The photos show cast iron stoops and steps, which were typical in many D.C. neighborhoods after the city’s building boom of the 1870s.
“Iron was strong, inexpensive to produce, manufactured quickly, and easily assembled with little on-site labor,” according to an interesting pamphlet by the Capitol Hill Restoration Society on the history and care of old cast iron and wrought iron.
“Washington had five foundries in 1870 and fifteen most years from 1895 to 1905,” according to the pamphlet. Because of the industry’s dependence on water (or rail) connections to obtain raw materials, they “were usually in Georgetown, near the canal terminus, or along Maine Avenue on the Potomac River Waterfront.”
At first, I thought that both of the photographs above were of the same two houses. Then I realized that the screen doors are different and that the brickwork over the windows is painted white in only one of the pictures.
The narrow open passageway between both sets of houses is interesting.
You can see what the corner of N and Union (now 6th) Streets, S.W., looks like today here.
In the windows of the houses with the children on the steps, you can just see the families’ Blue Star service flags (put your cursor on the slideshow to pause it). They reveal that the family on the left had one son in the war and the family on the right had two. (A gold star on a window flag would indicate that a son had been killed.)