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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2018 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Chez Prez: 1920

Chez Prez: 1920

Washington, D.C. "Woodrow Wilson house, S Street." Residence of the former president and his wife starting in 1921, and where he died in 1924. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

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Lot next door/windows/changes to original floorplans

The lots on S Street were subdivided and planned for a full, contiguous row of townhouses, but the Wilsons' good friend Bernard Baruch bought the as yet un-built lot next door and allowed them to construct a garage. The slab being poured in the image is for the driveway, but the garage hasn't been built yet. Later the Wilsons cut through the bottom portion of the air shaft to make a door from the driveway.

The windows in the airshaft provide light for the servants' stair case, the butler's pantry and two bathrooms.

This photo was taken on the first week of March 1921. All the furniture was in and ready by March 4 when the Wilsons left the White House. And the staff of the Wilson House still use Security Storage to move exhibition cases when needed!

Light and Air

The right hand side of the house is built as a solid party wall, most likely right on the lot line with the adjoining property. If another house had been built right up to the lot line from the other side, there would be no possibility of placing any windows or other openings on the right hand side of the Wilson House. The fact that there is no house built that way there now does not mean that the builders could reasonably expect that there would never be a house built to "block" that side some day. The indentation in the Wilson House's volume provides the same source of fresh air and natural light to the interior parts of the house as the air shafts between the "dumbbell" tenements of New York City, but hopefully in a much better fashion.

[The other possibility is that the house next door was demolished after the property was purchased to make room for Wilson's driveway and garage. - Dave]

According to the bird's eye view feature of Bing Maps, there is an identical indentation on the left hand side of the Wilson House, where there is an actual party wall situation. Perhaps it was done on the right hand side for the sake of symmetry ...

Interesting architecture

I don't believe I've ever seen a side-cut out on a building like that with interior windows. You'd think they would have just put windows on the side of it, unless there was once a building attached to it or very close to it, in which case, the interior windows would still have been odd.

[Townhouses on interior lots generally don't have side windows -- the neighbors are just a few inches away, or physically adjoining. - Dave]

Pass the Grey Poupon?

According to that slit on the side of the building, the neighbors to the rear are a mere arm's length away.

[That's all the same house, not "the neighbors." - Dave]

Odd Design

I am perplexed by the design; at the opening on the right, there are windows. They appear to be facing the back of the front of the building. Why would they do that?

Any architects out there?

[The light-well or air-shaft style of construction was common in big townhouses and apartment buildings around the turn of the century. - Dave]

My next move

My next move I am calling Security Storage Company! Look how well they wrapped up that chair!


What can you tell about the odd contraption that may be a concrete mixer? Can I make one to pour my 800 foot long driveway?

[Concrete mixer. -tterrace]

Looks as good as ever!

I wonder if its haunted?

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SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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