Van Ness Park

A repeat post of 2013. . .
Van Ness Park, 1880, Washington, D.C.“Two people relaxing in Van Ness Park about 1880,” Washington, D.C.,  via D.C. Public Library Commons on flickr.

This park was not located in the present-day neighborhood known as Van Ness.  The photo was taken in an area southwest of the White House near the corner of C and 18th Sts., N.W. — which was then known informally as “Van Ness Park.”

According to the Library’s notation on the photo, the building that can be seen in the middle of the far right side (above the man’s legs) is a “dependency of Van Ness Mansion.”

Van Ness House (Mansion) and its grounds were located on the block bordered by 17th and 18th Sts. and  C St. and Constitution Ave.  Built about 1816, the Greek Revival house was one of the finest in the city until the Civil War.  But afterwards, it served as a “German beer garden, florist’s nursery, headquarters of the city streetcleaners, and in the end, for the Columbia Athletic Club,” according to the blog Lost Washington.

The college that became George Washington University bought the property in 1903 but later decided that its location was too unhealthy for campus facilities.  At that time, the Potomac River and its marshes came up to B St., now Constitution Ave.

The State Department bought it in 1907, tore down the house, and built the Pan American Union (today OAS) Building.

I think the dependency in the photo is the old stable of the estate, which still exists at C and 18th Sts.  If that’s so, the couple may be lounging in what is now Bolivar Park.

According to the blog DC Ghosts, the stables have a connection to a local ghost story in which six white horses “run wildly around the grounds” and then group together to walk to the P St. Bridge crossing to Georgetown and Oak Hill Cemetery.  The full story is here.

It is good to be alone in a garden at dawn or dark so that all its shy presences may haunt you and possess you in a reverie of suspended thought.

— James Douglas, Down Shoe Lane

A show of mums

The Library of Congress labels this photo “Agriculture Department Dahlia Show,” 1911, but I’m sure it’s from the USDA’s annual Chrysanthemum show, which was held in one of the Department’s greenhouses in Washington, D.C.

The show in 1917.

The first of the annual exhibitions opened in October of 1902. I haven’t been able to find out anything more about them, but they were still being held in 1937.

In 1917.

All the photos here are by Harris & Ewing, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Between 1915 and 1923.
In 1917.
Also 1917.

My advice to the women of America is to raise more hell and fewer dahlias.

William Allen White (1868 – 1944)

I’m sure the same applied to mums.

Botany class

“A class in flowers, 6th Division,” ca. 1899, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Before she began the work she is probably best known for, that of photographing old houses and gardens, Johnston was a photojournalist and a portraitist. In 1899, she became interested in progressive education and made a photo survey of students at public schools in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.

Small front gardens and a sidewalk cafe on 17th Street, N.W., between H and I Streets, August 1973, by Dick Swanson for DOCUMERICA, via The U.S. National Archives Commons on flickr.

(Click on the image for a better view.)

None of these buildings remain today. The current view (from the ground) is here.

DOCUMERICA was an photography program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). From 1972 to 1977, it hired over 100 photographers to “document subjects of environmental concern.” They created an archive of about 80,000 images.

In addition to recording damage to the nation’s landscapes, the project captured “the era’s trends, fashions, problems, and achievements,” according to the Archives, which held an exhibit of the photos, “Searching for the Seventies,” in 2013.