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Billy Sunday Tabernacle: 1918

January 1918. Washington, D.C. "Billy Sunday tabernacle." A temporary meeting hall built near Union Station for a three-month series of revival meetings held by the famous evangelist. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

January 1918. Washington, D.C. "Billy Sunday tabernacle." A temporary meeting hall built near Union Station for a three-month series of revival meetings held by the famous evangelist. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Room at the Tourist

Well, you can stay there, but I'm booking a room at the Hotel Wilmat, they have 'ROOMS'


The winter of 1917-18 was one of the coldest and snowiest of the 20th century. Many cold records were set that remain unbroken 90 years later.


According to an article in The Post this week, streetcars are about to return to DC after a 50-year absence.

Another Billy Sunday reference

Chicago, Chicago that toddling town
Chicago, Chicago I will show you around - I love it
Bet your bottom dollar you lose the blues in Chicago, Chicago
The town that Billy Sunday could not shut down

Eloquent, at times

Washington Post, May 25, 1889

Billy Sunday as a Revivalist

Billy Sunday, the clever right-fielder of the Pittsburg club, doffed his baseball uniform and made his first appearance in this city in the role of a revivalist, at the Central Union Mission last night. The hall was pretty well filled, and a great many came in while he was speaking. None of the members of either the Pittsburg or Washington clubs were present. After a service of song and a prayer by Mr. Sunday, he selected a text from the first chapter of John, fourth and fifth verses. The short sermon which followed was replete with interest, forcibly and, at times, eloquently given. He closed with a short prayer.

Washington Post, Nov 6, 1917

Ground is Broken for Tabernacle

Ground was broken in front of the Union Station plaza yesterday for the tabernacle which is to house the Billy Sunday revival here in January. The actual turning of the sod was performed by John C. Letts, chairman of the Sunday campaign committee. Post-master M.O. Chance presided.

The ceremony took place under one of the big Union Station flags at 12:15 o'clock p.m. in the presence of several hundred people who stood with bared heads until the exercises were completed.

The Rev. Charles Wood, pastor of the Church of the Covenant, and the Rev. James Gordon, of the First Congregational Church, delivered the prayers. Dr. James E. Walker, representing Billy Sunday, in his address said that Sunday comes to Washington to preach the simple word of God. "Not Mr. Sunday, but Washington is on trial," he concluded.

The permit to erect the tabernacle bears the signatures of Champ Clark, Vice President Marshall, and Supt. E.H. Woods, of the Capitol.

Urban and Spiritual Renewal

During the early-century maneuvering over how to memorialize Lincoln, one of the sites considered was this general area, which was a slum between Capitol Hill and Union Station. The Lincoln Memorial was going to go up elsewhere, but it appears that a way was found to clear out the slums and simultaneously promote righteousness.

Who was the evangelist ?

Billy Graham is the only one named Billy that I ever knew but he was born in 1918 so not likely to have preached the same year. Which "Billy" was speaking here ??

[Billy Sunday. Like it says in the title and the caption. - Dave]

Thanks Dave, I thought it meant that it was on a Sunday and since it is a tabernacle it is normal to think that. But thanks for answering.

[Aha! You're welcome. - Dave]

Clean snow!

By the number of wheel tracks in the snow, you can tell it's been on the ground awhile. With that in mind, it's nice to see WHITE snow. Those were the days of clean air.

[The air of 1918 was considerably dirtier than it is now. Coal soot. - Dave]

The Ghostly Horse And Wagon

The horse and wagon to the extreme right look like true ghosts to me. They're very faint and I can see what looks like the entire curb behind them. They do cast shadows so I'm not calling on the supernatural to explain it yet. I've never seen such large moving objects look so ghostly with such sharp outlines. As an aside, there is an almost invisible bicyclist who is also casting a shadow midway between the trolleys.


I'll bet the D.C. fire marshal held his breath for 3 months.


Anybody know what that big dome-y structure up on the hill is? (You can have them ring me at my rooms in The Tourist.)

Outfielder Billy Sunday

How many knew that, in his 20s, the legendary Rev. Billy Sunday (1862-1935) spent 8 years as a big league outfielder with Chicago, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in the National League? Could it have been his .248 career batting average that inspired him to give up his baseball career for a higher calling?

Photographer's Vantage Point

The photographer's vantage point seems to be from an upper level window or the roof at the SE corner of the Union Station building. The view is looking south with First Street NE extending in the distance towards the Library of Congress dome.

There it is!

The honest to god, original Tourist Motel!

And to think, it all started because of Billy Sunday...

Well, probably not, but I love the hotel name.

Popular Evangelist

Billy Sunday, born in poverty and raised in an orphanage, was a magnetic personality who, after playing professional baseball in the 1880s, became one of the most popular Bible-thumping evangelists of his time. He was a large cog in the wheel that foisted Prohibition on America. Unlike many of his peers, before and since, Billy seems not to have had feet of clay.

Switch Tower

Can anybody identify the function of the elevated tower at the front left of the photo? I'm guessing that it might house the controls for the switches on the trolley car tracks. That might also explain the semaphore like device sticking out of the roof.

[That "semaphore" is a street sign on the lamppost near the horse. The switch tower is described in the comments under this photo. - Dave]

Not seen in this photo

is a temporary wall of separation between church and state.

What a weird structure

And it looks like someone's been snowboarding off the roof.

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