The Washington Century: Three Families and the Shaping of the Nation's Capital [NOOK Book]


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 ...

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The Washington Century: Three Families and the Shaping of the Nation's Capital

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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 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Now a world capital, Washington, D.C., began the 20th century as the "unhurried" capital of a country that had not yet found its place in the world. Solomon, a contributing editor to the National Journal, traces the remarkable evolution of the city through the lives of three insider families whose rise paralleled that of the capital. Washington's foremost industry, government, is represented by the politically potent Boggses, whose patriarch, Hale, began his congressional career in 1941, and whose offspring include journalist Cokie Roberts and influential lobbyist Tommy Boggs. The role of African-Americans in the D.C. establishment is personified by civil rights activist Julius Hobson and his family. The clan of Morris Cafritz, Jewish immigrant turned real estate magnate, and his socialite wife, Gwen, opens the world of Washington's elite social scene. Presidents, politicians, social activists from Stokely Carmichael to Jesse Jackson and other personalities, from J. Edgar Hoover to political columnist Joseph Alsop, move through these pages with dizzying frequency. World events pass by with an equally vertiginous effect, serving as backdrop for the successes and failures of various Boggses, Hobsons and Cafritzes. For the most part, Solomon (Where They Ain't) is generous to his subjects. And though the tale occasionally bogs down in family melodrama, it maintains a generally lively pace. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. Agent, Gail Ross. (On sale Nov. 9) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This is the saga of three very different families who called Washington, DC, home in the 20th century. Solomon (Where They Ain't) writes about the families of Jewish immigrant Morris Cafritz, Democratic Louisiana Congressman Hale Boggs, and black activist Julius Hobson Sr., a reporter who has covered the White House. With a great eye for the arresting anecdote or detail, Solomon paints vivid portraits of family matriarchs and patriarchs while offering an engaging, breezy history of the nation's capital over the past century. He fails, however, to weave the three families into the tapestry of the city and to sustain readers' interest into the second generation, whose members, with the exception of reporter Cokie Boggs Roberts, are decidedly lackluster. While this work touches superficially on political, black, urban, and social history, it will be of interest primarily as local history, spiced with a dash of gossip.-Kathryn Allamong Jacob, Radcliffe Inst. Lib., Harvard Univ. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Washington hand Solomon (Where They Ain't, 1999) astutely tracks three families of American aristocrats who wielded power inside the Beltway through the 20th century. The mores of the managers and movers, the privileged and the needy, the socialites, lawyers, lobbyists, developers, and politicos of Washington, DC, are distilled in the intertwined tales of the Jewish Cafritz family, the African-American Hobsons, and the Boggs clan, a set of southern politicians and lobbyists. Through the revolving doors of power passed these remarkable people, who could thrive nowhere better than in the District. Wealthy widow Gwen Cafritz, doyenne of Washington society and supporter of the arts, saw things differently than husband Morris or their three sons. Though they all were effective in the cause of civil rights, prickly and abrasive Julius Hobson Sr. made choices quite different from those of his only son or his two wives. After husband Hale's untimely death, Lindy Boggs succeeded him in Congress; one of their children became the city's leading lawyer-lobbyist, another became mayor of the borough of Princeton, and the third became Cokie Roberts. Spanning a century, the networked positions of influence occupied by these three families encompassed such diverse events as school integration, a gigantic corporate bailout, a riot, and the death of the Clinton health-care initiative, as well as cruel robberies and important garden parties. National Journal contributing editor Solomon examines it all: presidential administrations from Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, paladins of power from Perle Mesta to Marion Barry, and generations of civil servants who were not necessarily servile or even civil. Hepresents a solid social history of the nation's capital, which seems to have become a bit less affable lately. The increasingly internecine story will no doubt continue. An insider's knowing and engaging portrait, not to be found in any guidebook. (16-page photo insert, not seen)Agent: Gail Ross/Gail Ross Literary Agency
“Well-told stories about Washington by those who know the city and its history.”
Roll Call
“ Solomon’s choice of families and their stories move the reader through the immense amount of history effortlessly.”
Washington Post Book World
“Interesting . . . Solomon has a . . . clear understanding of how this city changed during the 20th century”
U.S. News & World Report
“[A] page turner.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062013743
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/29/2010
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 528
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Burt Solomon is a contributing editor for National Journal, where he has covered the White House and many other aspects of Washington life. In 1991 he won the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency. He is also the author of the acclaimed Where They Ain't, a history of baseball in the 1890s. He lives with his wife and children inside the Beltway.

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Table of Contents

1 Theodore Roosevelt to Hoover 1
2 Roosevelt 25
3 Truman 61
4 Eisenhower 87
5 Kennedy 117
6 Johnson 145
7 Nixon 197
8 Ford 251
9 Carter 273
10 Reagan 297
11 Bush 329
12 Clinton 355
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First Chapter

The Washington Century
Three Families and the Shaping of the Nation's Capital

Chapter One

Theodore Roosevelt to Hoover

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 1901–2 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
Three Families and the Shaping of the Nation's Capital
. Copyright © by Burt Solomon. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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