TAPE 1/SIDE 1
MARTIN: Dr. Hall, as you know, the Capitol Hill Association of Merchants and Professionals' Community Foundation has established the Ruth Ann Overbeck History Project for the purpose of collecting oral histories from longtime Capitol Hill citizens like yourself. It is the intention of those people who established the project that the collection of oral histories would provide a permanent ongoing record of people and events that have shaped Capitol Hill over the years. It is possible these oral histories will be published. The most important mission is to preserve for all time these oral histories now. The Overbeck history project people are most interested in securing everything Dr. Hall would like to offer and that is why I am here. Although I have prepared questions to ask of you, I know you have so much to tell I will only prompt you asking you to expand on any subject related to your experiences on Capitol Hill that you choose. And so first, why don't you tell us your full name.
HALL: Well, my full name is Joseph Stephen Hall .
MARTIN: And you came to Capitol Hill when?
HALL: Well, I first saw the city of Washington -- I'm a North Carolinian -- I first saw the city of Washington to my great wonderment, as a kid. It was in 1944, I remember it quite well, when I was through Union Station, they pointed out the Presidents Suite and I thought, oh my how wonderful, you know, that's where B. Smith's is now, the restaurant.
MARTIN: Yes. Yes.
HALL: And we were not allowed to go in there but we were shown the area where it was, and I thought, oh what a grand, grand, grand building, and as you know, that building has had a very interesting history, ups and downs, since then. Anyway, that was my first experience with Washington, DC, and then I came here permanently in 1958. I came here to the University of Maryland on a graduate grant. I finally finished up there. I then moved into town in 1960 and I've lived in town ever since then. However, when I was there, I was in town quite frequently, doing research at the Library of Congress and other places here and there.
This house was built in 1910. It is recorded that this was a vacant lot at that time, and a George P. and Elizabeth Tucker, they were both from Massachusetts, bought this property and had this house built and the house next [trouble with microphone]
MARTIN: Go ahead, you were talking about the Adams Building.
HALL: Right, the Adams Building. The people next door lived here for many many years after I got the house. Here is a picture of the Tucker family.
MARTIN: This is fabulous!
HALL: And that's the house.
MARTIN: Now, how did you get this photo?
HALL: It's an interesting story. I was lucky enough to meet, through the years, two granddaughters of George P. and Elizabeth Tucker: Betsy Fry and Lillian Tucker. And Betsy Fry and Lillian Tucker both gave me some pictures. Here's the house from Eighth Street; this is the parlor of this house; this is the room right behind you, showing what they called, at that time, that room, the library. This is the room behind you, so-called library. That mantle is right there behind you.
MARTIN: This looks like it was taken at Christmastime.
HALL: It must have been, yes. She made notes on the back.
MARTIN: Uh-huh. This says 1920.
HALL: Uh-huh. This is one of the sons, then obviously grown, Max, in the front parlor, right in that room where you went to see Caruso [Dr. Hall's canary] and as the bay window that's in that room.
MARTIN: And the greenery around the painting on the wall.
HALL: And my own mother did that. They would put greenery on the pictures in the old days. And here are the two teenage boys, Prescott and Max. Then here is the front of this house where you walked up the steps. The interesting wrought iron railing is still there. This shows the side of the house from this little parking area out here and notice that there were awnings on the house at that time.
MARTIN: The park that Mrs. Jones managed to preserve.
HALL: Oh! She fought like cats and dogs, and I fought like cats and dogs, for years we fought. I've been here now, 27 years. They were here many years before that and we have always fought with the city over this little plot out here and I finally won and got a little portion of it for myself. I now have possession of the part that is fenced in. Anyway, here's a street scene on Massachusetts Avenue. Here are other bits and pieces of... this is out on this front stoop, this is out in the front yard. Well, anyway, enough of that.
MARTIN: Look at the maturity of the trees there.
