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Tales of the City: 1924

Tales of the City: 1924

Today we're leaving the office and taking the streetcar downtown for some shopping. From 1924, "F Street N.W. from 14th Street." View full size.


On Shorpy:
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Bartholdi Hotel

My family owned the Bartholdi Hotel. My great-grandmother was Theresa Bartholdi. There is an old family tale that Vincent Sardi of Sardi's Steak House was a cook for the Bartholdi and met his wife who was a maid there.

Streetcars & Hobble Skirts

Thanks James for all the information about car #602. In the photo, it appears that the lower step folds up while the car is in motion.

Washington Post, Mar 20, 1923

Order Low-Step Cars

W.R.&E. Officials Accede to Demand of Women
Fifty are Now Being Built

The women of Washington have won a victory in their demand for street cars with lower steps. The Washington Railway and Electric Company has placed an order for 50 new cars with the J.C. Brill Company, of Philadelphia, specifying particularly that the cars be constructed with low steps.

The operation of the new style cars throughout the city undoubtedly will meet with the hearty approval of the women, who have been making a strenuous fight for more than two years to abolish the high steps.

The new cars are being built as rapidly as possible, and the first shipment is expected to arrive here about April 15. The cars are what are known as the Narragansett type, being semi-convertible from closed to open, of double truck, and capable of comfortably seating 80 passengers. The seats will run crosswise, and the exterior will be painted yellow.

It is announced by an official of the company that the cars will be constructed with two steps, affording easy ingress and exit from the vehicle. Upon just what lines the new cars will be operated the officials have not decided yet. A number of the cars, it is understood, will be placed on the Georgetown and Mt. Pleasant lines to replace those recently destroyed in the fire at the car barn at Thirteenth and D streets northeast, in which 80 cars were burned.

"We have ordered that the new cars be constructed with unusually low steps," said an official of the Washington Railway and Electric Company, yesterday, "as we realize that the plea of women patrons, who ask for lower car steps, is justifiable. The new cars will be constructed, in so far as the steps are concerned, to meet the approval of the women. Later in the year we will either order additional cars of the low step type, or remodel the cars now in service to comply with the request of our women patrons."

Washington Post, Apr 26, 1923

New Car Tested Here

Hobble Skirts No Barrier to Improved W.R.&E. Vehicle

"Wearers of the hobble skirts," said W.F. Ham, vice president of the Washington Railway and Electric Company, "will have no difficulty in boarding our new car, which we have just tried out for the first time. It has so many features that are new that we are delighted with it. During its trial trip yesterday afternoon, it carried no one but the officials of the company, but within a few days, we will run it in with our regular service, and then ask the passengers for their opinions. If they are favorable, undoubtedly we shall add a great many more of such cars to our rolling stock."


For those interested, the streetcar pictured in this scene is Washington Railway and Electric Company car number 602. Built in 1912 by J.G. Brill Company of Philadelphia it was delivered on September 21 of that year. In 1912 this streetcar cost $6016.17.

In 1933 the Capital Traction Company took over streetcar operations in Washington DC and WRECo 602 became Capital Traction Co. car 836. In 1935, 836 was assigned to the Brightwood Division. By 1939, it was assigned to the Navy Yard Division, and in 1942 to the Benning Division.

The centre door meant that 836 required two-man operation - a driver, and a conductor - and by the 1940s these older, slower cars were also creating bottlenecks as the newer, faster cars lined up behind them. 836 along with the remaining centre door cars were retired in 1944 and scrapped the following year. With the retirement of these cars retired the last of Washington DC streetcar conductors, as now all the cars were one-man operation. Not only were the cars faster, they were now cheaper to operate.

One centre door streetcar, CTC 884 former WRECo. 650, is currently held by the National Capital Trolley Museum in Wheaton MD. It is currently unrestored as far as I know. See it soon for the museum is closing December 1 due to construction of the Intercounty Connector, and it is not scheduled to reopen until next summer.

Sources cited:

Peter C. Kohler, "Capital Transit, Washington's Street Cars The Final Era: 1933-1962" Bonifant MD: National Capital Trolley Museum, 2001.

National Capital Trolley Museum:

Third rail again?

Oh Dave, you have the patience of a saint. How many times must one answer the same questions regarding streetcar power. I think its overly due time for some default link to background information regarding streetcar engineering in the District of Columbia.

A few of the previous explanatory postings on Shorpy: [1,2,3]


I notice there are no overhead wires for the streetcar. Apparently it was powered from a third rail on the ground. Seems pretty risky on a public street.

[The power supply is underground. Not a rail, and not risky. - Dave]

The bus's power poles

The bus's power poles are down. It must convert to gas power when overhead power lines aren't available.

[That's a streetcar, not a bus. Downtown, where there were no overhead power lines, the electrical supply was under the street. More info in the comments here and here. - Dave]

Checker Cabs

Both of the two-tone taxis are Checkers, made by the Checker Cab Manufacturing Co. of Kalamazoo, as is the taxi in the extreme lower left hand corner. By 1924 Checker was building 4,000 40 hp cars a year at an average selling price of about $2350.

