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Neighbors: 1938

Neighbors: 1938

November 30, 1938. "Now that President Roosevelt has approved the $15 million low rent housing program for the District of Columbia, such slum scenes as this will disappear from the 'city beautiful.' This picture was made within a stone's throw of the U.S. Capitol." Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.


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The two smaller sheds are chicken coops. I think the larger shed is just a shed.

More of the same

In 2007 I volunteered in a daycare for homeless children not too far from where that picture was probably taken. Here's the image of DC poverty today:

The policy described in the post sounds like the current "Housing First" initiative. DC has long been home to epic levels of poverty.

[Not to mention drunks on park benches. - Dave]

Count again....

I see three outhouses in this photo.... well, maybe four. The big one in the background is bicameral.


David Brinkley wrote an interesting book titled "Washington Goes to War" (1988) describing how DC changed from a quiet town to the prominent city it is today. I remember him saying that in 1940 there were more than 15,000 outhouses in DC, by 1945 there were virtually none. A good book to put some Shorpy pictures into contest.

By the way, I don't think this house is in such bad shape, I suspect the owner suffered from some sort of pack rat complex, probably related to having experienced the Great Depression. I live in a nice town of about 15,000 and can think of more than a few houses that resemble this one in the amount of outside junk.


Can't help but think this looks just like Ralph's back yard in "A Christmas Story."

New metric

How 'bout "within rifle shot"?

The Outhouses

I see snow and I see outhouses. Imagine having to make that "pit stop" at six in the morning.

Typhoid Mary

There are two outhouses to be seen, one behind each residence. One of the real dangers in slums like this came from poor sanitary facilities, with outhouses and shallow wells all in close proximity to one another. Today's swine flu pandemic would look mild compared to a typhoid outbreak!

Stone's throw

You'd have to have a pretty good arm.

Omigod, accident waiting to happen

What squalor!

That horrid, jerry-rigged chimney is missing so much mortar it's a miracle it hadn't fallen in at this point. Slap & "schmear" cement repair isn't doing a lot of good.

Looks like whatever available piece of wood/lumber was good enough.

Makes you wonder if any political figures ever went for a walk past this . . .

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