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Smokestack Washington: 1921

Smokestack Washington: 1921

Washington, D.C., circa 1921. "Aerial view looking toward Capitol and Washington Monument." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Ordnance Office

Based on the bit of the 1919-1921 Baist Realty map below (click on it for a larger version), I would guess the photographer was on top of the Ordnance Office of the War Department. It is puzzling that the angle of the photo does suggest quite an elevation and the ordnance office doesn't appear to be a large building: perhaps there was some sort of observation tower on top of the building.

The smokestacks in the distance are indeed the Potomac Electric Power Co. Plant at northeast corner of 14th &B streets N.W.: they are also visible in the background of this Shorpy photo.

Also indicated on the map is the Frazee Potomac Laundry, seen here.


An Eclipse of the Ellipse

What puzzles me is the photographer's vantage point. No doubt it was from the corner of 18th and E Streets N.W., but was it from the roof of the Department of the Interior or a building that preceded it??

This photo looks to the east. The white building to the left is the headquarters of the American Red Cross. It's still there, but gone is the less-ornate wing to the right with its smokestack. I believe that building was one of the infamous "temporary" office buildings of First World War vintage that were ubiquitous features of DC landscape up until the late 1960s. The neighbor to the right is DAR Constitution Hall, which remains remarkably unchanged to this day. Across the street, of course, is the Ellipse, which you can think of as the "backyard" of the White House. Beyond the Ellipse are landmarks that need no introduction (the Washington Monument, the Old Post Office, the Capitol, Bureau of Engraving, etc.) Perhaps another reader can verify that the two smokestacks just left of center belong to a Pepco generator that powered street cars. Despite the haze, one can faintly see the arched roof of Union Station, appearing on the horizon to the far left.

[There was a tall brick building behind Red Cross HQ. Click below to enlarge. - Dave]

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