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Street View: 1935

1935. "F Street, Washington, D.C." The view from the Harris & Ewing photographic studio at exactly 2:47. 4x5 inch glass negative. View full size.

1935. "F Street, Washington, D.C." The view from the Harris & Ewing photographic studio at exactly 2:47. 4x5 inch glass negative. View full size.


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Gather Ye Around Me ...

... and hear tales of yore when going downtown to shop was an excursion which needed planning. One did not just throw on an old pair of jeans and a tee for fear that others of your peer set would see you dressed as sharecroppers.

The Sunday garb was put on, nylons straightened, gloves, a chic hat perched on a stylish hairdo for the ladies and for the men shoes shined, ties tied, freshly blocked hats, handkerchiefs in the suit's top pocket. The children were tiny replicas of the adults with no torn or patched clothes.

The throngs of people and cars feed energy into your psyche and one could go for hours from one to store to the next with only occasional refreshment at some drug store counter or City Market.

There was no need of apps or phones for all the shopping info was firmly locked into Mom's brain and she knew that the May Company had her shoes for 4.99 and Hochschild-Kohn's had those corduroy pants for young Stevie on sale.

Those were the days of champion shoppers who could shop all day with their charge plates and still run to catch the 15 streetcar for Overlea when the sun was setting.

I know wherefore I speak children for my mother took me on many a foray of our downtown streets as I had firmly held to her dress and looked up at all the passing strangers who were also on a mission to buy all the available merchandise.

I looked lovingly on this photo as a reminder of days gone by and revel in the adventure of a Saturday sojourn with mom.

PS Those pavement trap doors were always wonderful to stare down and conjured up visions of untold treasures.

Remington Rand

The streamlined building at right is the Remington Rand Building at 1226-1228 F St. NW, designed by architects Holabird & Root of Chicago. The construction permit was issued in April 1934, so this was a brand new building at the time of this photo. (Indeed, that may well be what prompted the photo in the first place.)

Garfinckel's department store occupied the previous building on the site until relocating to 14th & F in 1930. You can see the previous 1228 F St. in the background of the 1922 photo below.

Another C-T Electric

The old truck is a circa 1918-1920 C-T Electric Model C one-ton, made by the Commercial Truck Company of America in Philadelphia. The 1918 version below in Adams Express Company livery is the same, lacking only the removable windshield.

It is probable that the Railway Express truck in the main picture was one of the over 70 of same model trucks from 1918-20 that were acquired when American Railway Express was absorbed by Railway Express Agency in 1929.

The American Railway Express (originally the American Express Company before merging with several other express companies) purchased their first electric truck—a Baker one-ton—in 1908 and by 1922 the consolidated American Railway Express owned 1,176 electric delivery trucks including 288 Bakers, 263 C-T Electrics, 253 General Vehicles, 233 Walkers, 61 GMC Electrics, 31 Lansdens, 30 Atlantics, 7 Oneida Electrics, 5 Couple Gear Electrics, 4 Detroit Electrics, and 1 La Schum.

C-T Electric 1918

I apologize for the moiré effect - I just can't seem to get rid of it in Photoshop.

Railway Express truck

It looks like a Walker Electric. Railway Express used this brand; most were larger models than this. Walker had ads in popular magazines in the 1920s.

[As seen on Shorpy. - Dave]

Pedestrians, hundreds of pedestrians

Americans walked a lot more then, didn't they?


What's the modern building in the right foreground? It looks more 1955 than 1935.

What day is it?

Definitely not Casual Friday. Not Monday thru Thursday, given the time on the clock -- when folks should be at work.

So I am guessing Saturday -- but did they have a dress code to go shopping?

[It's how you dressed when you went downtown, period. -tterrace]

Re: Look Out Below

The trap doors in the sidewalk are evidence of underground commercial "vaults". These are storage or work spaces built under the sidewalks; they connect to the adjacent basements.

Have you ever noticed an array of glass disks embedded in the sidewalk on a commercial street in an older city? These are sort of "skylights" for the underground vaults. The disks are the equivalent of a nautical "deck prism".

In NYC, these vaults with skylights are often seen in the former "fur district". The natural light coming through the glass disks was preferred for color matching.

Commercial space in a big city is expensive. In NYC, the city collects a fee for the use of the area beneath the sidewalk for a vault. This has led to the abandonment and partial sealing of many of these spaces. The city will consider the vault space abandoned if the door from the basement to the space is walled off down to four feet in height, the remaining space being considered an ingress for firefighters.

The trap doors themselves are a hazard if they rust away. They can collapse under the weight of pedestrians! Yep, "trap door" indeed.

Elegant vs Mundane

The attention-getting Packard Twelve appears to be a 1935. As to what our family car looked like in that year, note the 2-door Chevrolet on the cross street --- very mundane, indeed.

Railway Express Truck

Note the solid rubber tires on the Railway Express truck. Can anyone identify the make and model year of this wonderful classic truck? It must have been quite old in 1935.

Another interesting detail is the slot between the streetcar rails. Washington D.C. cars did not use overhead wire in the downtown area. Instead, they picked up current from a bus bar in a slotted conduit between the rails. This system was also used in parts of Manhattan.


Is that gorgeous scene-stealer (lower right-hand corner, with the sidemounts) a Packard? Yum!

Re: Toppers

I didn't realize so many cars had that roof type.
Did it really save *that* much steel and weight?
Or was there another reason?

[The reason was there was no other way to build them. Sheet steel would vibrate and rattle. The Fisher Body Division of General Motors made the first all-steel roofs (the "Turret Top") for the company's 1935 models, using giant stamping presses that cost tens of millions of dollars -- a huge capital investment the smaller car makers couldn't afford. - Dave]

Look out below!!

What is the purpose of the trap doors in the sidewalk? I notice one open and someone standing next to the opening.

[Cartoon sight gags. - Dave]

Luxury Conveyance

Amongst the pedestrians and the rather pedestrian vehicles, the spanking new 1936 Packard Twelve Seven Passenger Limousine stands out as conspicuous consumption in the depths of the Great Depression


This affords a good look at the fabric inserts, generally rubberized canvas, that furnished the roofs of closed-body cars of the era.

Thus starts --

"Don't Block the Box"

At Least Their Building Is Still There

The name hasn't been covered over!

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