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The Empress: 1922

The Empress: 1922

Washington, D.C., circa 1922. "Hahn's shoe store, 414 Ninth Street N.W." Next door to the Empress Theater, where Mack Sennett's "Crossroads of New York" is playing. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Go ahead, break my heart

The famous Gayety Burlesque house was in the same block, although the Empress was long gone when I first checked out "the strip" as a kid from the back seat of my parents' 1956 Ford Fairlane. The whole block was full of cheesy sex joints then, only blocks away from not only the National Archives, but also DC's central family shopping corridor, home to Lansburgh's, Kann's, The Hecht Company, Woodward & Lothrop, Jelleff's, Garfinckel's and dozens of specialty stores where you found goods ranging from lowbrow to the most elegant. I miss all that. A lot.

I knew Bill Hahn in the late 1970s, when he was quite a senior gentleman. He must have worked in this family shop when a youth. He was a most charitable and generous person.

Zoom in on the architectural details of the building on the left. Wow.

Hot times at the Empress

In the first year of its operation, the Empress (at 416 9th St., N.W.) suffered a fire in the operator's booth when a film machine burst into flames, as reported by the Washington Herald of May 12, 1910 and reprinted in Headley. With a full house unaware of the danger, employees subdued the flames with fire extinguishers. The Post reported, "The audience was dismissed, the admission fees were returned, and everybody left thinking the machinery had broken down." Remodeled in 1915 (with a redesigned external entrance to the booth, for safety), the Empress was in operation until about 1945.

[There was also a lightning strike in 1912, and a fire in 1924. The proprietor, Marcus Notes, died in 1951. Below: March 20, 1910. - Dave]


May I just add an overdue "Thank You!" to Stanton Square. Always adding interesting info and answering questions. A very appreciated mainstay at Shorpy.

At The Movies - Crossroads of New York

The Empress is playing "Crossroads of New York" and "The Fire Chief" starring Dan Mason. The latter is a two reeler comedy an entry in a series starring Dan Mason as Pops Tuttle, released in 1922. Mason was 65 years of age (born 1857) and cranked out about 11 of these in 1922-23. In the next few years he would take supporting roles in feature comedies and in dramas. His last role was an uncredited role in the now lost sound film "The Awakening" which was nominated for an Oscar in 1928. Mason died in July 1929.

"Crossroads of New York" is in most ways the more interesting film. Legendary comedy producer Mack Sennett, who introduced Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Roscoe Arbuckle, Buster Keaton and a host of others to the public, decided to make "Crossroads of New York" as his first dramatic feature. When it debuted (under the name "Heart's Balm") it was met with howls of laughter. Not one to let something go, Sennett had it rewritten and rereleased as a comedy. It failed as a comedy too. It starredGeorge O'Hara (whose career died with Silents), Noah Beery, whose career as a character actor made an easy transition to sound, Ethel Grey Terry, and Australian comedian Billy Bevan.

Hong Kong Low

The cute pagoda marks the street entrance to Hong Kong Low, a Chinese and American Restaurant located on the second and third floor. It opened at this location in 1917. Try their Delicious Chop Suey after the theater.


Arthur Stanton (no relation) let the fun get out of hand one Autumn evening in 1924:

Washington Post, Oct 6, 1924

Man Fractures Arm In Three-Story Fall

Arthur Stanton, 21 years old, 41 T street northwest, fell three stories to the street from the Hong Kong Low Chinese restaurant on Ninth street northwest, last night, and suffered only a broken arm, police say.

Headquarters detectives were called and after investigation said Stanton had been drinking. A friend of Stanton's said he had been pushed from the window by a Chinese. Police say he wandered too close to the window and fell out.

Hong Kong [what??]

Note the doorway between the Empress and the shoe store, topped by the elaborate pagoda-style entry. The door leads upstairs to the Hong Kong something-or-another, according to the folded awnings in the windows. A restaurant, most likely. Maybe a dry cleaners, or custom-made clothing. Or perhaps an opium den, or oriental massage. Nawwww.

[Your "Hong Kong" is reflected signage across the street. Oops. Now I see it. - Dave]


This shows a great close up view of how Washington's streetcars were powered without overhead wires. Between the tracks is a slot between two metal pieces. The cars picked up power with a "plow" that ran through the slot to a power source below the street.

This is particularly relevant now since the City Council wants to bring back streetcars but allow overhead wires to power them. Current law still prohibits all overhead wiring in specified areas of D.C. to protect the views.

Why don't we decorate things anymore?

Note the scrollwork on the bracket of the truck roof (!) on the left; and the beautiful details on Herbert's. Art for art's sake, it's called.

Something New Every Day Department

Until this Shorpy post came along, I labored under the delusion that it was Max Sennett who made the early movies.

Spiffy Shoes

It looks like the ghost has just left the shoeshine parlor.


A product of Consumers Brewing Company of Philadelphia. Completely forgotten, up till now.

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