In Old Washington (Christmas)

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, December 11, 1910 [p. 20]

The people of Washington of three score and ten years ago and over, were not accustomed to observe the holidays to anything like the extent they observe them in the present day. With the majority of people Christmas only was a holiday, and New Year day was a half holiday to some. In the executive departments, if the condition of the business permitted, holiday was given the employes from noon the 24th to the 26th instant; but during Christmas week, although the offices were open for business, but few employes made full time, for some of the clerks were absenting themselves, leaving their associates to keep up the pressing routine work. The sentiment, however, was prevalent in all the departments, in some instances accented by the smell of the breath or the unsteady walk of bibulous employes, who, however, did not receive a reprimand, unless there was some misbehavior committed. There were tokens of appreciation passing around the office, and, as a rule, the subordinates were more fortunate than those higher up. Now and then some popular officer would receive such costly gift as a watch or piece of plate; and subsequently all on the clerical roll and below received silver pencils and fine pen knives on New Year eve.

The private schools were closed for holiday week, but the two public schools which were in operation until 1844, when the number was increased by two, usually closed on the day before Christmas and sometimes opened again the day after, but study during the week was a matter of form to the few pupils in attendance, more play than study. Not infrequently, however, were the public schools closed for the week by consent of the trustees.

Christmas in the Twenties
It was a religious holiday observed by the Catholic, Episcopalian and some other denominations. The services in the Catholic churches -- St. Patrick's, on 10th and F sreets, and St. Peter's, on 2d and C streets southeast -- during the twenties, and St. Matthew's, on 15th and H streets, in 1840, were largely attended; also those at Christ Church, on G street southeast; St. John's, 16th and H streets northwest, and in the thirties Trinity, on 5th street, opposite Judiciary Square, of the Episcopal faith. The Methodists celebrated usually by an early morning prayer meeting, the churches then being East Washington, on 4th near G street southeast; the Foundry, at 14th and G streets northwest, and after 1828 Wesley Chapel, corner of 5th and F streets northwest.

There were then the Center Market, now occupied by the Washington Market, at Pennsylvania avenue and 7th street, the West Market, at 20th and I streets northwest; the Capitol Hill Market, on New Jersey avenue, south of he Capitol, before 1812, in East Capitol street, north of the Library, from 1812 to 1838, and then on the site of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, corner of 2d and A streets southeast.

There was some preparation by the dealers for the holidays, but very primitive were the decorations of the stores. The market was supplied then with a greater portion of game than at present, in proportion to the population; venison, possum, rabbit, etc., were much sought for, wild turkey and wild duck were in profusion, while domestic fowl for the time contributed to the reduction of the butchers' traffic; nevertheless it was the custom of the butchers at the Christmas time to have lean cuts of beef on exhibition, for few families expected to make their Christmas dinner without the head of beef. The custom of mince pies at Christmas occasioned a ready sale of beef for the mincemeat, but little mincemeat being used unless made at home.

Firemen Observed the Day
The fire companies also observed the day. The Columbia, on Capitol Hill south of the Capitol; the Union, at 19th and H streets; the Franklin, at 14th and the Avenue northwest, and the Anacostia, near the navy yard, and the Perseverance, on the Avenue and 8th street northwest. It was the custom of the members to meet at the engine house at any time after midnight and toward daylight the bells were rung, the bonfires lighted, drinkables were found everywhere, for the prohibition movement had not taken much hold, and pandemonium reigned.

The Sunday school entertainments had not then come into vogue. Christmas trees were to a limited extent used. Of course, there was the Christmas spirit at the hotels--in the twenties the Franklin House, at 21st and I streets; Gadsby's and O'Neale's east of it; Sanford's, on Pennsylvania avenue near 15th street; Wolf's, on 15th and G streets; Strother's, now the New Willard; Keowin's had become Jesse Brown's; Indian Queen, on the site of the Metropolitan, and Rumpf's, opposite, being the principal ones. These taverns usually had large bowls of eggnog, apple toddy and various other drinkables to regale their friends, and money was out of the question. Among the tavern keepers of that day were R. Payne and H. Drain, on the Avenue between 17th and 18th; David Appler, at the corner of 12th and the Avenue, on the site of the Raleigh; Jonathan Appler, 12th and C streets northwest; Sam Black, on Union street near the 7th street wharf; James Crain, on the west side of 7th street between C and D; James Dougherty, James Dumbleton, William Dowling, George Miller and John Kennedy were all on F street between 13th and 14th; Richard Hendley, at southwest corner of 7th and E streets; Hugh Keirnan was on 7th street opposite the Center market; James Keirnan, on 7th and H streets northwest; Patrick Keirnan, on 7th street between G and H streets; John Pic, on south A street near New Jersey avenue; John Smith, at 14th street and Maryland avenue; Robert Tweedy, on 9th street between E and F; H. Ticer, on 12th street near the Tiber; and Mrs. Marr, at the Andrew Jackson House, on the Avenue between 1st and 2d streets northwest.

The principal confectioners were Joseph Arney, F street between 14th and 15th, who had lately moved from Georgetown; Christian Buckley, on the south side of the Avenue between 9th and 10th streets; H. Julien, on the north side of F between 14th and 15th; L. Kervand, afterward in partners with Lepreux, in the Seven buildings. These were, of course, largely interested in Christmas and a friendly rivalry existed among them.