Swastika Truck II

Possibly made by Detroit's K.R.I.T. Motor Co.

[Looks more like an electric truck. Maybe a Walker Electric. There's no radiator. - Dave]

The Bartholdi

Hey, it's the Bartholdi Cafe, offering seafood and shore dinners, inviting ladies and gentlemen, and open Sundays. I learned this stuff from a billboard next to the Texaco station.

I wondered what the "ladies and gentlemen" on the sign meant - no rowdies and ruffians, no wenches of questionable virtue? A 2005 Washingtonian article mentioned the Bartholdi (it was characterized as "early 20th century" seafood, apparently not the best).

Frederic Auguste Bartholdi

Hotel Bartholdi appeared in the Metropolitan Life 1908 Shorpy photo. In this one he's a Cafe for Ladies & Gentlemen. He was the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. It's 1924 and there are no horses in this picture. Were they banned from these streets?


Great shot. The crispness and detail in these old photos is still startling.

It looks like a breezy day.

It looks like a breezy day. See how the coats and awnings are billowed?

Safety Last

Dig the scaffolding set up with no safety barrier or safety roof, only a few paper signs stuck to it that probably say "Watch out for stuff falling on your head," or possibly something more appropriate for the period, like "Mind the head."

Hey, there was a cop standing on the corner in the Patent Office photo too. At least this street is safe from horse thieves.

Health Week starts April 28

1343 F St.: Arthur Burt Co.
Footwear for "society affairs," afternoon or evening.

1341 F St.: Bartholdi Cafe
Washington Post, May 30, 1923: Advertisement

This if the first holiday since we've extended our service to include the ladies. Bring them in and let them enjoy the Bartholdi famous shore dinner or a selection of the Sea Food delicacies served our way.

1339 F St.: H.W. Topham
Trunks, suitcases, traveling bags, hot boxes, etc.

1337 F St.: Watters Sterling Boot Shops
"The kind of shoes you want at the price you want to pay"

1333 F St.: Adams Building
Washington Post, Apr 27, 1924

Health Week Campaign Gets Start Tomorrow

"Health Week" starts tomorrow. Agencies participating took possession of the old Y.W.C.A. home, at 1333 F street northwest, to install free exhibits and motion pictures, which will run through the entire week. A large sign advising "Keep the Well Person Well" and "Get the Sick Person Well" placards the building, which is open from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

1331 F St.: Meyer's Shop
"Everything for well dressed Man and Boy" - Rogers Peet Clothing

1329 F St.: Franklin & Co. Opticians

1319-1321 F St.: Interstate Building
The Young Men's Shop on ground floor
Washington Post, Jan 9, 1912

Plans for the construction of a ten-story office building on F street ... When completed the new building will have cost approximately $600,000. The Interstate Commerce Commission, it is expected, will lease quarters in the new structure.

1315-1317 F St.: Baltimore Sun Building
Contemporary Photo
Washington Post, Apr 9, 1903

The Baltimore Sun building, 1315 and 1317 F street was sold yesterday afternoon at public auction to Walter Abell.....The Sun building is perhaps one of the best known office buildings in Washington and one of the most substantial in the country. ... It was built in 1887, the jubilee year of the Baltimore Sun by the founder of the paper, Mr. A. S. Abell, ...

Washington Post, Jul 12, 1987

The oldest standing skyscraper in America - maybe the first --an exquisite nine-story example of eclectic Victorian architecture, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Although New York and Chicago are normally associated with skyscrapers, the oldest example is in neither city but rather in Washington -- the Sun Building at 1317 F St. NW.
Now restored to its original elegance, the Sun Building gives a hint of what Washington was like before the homogenizing influence of post-World War II architecture began erasing the city's history. Built by A.S. Abell, publisher of The Baltimore Sun, it originally served as a home for the newspaper's Washington bureau. Upon its completion in 1887, The Baltimore Sun Hershel Shanks, a lawyer and part owner of the Sun Building, is editor and publisher of the Biblical Archaeology Review. declared the building "the most imposing private structure in the national capital."

Truck Swastika

That truck pulling out near the guy crossing the trolley tracks has a swastika on it. Was there an automotive company that used that emblem before it was abused by the Nazis?

[Use of the swastika as a decorative motif or commercial insignia goes back long before the National Socialist Party adopted it as an emblem. - Dave]

Arthur Burt Co.

I found these three early 1920 ads for the Arthur Burt Co., in the Washington Post.

Lisle ribbed hose, of fine texture, for women and juniors: black, white, brown, elk, gray and navy blue. Just right.

Shoes and hose of today, Arthur Burt Co., 1343 F. Dependable military footwear, "Nature-Shape" school shoes.

The "Tuiriwun," a slipper in black satin or patent leather that is correct for both evening and street wear and, consequently, much in demand. $9.00. Arthur Burt Co.

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