Ford’s Theatre is remembered today as the site of a national tragedy that changed the course of American history, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. However, just 28 years later, a second tragedy occurred there that claimed 22 lives and injured many more.
Kensington, Maryland boasts the second-oldest continuously operational railroad station in the country, serving D.C. commuters since 1891. In 1894, as the area started to grow as a commuter suburb, "Knowles Station" was set to be officially incorporated as a town in Maryland... until a man named Brainard Warner pushed back.
Of all the great minds to inhabit Washington, D.C. through the years, perhaps one of the most consequential yet often overlooked, was Alexander Graham Bell. Though his famous 1876 telephone experiment took place in Boston, Bell moved to the District shortly thereafter and worked on what he considered to be his greatest inventions in several Northwest labs over the next few decades. Of his many D.C.-based achievements, perhaps the most significant occurred at his small lab on L Street and led to the eventual birth of fiberoptic communication.
The Washington Saengerbund was officially established on April 20th, 1851, and has gone on to become the longest enduring German singing society in the District. From 1874 to 1893, the society met above Charles “Baldy” Dismer’s restaurant at 708 K St. NW in Mount Vernon Square. During that time, the organization enjoyed exponential growth, consisting of nearly 500 members both active and passive by 1894. This influx of members created an evident need for the society to have its own clubhouse, and this dream became a reality in November 1893 when the Saengerbund purchased a house at 314 C Street NW, which would become the site of many extravagent parties, concerts, and bowling matches for the next 27 years.
In the late 1800s, Metropolitan A.M.E. Church was a center for anti-lynching activism in Washington, D.C. Famed journalist Ida Wells-Barnett addressed the church on at least two occasions and, in 1894, Frederick Douglass delivered one of his last speeches from the Metropolitan A.M.E. pulpit. Entitled “The Lessons of the Hour” Douglass's address was an epic condemnation of lynching – from its pervasiveness, to its general acceptance amongst both Southern and Northern whites.
Washington has seen its fair share of crimes: mafia operations, drug networks, triple murder… But in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, one of the city’s most pervasive crimes was one we today might find difficult to imagine: chicken thievery. In today’s urban landscape, the phenomenon may seem difficult to imagine; but 150 years ago chicken robbery was widespread -- and serious business. The practice was dangerous and, at times, even fatal.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, is dedicated to all the victims of racial terror lynching in this country. The memorial is made of hundreds of steel monuments with the names of all known lynching victims inscribed on the front. A monument representing Alexandria, Virginia contains two names: Joseph McCoy and Benjamin Thomas. This is their story, and our community's history.
November 1, 1897 was a cold, rainy Monday in the District. “This may not have been propitious weather for some occasions, but it was hailed with delight by a certain class of persons when they arose that morning. They were not human ducks, either, for the affair in which they wished to participate was sufficient evidence that they were intensely human, and of an intellectual type.” This was the day that the new Congressional Library was to open, and allow eager readers into the Beaux-Arts style building for the first time.
By 1875, the old Congressional Library had completely exhausted its shelf space, and the Library's new building was not completed until February 1897. Although the 20 year wait for the physical structure was a long one, it seemed that the months between the building’s completion in February 1897 and its opening day on November 1, 1897 were the longest of all. Throughout these nine months, librarians and engineers joined together to try and solve one major problem: how would they move all of the Library’s contents the quarter of a mile distance from the Capitol to the new library without “loss, damage, and confusion.” The answer? Book chutes.