By Beth Purcell
Photographs of Capitol Hill houses from the past may be available from several sources. This article focuses on photographs of existing buildings.
It’s a big universe. You may want to start by searching these collections online, and then visit the libraries and consult librarians for additional help. The box shows contact information for Library of Congress (LOC), Washingtoniana, and Historical Society of Washington, DC (HSW).
Library of Congress (LOC)
“Researching Historic Washington, D.C. Buildings,” www.loc.gov/rr/print/coll/dcbuildings.html
- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS): Photographs and information on buildings. Direct link to image gallery
- Carol M. Highsmith Archives. www.loc.gov/collections/carol-m-highsmith/about-this-collection/
- Other LOC photograph collections: Civil War; Farm Service Administration; Harris & Ewing; Theodor Horydczak; Stereograph Cards, Miscellaneous Items in High Demand.
Historical Society of Washington, D.C. (HSW)
DC Public Library (DCPL)
- The Washington Post (1877-present) and The Washington Evening Star (1851-1981) are searchable on the library’s website. Real estate advertisements, in addition to articles, may have photographs.Visit www.dclibrary.org. From the top menu, choose Research >Databases> Newspapers Local>The Washington Post, or The Washington Evening Star. Or go directly to the Local Newspapers page to choose the Post or Star. Then login with your DC Library card number and start searching. For example, type in an address with quotes around it, e.g.: “1333 E Street.” On October 9, 1926 The Washington Star ran an advertisement and photograph of this house in NE.
- The Willard R. Ross postcard collection is comprised of original photographic postcard prints, primarily of the streets and architecture of Washington D.C. and the surrounding areas from the 1910s to 1930s.
Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) “Back in Time”
DDOT has an archive including 9,000 photographs of streets and buildings; many are digitized and available online at ddotlibrary.omeka.net. Browsing the collection is a good place to start. Kathleen Crabb, firstname.lastname@example.org
www.chrs.org has some house histories (chrs.org/history-and-preservation/house-histories/), and the annual CHRS House and Garden Tour brochures (chrs.org/house-and-garden-tour/tour-brochures/) with information about houses on that year’s tour. Some photographs (taken after 2000) of houses outside the Capitol Hill Historic District are available in the Beyond the Boundaries documentation (chrs.org/history-and-preservation/beyond-the-boundaries-map/).
See each library’s website for search tips.
- If your house is near a well-known building, a photograph of that building may also show your house. Examples include the Capitol, churches, schools, fire stations, commercial buildings, the Navy Yard, streetcar barns, hospitals and large parks.
- Search by street name, in addition to searching by address. Street names have changed. B Street NE and SE became Constitution Avenue, NE and Independence Avenue, SE. Georgia Avenue, SE became Potomac Avenue, SE. Address numbers may also have changed.
- Search by the name of an individual, company, or organization associated with the house.
VISITS TO LIBRARIES:
There may be additional photographs which the librarians can help you find. Contact information is below. For LOC you may need to get a free researcher’s ID. For each library, it’s a good idea to find out in advance how to pay for copies of photographs and what formats are available. Bringing a flash drive is a good idea. You may need a quarter to rent a locker.
Washingtonian at the MLK Library has a large collection, including indexes and past issues of the Washington Star on microfilm and also has vertical files on many topics.
Books and periodicals:
- Records of the Columbia Historical Society. HSW
- Robert Reed, Old Washington, D.C. In Early Photographs 1846-1932 (New York, N.Y.: Dover Publications, Inc, 1980)
|Library of Congress (LOC) Prints and Photographs Collection (Madison Building)
Independence Avenue SE between 1st and 2nd Streets
The entire LOC collection is at the Madison Building; a subset has been digitized and is available online at:
www.loc.gov > Prints and Photographs
| Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Washingtoniana Division – undergoing renovation, 2017-2018
901 G Street, NW (3rd floor)
make an appointment: dclibrary.org/research/appointments
|Historical Society of Washington, DC (HSW)Kiplinger Research Library – undergoing renovation, 2017-2018
801 K Street, NW