HALL: Exactly. And I have another one that shows the front of this house, looking toward Constitution Avenue back here, which at that time was old B Street. It was not changed until in the forties. They changed -- Independence Avenue and Constitution Avenue stopped at the foot of the Hill and they became their numbered streets and lettered streets, B Street, NE and B Street, SE, but then they decided to extend the name on up through the Hill and beyond to the river, the Anacostia. But anyway, that kind of gives you a little bit of a feel, and I have other pictures here, many other pictures, of this house at that period.
MARTIN: That the Project may copy?
HALL: Yes, you certainly may.
MARTIN: And return to you.
HALL: Yes. I interrupted my own self. This one picture that I have that shows Constitution Avenue from the front of this house shows a horse and buggy and I think there's also a car, so it shows you the period of time, the transition between horse and buggy...
MARTIN: So that would be about 1910?
HALL: Um, it would have been more like '20.
MARTIN: 1920? But still horses though?
HALL: Yes, some people still had horses. Well, let's get back to my little notes ere I stray. This area, Washington and particularly Capitol Hill. Capitol Hill was a very, little hometown -- really it was redneck. Capitol Hill was really quite a small, redneck part of this town. The bars, for instance, on Pennsylvania Avenue, I myself saw, out of some of those bars, you know the building now across from Mr. Henry's, across from the Post Office is and others? [ed: Sixth and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE]
HALL: Those were row houses, large large, three story and English basement row houses. The basements of those houses had all been turned into bars. I have seen several times bums being thrown out of there by the bouncers. Literally being tossed up the steps and onto the sidewalk because they were too drunk or begging or whatever have you. As a matter of fact, Mr. Henry's was called, when I came here, it was called the 601, because that's the address on Pennsylvania Avenue. They had high-back wooden booths right down the middle of the space that is now the restaurant. It was an old old splintery wooden floor, so bad that they put sawdust on it, and they could just sweep up the sawdust with all the spills and the spilled beer and whatever, you know. So this was quite a redneck, scruffy area.
Speaking of the Avenue, let's go down that avenue while we're there. Where is now the Madison Building [ed: Library of Congress] there was bunch of large large rowhouses. I went into those buildings just before the demolition. I rescued and, you will see out in my outer foyer, a set of fireplace columns, that I made into large candlesticks through the years and I rescued those and stuck one under one arm and one under the other and lugged them home. And they soon tore those buildings down.
In that block, there was the Trover Shop, there was Mike Palm's, there were several other businesses, they all moved down into the next block because their block was being torn down. I remember the Trover moving, they finally got two buildings there. Mike Palm moved down there and several others. Now, the old Sherrill's was right where it was and Sherrill's never changed, it just never never never changed. But proceeding on down that avenue, I went into and saw movies in both the Penn and the Grand. The Penn is where the Penn Building is now. The Grand was across the street where that something "Market Place" is now? You know, that strange building where you walk down?
HALL: Well, that was where the Grand Theater was. They were both small, neighborhood theaters which was the thing in those days to do. It was the television of that day, you went to movies. And every neighborhood had its own small movie house. They were there. So the street was really quite an interesting, almost brawly street.
MARTIN: Almost what? Brawly?
HALL: Brawly, yes. Brawls, yes. [Laughs] You will forgive my British...
MARTIN: I like it.
HALL: Sometimes I use. My father was British, my mother was North Carolinian and they met and married there. Anyway, street scenes. Back to this street. When I came here, to Washington, moved into town, I was not in this house, I was in 708 A Street, NE, right around the corner, the house that the Reeses now have.
MARTIN: Oh yes.
HALL: Joe Reese and Sherry Saunders.
MARTIN: Oh you mean, A Street, not...
HALL: "A" as in apple.
MARTIN: Oh, they'll be delighted to hear that.
HALL: Yes. That was the first house I ever bought here, and I broke my back re-doing that house. That house had 24 people living in it when I bought it.
HALL: Yes, that's the way you lived on Capitol Hill then.
MARTIN: Tell me more about that.
