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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • CARNIVAL OF THE ARTS, 1937

The Lotos Lantern: 1916

The Lotos Lantern: 1916

Washington, D.C., circa 1916. An uncaptioned street scene showing a Red Cross building, a "Dermatological Institute," a handicraft school and the Lotos Lantern Tea House. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

 

Miss Steger's Tea House

The Lotos Lantern was founded 1914/1915. Originally located at #1622 H St, it moved around the corner to 17th street sometime before 1921. The business survived, transforming to a cafeteria, until the property was condemned and acquired by the Federal government in 1941. Alas, I cannot discover any details about Miss Steger. I believe the tea house's name was a variant spelling of "Lotus Lantern."

lotos_lantern

Higgledy Piggledy

That-a-boy tterrace, today's hutch-a-clutch scenery pollution incredibly far outweighs yesteryear's. You are absolutely correct - I don't possibly know as to what willc was referring.

But, be careful using the term 'higgledy-piggeldy'. I correctly but inadvisedly used it at my sister's wedding rehearsal dinner (in groom-family's basement with a 5'8" drop ceiling - my family is all over 6'3") and have never heard the end of it, and not in a good way. It's become a negative family catch phrase. So, watch it. Some folks are hyper-sensitive about their modern clutter (and drop ceilings).

W.D. Davidge Residence

#1624 H street was built in 1878 as the residence of prominent D.C. attorney Walter D. Davidge. Davidge died in 1901 but his children continued to live there for several years. Newspaper accounts in 1916 indicate the building was then the Red Cross headquarters. In the later 1920s it housed the Abbott School of Fine and Commercial Art. Most of the buildings on this block were condemned in the early 1940s and taken over by the federal government.

Downstairs

I'd love to stop in for a cup of tea at the Lotos Leaf Tea House!

Lifeless street

Tterrace's point is well made about modern streets crowded with cars and street furniture like news boxes. But, relative to so many of the urban street views we see here, this one strikes me as unusually lifeless. The Red Cross building door is open, so this must be business hours, and there's not a pedestrian, car, pushcart, stray dog or speck of trash in sight. Maybe five minutes later the scene was crowded with all of the above, and it's also true that we're not on a main commercial street. The "modern" quality I was reacting to really has more to do with the sort of before and after contrast we see in such photos as the "Springfield, 1905" view http://www.shorpy.com/node/5442 where the pedestrian-friendly clutter of old commercial streets has been replaced by glass box offices and malls with parking structures and few reasons to get out and walk.

Re: Sensory underload

I have to disagree a bit with willc about the relative amounts of clutter between Shorpy-era street scenes and the "now" shots of their locations frequently posted. To me, the old shots seem much more open. In part, this is only an apparent greater spaciousness, the result of, I suspect, the use of wider-angle lenses in the older shots, which makes streets seem not only wider but longer - reverse foreshortening. But a bigger factor is that these days, things are more cramped, with cars. Today, the curbs here would be lined with vehicles bumper-to-bumper, and the street itself only less so. And there'd clumps of throw-away newspaper racks clogging the sidewalks and random assortments of illuminated plastic signs thrown up higgledy-piggledy on the building fronts.

Thank you!

This is Wendy Harman from the American Red Cross. We highlighted your post on our organizational blog today (http://blog.redcross.org). Hopefully one of our history buffs will know more about this building!

Near the White House

This appears to be the southeast corner of 17th and H Streets NW. What is now the Renwick Gallery and the Old Executive Office Building are visible in the background. The New Executive Office Building, built in the 1960s, stands on this site today.

Sensory Underload

This scene is so strikingly devoid of the clutter of signage and other urban detritus usually seen in photos of this period that it looks almost like a modern photo. I wonder if the 1880s Red Cross building might have been built as a private residence (add shutters and a property line fence and maybe awnings). The wood safety rails added to the front stairs and the general layout of the building suggest this, but it's hard to say. Is there a Shorpyite out there who might know? There's always a kind of melancholy barrenness to houses converted to office use, and this one could have been painted by Edward Hopper. But, schools and other institutional buildings in the late 19th Century frequently looked like large residences. The bracketed cornice on the roof parapet appears to be painted wood, by the way, but was actually fabricated from zinc-coated sheet metal, as revealed by the tell-tale paint losses in some areas.

1624 H Street

The Red Cross building certainly looks like 1624 H Street. In the distance down 17th St I think we see the Corcoran Gallery of Art, now Renwick Gallery. Farther on is the State, War and Navy Building, later called the Old Executive Office Building, now the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

 
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