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Childs Restaurant: 1918

Washington, D.C., circa 1918. "Childs Restaurant, 1423 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

Washington, D.C., circa 1918. "Childs Restaurant, 1423 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Tram System

What's about the third track in the middle of the tracks, or was it a cable based tram system?

[Washington's streetcars were mostly electric. The middle "track" is a slot giving access to the power supply under the street. - Dave]

The Flag

I checked out flags on Wikipedia and because the white is on the bottom of the flag, I'm guessing that it might be the flag of the Kingdom of Serbia, either without the royal coat of arms or with the coat of arms obscured by the American flag. Serbia was one of the Allies, although the country had been overrun and most of what was left of their army was waiting in Salonika.

[I think you're right. Brent wins the lollipop! - Dave]

Caption for the photo below, which shows the same flag:

"1918. Lt. Col. Michailo Menadovitch, Serbian Army. Serbian mission to U.S."

Which visited Washington from December 1917 to January 1918. In the Washington Post, the colonel's name was rendered as Hendovitch, Nenadovitch and Menadovitch.


The date of the photo [circa 1917] and the possibility that it is a German flag makes the photo even more intriguing.

[Early in 1917 the United States ended diplomatic relations with Germany. The German embassy closed and the ambassador returned to Europe. Maybe this had something to do wit that. - Dave]


I'm guessing it's the German flag, since it's the only European one that matches this pattern.

The Childses and Dad

My father's half-uncle, Clayton Cameron McNeal, had some kind of close connection to the Childs family. The two of them would visit Childs estate in Northern New Jersey back in the 1910s and ride on the family's collection of motorcycles.

My main memory of the Childs restaurants focuses on the one on the north side of 42nd Street just west of Grand Central Terminal. It featured a family-friendly environment and good food for a reasonable price. Of course it is long gone.


The trailing car is sporting an American flag and another country's tricolor that I can't make out. My guess would be an ambassador or high-level diplomat worthy of a police escort. Great picture!

[In 1917 there were a number of diplomatic visits to Washington from representatives of the allied nations -- the French mission, Belgian mission, British mission, etc. They all had motorcades like this. - Dave]


This makes me think of the opening credits for "Cheers." "Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot ... "

"Taking advantage of war conditions"

Oct. 2, 1918

Trustworthy Eggs

I love the two policemen riding bicycles: police on bikes vanished for many decades only to be recently revived as an effective and economical mode of transport. Fortunately, the uniform of the bicycle-cop has evolved in the interim.

Child's lunch rooms originated in New York City. A copy of their 1900 menu can be found here (NY Food Museum).

Restaurant to Seat 200

New Building for "Childs" on the Avenue
is Practically Complete.

The new building which has been in the course of construction for some weeks on Pennsylvania avenue, near Fifteenth street, for the occupancy of "Childs" restaurant, is now practically completed. The exterior is completed and the interior has been furnished with tables, chairs, and the usual equipment to be found in a restaurant of this type. The new structure has a frontage of 54 feet and a depth of 93 feet, and is one story in height. It has been leased to the restaurant for a long term of years. The property on which the building has been erected is a part of the Willard estate.

Seating space has been provided for about 200 persons. The value of the property, exclusive of the ground, is about $75,000. The plans were drawn by J.C. Westervelt, and the construction work has been done by the W.D. Lewis Company.

Washington Post, Aug 24, 1913

The Childless Childs Restaurant

The Childs family has been ousted from participation in the operation of Child's restaurants. William L. Childs, the man who, with his brother, founded the open-faced type of lunch room and glorified the American egg, has been dropped like a tray of hot dishes.

Bigger and better restaurants will result, it is predicted, but the Childs boys have earned a bright place in knife-fork-and-spoon history as the lads who revolutionized the lunchroom business, made egg-boiling a national industry and developed flapjack turning as a theatrical performance.

Before the Childs brothers came along a lunch room was usually a dreary hole-in-the-wall presided over by a few unkempt waiters who thought a front window was serving its full purpose when it housed a mince pie, a sleeping kitten, and old hat and a pair of galoshes.

The Childs brothers took colored wall paper, stained tablecloths, dirty sugar bowls, wall calendars, paper flowers, rubber plants, cobwebs, lace curtains, oilcloth, insect life and the air of mystery out of the American lunch room life.

They got the American public to trust lunch-room eggs.

The early Childs restaurants were so glaringly white it didn't seem right to enter them without a bath, shave, and haircut. They were architecturally part laboratory, part squash court, part Roman pool, and part goldfish bowl.

Then the owners dressed their managers like hospital internes, put their waitresses into attire partly suggestive of child brides and partly suggestive of dentists assistants, developed tray-dropping to a high art and prospered.

Speed was a keynote. Buttered toast set new heights in rapid transit, and all previous records held by eggs in flight between kettle and customer were broken.

It just went to show what a couple of alert boys could do with a dozen eggs, a gas-burner, some plate glass and an idea.

And now there is no Mr. Childs in Childs restaurant. Well, it just doesn't seem possible.

H.I. Phillips, Associated Newspapers
Washington Post, March 13, 1929

Childs Restaurant

The Childs building shown here opened in 1913, one of two locations in the District. It was torn down and replaced by a parking garage in the early 1950s. The newspaper archives show that there was some sort of controversy over its prices during the WWI years. Which may be the reason for the photo.

More Here

Than meets the eye. The motorcade was the reason for the photograph. Military men with drawn sabers? Who is in the first car?

[The H&E caption lists the restaurant as the subject. - Dave]

1916-7 White

The car on the right is a 1916-1917 White - these were the last years of passenger car production by White company. On the left is a Packard Limousine.

Great transportation photo

I'm bookmarking this as a favorite transportation photo. Horses, bicycles, automobiles and train tracks. It's interesting to see Gray Line using the same logo after all of these years, too. I get the sense that this picture could be titled "rush hour, 1917".

Great picture!

It covers just about all possible ways of conveying oneself along the pavement. All we need is a jogger and someone riding a scooter, and we've got everything.

I love a parade

A parade or possibly a motorcade. I wonder if motorcades were as common back then as they are now in D.C.

The Locomotion

Now I'm never going to get that song out of my head: "Do the Locomotion with me."

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