HALL: Well, it was divided into three apartments. There was an English basement, a main floor and an upstairs. There were no restrictions on the number of people you could have in a place so Aunt Suzy would sleep during the daytime, Uncle Ben would come in and sleep at night, and then he would go to work, you know it was one of those deals. This house, even, in its time, was used as -- not as a boarding house, but it was used as a rooming house. During the war, the Second World War, it was considered very patriotic to open your home to the war workers, the typists and the file clerks, women and men, particularly women, who came here by the thousands to work for the feds and push the war effort. And in the case of this house, the history shows that it was used that way and Suzy and Mary and Jane had the back room which, at one time, was the dining room. This was not the original dining room of this house. This was the reception hall, built into this house. And then they would close the door and then right in this room would be Jim and Bob and Jack, or whoever and in that room would be someone else, and they thought nothing of it. They would just all hop into...
MARTIN: Sounds like fun.
HALL: Yeah. Yeah.
MARTIN: Like a big fraternity party.
HALL: Yeah, must have been. Anyway, when I moved to Washington, Massachusetts Avenue was very different from what it is now. Inez Jones had this house painted. I regret that it was ever painted because it's hard to keep paint on brick, you have to keep it up forever. But she said, "Oh, Joseph it's such an ugly house," she calls me Joseph, she said. "Now, Joseph, it's such an ugly house. I'm going to have this house painted." Well, she did and fortunately, she left the paneling and the woodwork in this room and interiorly, she did not do any painting, fortunately. She did paint the three fireplaces on this floor, but she left the rest of it fortunately, because it's lovely chestnut paneling and oak surrounds the doors and windows.
But anyway, the street scene from here on up, going west. The Capitol Hill Hospital as we now know it, the buildings there. It was called Casualty Hospital. And then it was called Rogers Memorial because a Dr. Rogers bought it and took it over. Then it became Capitol Hill Hospital and it was quite a going concern. Neighborhoods had their own hospitals and, by the way, Providence [ed: Hospital] was over here off of Third [SE], which is now a park. And Providence was a huge, great big stone building, a rather Romanesque big ominous-looking building. There was a hospital over there.
And this hospital, they were very well patronized, they had a lot of business. Across the street at what is now the new townhouses, on Seventh, Seventh and Mass., going down to C, there were townhouses there when I came here. I had friends there, and I visited in that block in those houses. Then the hospital bought that lot, tore the houses down, put a parking lot. And you can remember the parking lot which has now been sold and they're re-building houses there. OK, proceeding on down the way, past the corner of Sixth. At the corner of Sixth and Mass., where there are some relatively new townhouses, there was a large ugly looking building, big brick building, which became, I suppose it had been an apartment building or something. But it became a nurses' home after the hospital took over the small building back here. Originally, this building right here at the corner of Constitution and Eighth had been a nurses' home, and I have been in that building a number of times. The apartments were lovely. They were two-bedroom apartments. The nurses were supposed to live there, I'm sure. Beautiful woodwork, I remember the doors, and the upstairs floors were very very attractive.
But then the hospital expanded. They put the doctors' offices over there, they made a little clinic, out-patient clinic, and they moved the nurses up to, as I was saying, the corner of Sixth and Mass., in an old building that's now gone, and they put houses, new townhouses in there, between Mass. and C. Stanton Park was just as it is now except, both it and Lincoln were very run-down. I would have to say that they're in much better shape now. As a matter of fact, there's been tremendous improvement overall in the appearance and upkeep and the quality of Capitol Hill. I would just have to say that very emphatically because both those parks were quite run-down at that time.
MARTIN: How did they look exactly?
HALL: The playground was never thought of until the days of Margo Higgins and the Stanton Park Neighborhood Association people put that park in there. The sidewalks were there, pretty much, and the statue was there, the equestrian statue. But now at Lincoln Park the statue of Lincoln freeing the slaves was in the center, up there now where there's now shrubbery. During the, let's see, the 70s, it would be '73 or 4, they moved that statue to where it is now because the sculptor who did the big Kennedy head in the..
MARTIN: Berk. Yeah.
HALL: Right, at the Performing Arts Center, Kennedy Center, did the Bethune statue. And so they put it at one end, and they moved Lincoln to this end, to the west end, and put her at the east end, down there at, what would that be, Thirteenth.
