank Munsey's Washington Times newspaper (see our previous post). Eventually the two newspapers would end up with adjoining buildings. In 1906 the Post built a modest expansion on its east side, shortly after the newspaper was sold to John R. McLean. Then, in 1915, the Munsey building expanded west, nearly doubling its size and eradicating the old Shoomaker's and Engel's saloons. The Munsey building at that point abutted the eastern side of the Post building. A second addition to the Post building, on the west side, was completed in 1934, taking the place of the old 3-story building that had housed Gerstenberg's Restaurant.
|Passersby inspect a U.S. Weather Bureau kiosk, c. 1921 (Source: Library of Congress).|
|Eugene Meyer (Source: Library of Congress).|
At times it seemed amazing that the paper ever got printed. The old building shook and the lights flickered each evening as the presses, popularly believed to be held together by baling wire, began to roll. The second floor city room, easier to reach by steep stairs than by the single rickety elevator cage, was jammed with clerks and by ten o'clock was full of cigarette smoke. In the morning reporters wiped inky dust from typewriters. Acid from the engraving room dripped through the ceiling into the small "morgue," or library room. Reporters and deskmen could still get away with drinking on the job; one editor who had his in a popular mouthwash bottle was famous for his repeated gargling. An electrician and his girl, having a tryst on the roof, crashed through a skylight into the printers' proof room.Of course, all the fun at the Post building was bound to eventually come to an end. The numerous inefficiencies and hazards of the old building, as well as its limited space, had to be overcome. Initially the Washington Post Company planned to build just a two-story printing plant on land it had purchased in the 1500 block of L Street NW, but soon a decision was made to build an entirely new headquarters there. The seven-story streamlined office building, designed by Albert Kahn Associated Architects of Detroit, was completed in 1950 and the first editions of the newspaper were printed there in December.
|The former Rum Row as it appears today (photo by the author).|
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Sources for this article included George Rothwell Brown, Washington: A Not Too Serious History (1930); James M. Goode, Capital Losses (2003); Chalmers M. Roberts, The Washington Post: The First 100 Years (1977); and numerous newspaper articles.