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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • EAT MORE FISH, 1917

Surratt House: 1900

Surratt House: 1900

Circa 1900. "Mrs. Mary Surratt house at 604 H Street N.W., Washington." Boardinghouse owned by Mary Surratt where the Lincoln conspirators are said to have plotted the abduction of the President in 1865. Brady-Handy Photograph Collection glass negative, Library of Congress. View full size.

 

My ancestral home

Thanks for the great photo. My great-grandma and her family lived in this house in the 1880s. The story goes that they moved because of the nuisance of souvenir hunters coming by and trying to take a piece of the house. Their next address was 606 H; so would this be the house next door I wonder?

Surratt House on the Block

The Surratt House was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 2004.


Washington Post, Mar 24, 1922

Lincoln Death-Plot
House Goes on Block

Surratt Home, Rich in HIstorical Past,
Fails to Bring Satisfactory Figure, However

A three-story brick house, once one of the proudest and most pretentious in the city, and rich in historical past, was placed on the auction block yesterday afternoon. It was the home of Mrs. Mary Surratt, who was executed for her alleged share in the assassination of President Lincoln, and stands at 604 H street northwest.

A crowd of morbidly curious had gathered to watch the proceedings when the auctioneer unfurled his red flag and started to work. There were a few bidders, but it took some time for the auctioneer to work the price up to any considerable figure. The best offer received, $9.700, was considered too small, however, and the auctioneer announced that the house would be sold to a man who had privately offered $10,000.

The old house, recently painted a dark gray, seemed forlorn. The steps that many years ago had led to what is now called the second story had been removed, and the entrance was on the sidewalk. Where the steps once led into the house, there was a door that had been closed many years. In and out of it at one time had gone men and women whose deeds were to shake the foundations of the country.

Mrs. Surratt used the house for many years prior to 1865 as a boarding house. It was in the little parlor on the second floor that the Lincoln conspirators met and planned the martyred President's death. Mrs. Surratt was buried in Mt. Olivet cemetery, near the west fence.

"Chriswarish"

That photo looks like a Chris Ware illustration, including the boy!

I am surprised...

that this building has not been acquired as a national historic treasure by the Government. Whether or not you sympathize with what Booth et al did in 1865 to President Lincoln and his Cabinet, this structure should be preserved and restored to its appearance in April 1865.

Better in 1900

The two buildings looked better in the 1900's than they do today. In the picture of the buildings today you can see where they took the stairs out and changed the entrances. Looks pretty dumpy now.

Pipe Up

The man in the dormer is smoking a "churchwarden" pipe.

Mrs. Surratt

As she was lead up the gallows and positioned over the trap door, she kept pleading "Please, don't let me fall."

I've always wondered if she was referring to the height or the drop from the hangman's lever?

However she may have meant it, she fell.

Guilty

Mary Surratt was the first woman executed by the United States government, less than three months after the Lincoln assassination. Her death set off controversy that lasted over a century, but today there seems little doubt that she was closely involved in Booth's conspiracy. Ironically, her son John Surratt Jr. escaped the 1865 fury over Lincoln's death by fleeing the country; he was eventually captured and tried, but released after a mistrial and lived to be 72.

The Street

Were the roads paved in this era? When did widespread road paving begin in cities?

[The street in this photo is paved with asphalt. Asphalt paving in Washington and many other cities started in the 1870s. - Dave]

You want MSG with that?

Surratt House has morphed into the "Wok N Roll" restaurant in D.C.'s Chinatown. There is a plaque.


View Larger Map

A watched tot

Don't overlook the people in the windows. The person on the right, bottom floor just behind the steps, seems to be taking a bite of something while in the house on the left, top floor dormer, he man may be holding a long pipe or a pen. The bits of daily life are what fascinate me about many of these pictures.

 
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