Population in 1840
By 1840 the population had increased from about 15,000 in 1820 to over 30,000, and business proportionately. There were at this time Fuller's Hotel, on the site of the New Willard; Galabean kept a famous resort for members of Congress near 15th street; the Fountain Hotel of the thirties, which became later the Irving House, was on the site of the Raleigh; Brown's Indian Queen, on the site of the Metropolitan; the National, which Col. S.S. Coleman established, at 6th and the Avenue; the Verandah Hotel, between 3d and 4 1/2 streets, conducted by Cotter and Thompson; the United States, Capt. J.H. Birch, nearby; the Exchange, B.M. Gilbert, on C street between 4 1/2 and 6th streets; the St. Charles, at 3d street and Pennsylvania avenue, conducted by Burlin Brown.

The Globe Hotel of Keowin, at the southeast corner of 13 1/2 and D streets, had changed hands, and for years, named as the Western Hotel, was popularly known as the Indian Hotel of James Maher.

The neighborhood opposite the market on 7th street had grown up, and was then known as "Cat Tail" row. Among the tavern keepers were Mrs. Black, William Dipple, William Samuels and B.O. Schekels. The Franklin Coffee House of T. Baker was a famous resort, especially for printers, there being the Intelligencer office and the office of G. Gideon & Son. On 3d street north of the Avenue was Isaac Baer's Temperance Hotel; the Union Hotel of A. Butler, on F street between 13th and 14th, was a resort especially of the English elements; J.H. Eberbach kept the Columbian, corner of 8th and E streets; Dowling was still on F street between 13th and 14th, was a resort especially of the English elements; J.H. Eberbach kept the Columbian, corner of 8th and E streets; Dowling was still on F street between 13th and 14th; Jack Douglas was on Louisiana avenue between 4 1/2 and 6th streets; Smith's tavern had become the Farmers and Drovers', at 15th and Maryland avenue; James Fitzgerald kept a fruit store and tavern on the site of 325 Pennsylvania avenue, which later was destroyed by fire, and a five-story building, the first of its height, erected in place of the old frame; what was once the Clinton House, afterward Dorsey's Hotel, was then known as a farmers' hotel, kept by J. Lyon at 7th and I streets; opposite Baker's coffee house, at 8th and D streets, was Owen Connolly's Farmers' Hotel. The Star coffee house had been esablished by Hancock on the Avenue between 12th and 13th streets; J. Jost kept the first warehouse at 17th and G streets; P.H. King kept the Congress Hotel, on the Avenue between 4 1/2 and 6th; B. Shad was on B street between 2d and 3d, and P.A. DeSaules was at 7th and E streets, and Brady's railroad house on the Avenue between 1st and 2d streets.

Old Time Restaurants
On Capitol Hill, Joseph Casparis kept a refectory at New Jersey avenue and A street southeast; Mrs. Sweeney was on south A street between New Jersey avenue and 1st street, A. Rupert and James Lynch were on East Capitol street; Joseph Johnson was on A street and New Jersey avenue. On the navy yard were B. Clemmon, G street between L and M; B.A. Golden, 8th street between I and K streets; John Lloyd, 8th and K streets.

The most noted places among confectionery and variety stores were Joseph Beardsley, on the Avenue between 12th and 13th streets; Timothy Buckley, on C street between 6th and 7th; K. Chapman varieties, on the Avenue between 19th and 20th; C. Columbus on 7th street between D and E; C. Gautier, a French confectioner, on 11th street and the Avenue; Paul Kinchy, on the Avenue beween 10th and 11th; Harry Kuhl on the Avenue between 12th and 13th sreets; J.G. Weaver, on 7th street between I and K; Cyrus Wineberger, 11th street between E and F streets southeast. J.H. Cake was a baker on East Capitol street; J. Horning kept a variety store nearby; Toddchinder & Co. were brokers in the same section; J. Wunderlich was a baker on 7th street between K and L streets southeast, and afterward he had a popular lager beer saloon. John O'Donnell, had a confectionery opposite the Marine barracks. Nick Funk had a variety store north of the West Market.

The variety and fancy stores attracted custom, that of George Savage, on the north side of the Avenue west of 9th street, being the mecca of downtown boys. Metal toys, wooden hobby-horses, wagons and sleighs were here, but the favorite was the toy cannon for he boys, and false faces attracted the girls. Of the stores conducted by women, that of Mrs. Ailer, adjoining the most popular store of Ailer & Thyson, on 7th street between G and H streets, was a leading one, especially for dressed dolls, and at this time these were mostly of papier mache or wood. Among the smaller shops kept by women were those of Mrs. Davy on the northwest corner of 14th and F streets, and Mrs. Jackson, on E street between 13th and 14th streets, which had runs on the smaller toys. Mrs. Lethe Tanner, colored, had a crowded stock at the northeast corner of 14th and H streets, and "Mammy" Jones, on G street between 13th and 14th streets, famous for homemade taffy and cake, branched out a little by adding articles of other makes to her stock. The little confectionary of George Norbeck, on the north side of the Avenue between 9th and 10th streets, carried such a stock of toys in addition to confectionery that but few customers could be admited at a time. On 6th street between F and G streets Michael and Christian Briel had a confectionery, where candy canes, baskets, etc., were made for the trade and for their market stands.

Sellers of Holiday Books
In the matter of holiday books there was some trade in which auctioneers as well as booksellers engaged. In the early days Weightman, on the site of the National Hotel; French, northwest corner 6th street and the Avenue, and Pishy Thompson, on the Avenue between 11th and 12th streets, were the leading booksellers. In the forties in the same trade were W.G. Fischer and E.K. Dundy, near Pennsylvania avenue and 12th; Robert Farnham, Pennsylvania avenue and 11th street; Frank Taylor and W.M. Morrison, Pennsylvania avenue between 4 1/2 and 6th streets, and others. By this period numbers of annuals and illustrated works had appeared, and juvenile books were becoming popular.