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The Washington Century chronicles the hundred-year rise of the nation's capital as it grew to become the most powerful city in the world -- a story made vivid through the history of three very different families, each representing an essential aspect of Washington: the Cafritzes, headed by a real estate mogul and his consummate hostess wife; the Boggs family, a political force in the ultimate political town; and the Hobsons, lead by a prominent black activist and civic leader in the first black-majority American ...
The Washington Century chronicles the hundred-year rise of the nation's capital as it grew to become the most powerful city in the world -- a story made vivid through the history of three very different families, each representing an essential aspect of Washington: the Cafritzes, headed by a real estate mogul and his consummate hostess wife; the Boggs family, a political force in the ultimate political town; and the Hobsons, lead by a prominent black activist and civic leader in the first black-majority American city. Veteran journalist Burt Solomon uses these families to explore everything from the customs of Washington's elite society to the expansion of the federal bureaucracy, the District's own struggle for self-governance, and the influential role that politics and, increasingly, lobbying have played in the city.
|1||Theodore Roosevelt to Hoover||1|
Before first light, young Morris Kafitz hitched up the horse and wagon and set out along the lanes of Georgetown. The gas lamps were still lit, and the reflections flickered off the cobblestones. As he rode south along Twenty-seventh Street, beneath a canopy of trees, the clopping echoed between the facing rows of houses.
Morris was accustomed to the early hour. He had a sturdy build and a strong and stolid face, with dark hair and somber blue eyes that kept their own counsel. As the eldest of the three sons, he woke each morning at four thirty and made his way across the sleepy, shuffling city ofWashington, in the District of Columbia, to buy fresh produce at the Center Market and sometimes to shop for fish down at the wharf. Only after hauling these provisions back to his father's grocery store, at Twenty-seventh and O Streets, in the city's northwestern quadrant, would he rush the three and a half blocks to the Corcoran School, with its redbrick Romanesque tower.
Soon his schooling would end, after the 19012 school year, once he had finished the seventh grade at age fourteen. What Morris wanted for himself in this land of liberty was not found in books.
Surely there was no shame in living in unfashionable Georgetown, even in its shabbier eastern end. This was paradise compared to Lithuania. His family had fled the pogroms when he was eleven and by 1898 had wound up in Washington, where some cousins had settled. The seven of them, Nussen, Anna, and the five children, lived first in a shack twenty-some blocks north of the Capitol building, and then in an alleyway a dozen blocks closer.
Pierre L'Enfant's grandiose design for the nation's capital, with its broad avenues and elongated blocks, had created a web of alleys, out of sight, where freed slaves lived after the Civil War. The Kafitzes were among the few white residents on Glick Alley, a dirty, overcrowded lane that stretched from S Street NW to Rhode Island Avenue, between Sixth and Seventh Streets. They occupied a two-story, four-room tin-roofed brick house, all of fourteen feet wide, dark and damp, without a basement. A spigot and a privy stood in the back.
Nussen was known as Nelson or Nathan in his new country. He was a small dapper man with a round fragile face and a trimmed beard. He had a sparkle -- into his eighties he would chase his second wife around a table -- and a sense of humor and no desire to speak or write in English. He opened a grocery on Glick Alley, in one of the ground-floor rooms. This was the most common business for the city's immigrant Jews, because it required little money or know-how.
Within a year the Kafitzes had left the alley and moved to Georgetown. They could afford to live away from the grocery, though the row house at 2706 N Street was even narrower than the house on Glick Alley and also lacked indoor plumbing, a hardship for the children on winter nights. Most of their neighbors were colored -- teamsters, servants, a porter, a deliveryman, a dressmaker, a day laborer, a washerwoman, an ash man, a laborer for the federal Bureau of Printing and Engraving. Georgetown was a quilt of black and white, of the poor and the poorer.
Forty-nine years older than the city of Washington, Georgetown had been named not for that George (though he had slept there many a night, a half-day's ride from Mount Vernon) but rather for Britain's King George II, whose governor of the Virginia colony had dispatched that George as a young colonel out to Ohio, an excursion that touched off the French and Indian War. The village, near the head of the navigable Potomac River, had originally been a thriving port for Maryland tobacco and then a point of departure for trade with the Ohio River Valley. Even after the capital was founded, in 1800, the handsome brick town houses and bustling streets of Georgetown outshined the drab and sparsely settled city next door, as a residence for foreign diplomats and the more adventurous members of Congress. Georgetown had ceased being a separate municipality within D.C. in 1871, and its social standing had withered. A port once a forest of masts had become an industrial suburb for a city lacking much industry of its own. The riverbank now harbored iron foundries, lime kilns, a sheet metal works, a bottling company, a coal yard, an electric powerhouse, and -- worst of all, to the residents -- an animal rendering plant, with its reek of decay. Only people who had few choices lived nearby.
Morris rode ahead toward M Street. On his left, past a prim Baptist church, an open field gave way to the ravine, dense with trees, that cradled Rock Creek. He turned left onto M Street, still known to many as Bridge Street for the iron-laced bridge that crossed the creek. He trotted above the mouth of the wide, rushing stream and into what had been properly known until recently as Washington City. Two quick turns put him on Pennsylvania Avenue, as broad a boulevard as any in the capital.
The scattered buildings stood low in the lightening sky. It was quiet here, and spacious. The paving of asphalt and coal tar climbed steadily before him, a godsend for the ever-more-popular safety bicycles. His horse sidestepped the slots for the streetcars. Morris liked to race the electrified streetcars, though once while doing so he had spilled a wagonful of groceries -- oranges and everything -- all over the road.
Washington was an unhurried city of barely a quarter-million inhabitants, ranked fifteenth in the nation, just behind Milwaukee ...The Washington Century