Atmospheric view east from the Willard Hotel, circa 1905

Our posts have grown sparse of late due to other pressing matters, but we hope to be back with many more in the not too distant future. In the mean time, here is a wonderful and haunting image, circa 1905, of downtown Washington facing east from the Willard Hotel, which had just been completed in 1904, as we've chronicled previously. The shot was probably taken from the roof of the new hotel.

(Author's collection. Click to enlarge)
There are fascinating details here. The two roads, complete with trolley tracks, that run into the background of the view are Pennsylvania Avenue towards the right and E Street in the center left. The Capitol is barely visible in this shot; its dome is partially obscured by a chimney of the Evening Star building at 11th Street, profiled here. The Old Post Office, of course, is the most prominent landmark, the great Romanesque building on the right side (our write-up is here). One can appreciate how commanding a presence it once had, towering over almost every other structure in the city. Its closest competitor is across the Avenue in the center of the view. That white mansarded building is the new addition to the Raleigh Hotel, which we profiled back in 2010. It was designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh (1847-1918), who also designed the new Willard Hotel from which the photo was taken.

Out of view below the lefthand corner of the photo is the stretch of E Street known as "Rum Row" where famous bars and restaurants such as Usher's, Shoomaker's, and Gerstenberg's once drew boisterous, hard-drinking crowds. By the time this photo was taken, Rum Row's rowdiness had diminished considerably. Still, in the center of the photo is J. Frank Hiss' popular bar and adjoining billiard parlors, an indication that drinking and gambling were still flourishing in the neighborhood. Next to Hiss on the corner at E Street is the Sterling Hotel, another landmark we've previously chronicled.

At the bottom center of the photo is the open space which is now Freedom Plaza. There appears to be a triangular structure in the center, perhaps a pool. Scattered pedestrians are walking the sidewalks on this possibly cold winter day. So much change lies ahead for these people and their quiet city!

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  1. Shouldn't it say that the Old Post Office is on the *right* side of the image?

    1. I certainly should (and now does). My dyslexic tendencies strike again! Thanks.

  2. Great find John! Thanks for sharing.


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