HALL: Yeah. The shrubbery, the trees, all that has been considerably improved in both the parks. I take a little, tiny bit of credit, for working on my own little park out here. Because do you know that in Washington, there are 500 and some of these "pocket parks" and this one out here was grossly neglected for many many years. And finally, after battling with the city, I got hold of some of it and started working.
Anyway, we're past the first house over here. At that time, when I first came into town in 1960, the Restoration Society was kind of up and coming. I've always considered that a poor name for the restoration people because we no more restore these houses to their original condition than anything. We put in modern stuff and that. Real restoration would be as it was exactly at that time. We renovate and improve and upgrade but… A Curley Boswell, a wonderful leading light at that time here in this area, was the head of the restoration group at that time, and he did an awful lot to bring about the, shall we say, popularity of Capitol Hill. Capitol Hill, when I came here, was not a place to live. Now, it's a pretty nice address. "Oh, you live on the Hill. Well fine." But at the beginning of this area, Capitol Hill residential area did not extend beyond Second Street ever, ever. You lived beyond that either in Northeast or you lived in Southeast and that was just the way it was.
I guess the first residences really were there on First Street across from the Capitol because they built a number of houses there, now torn down, where the Library of Congress is. The Jefferson Building. And congressmen and senators would come and they would board there for the few days that Congress was in session, and then they would go back to Pocatello [laughs] Well, I know it was not a state at that time, but anyway, gradually, the residential area, houses, began to creep this way and it was thought in the original founding of Washington that the eastern part of the city would grow and prosper before the western part did because there was this swamp down there, the Tiber River went on rampages at times. This area was much more placid and they thought that the residential area would expand here but Northwest, of course, became the big big residential area eventually.
In the block where the Folger Library is now, I have here in Lost Washington, this is my Washingtoniana collection. But I have a picture of the houses that were where the Folger is now. And they were supposed to be the most handsome and expensive houses in Washington at that time, but that quality of building did not continue. It then went, as I said, on to Northwest. I guess they wanted to be closer to...
MARTIN: OK, early 19th century?
HALL: Yes, yes it would have been early 19th century. But getting back to the matter at hand. When I first came here, you would see very few families. I can't recall a child, I can't recall one child...
MARTIN: Now that's interesting.
HALL: ...living on Capitol Hill when I came here in 1960. Not one. And of course it was a racial, it was an area in transition. This first house that I bought was inhabited by African-Americans, was owned by a woman who lived in Silver Spring, and that was kind of the thing. They had moved out of the city and rented, and that's how so many of these houses went down. Interiorly, these houses went down. Now this house never did because it was not used that way, but a lot of the houses, the house I bought on Eighth Street, was just beat up to pieces. And I had to go in and do an awful lot of stripping of woodwork, restoring back to as near as you could find original. There had been marble hearths in there, that was gone, beat up, goodness knows where it went. Had to get out and get as near as one could figure it had been. So, it was a run-down area. Over here on Seventh Street, you know where Contex Realty was?
HALL: All right, right next to that there was a Safeway. There are two big houses built in there now, but there was a Safeway there that I used for my grocery shopping when I was on A, it was just around the corner. And in the riots of '68, that was broken into, they stepped right in the broken windows, looted the place, and it never did, it was never restored as a grocery. They put a brick front on that thing and it became kind of a flea market in there I think or something. Price of houses, you can't believe, you just can't believe the price of houses. I paid fourteen-five for that big house where the Reeses are now, put a lot of money into it, but my goodness, look at what you have now.
MARTIN: Fourteen-five in what year?
HALL: That was in 1960. 14.5. And then, let's see Nancy, you live on East Capitol, 1100 block?
MARTIN: Right, 1124.
HALL: OK. Well then, let me tell you this part of the story. Everybody who knew me, and I was working at Maryland at that time, commuting in and out. Well, everybody in Maryland thought I was a fool to live in the city. But then when I sold that house on A Street, dear Inez Jones, who is so much part of my life, said, "Now, Joseph." I had her looking for houses for me. She said, "Now, I want to show you a house and I don't want you to say anything about the location. Now, just let me take you there in the daytime." Well, she took me to 1367 Massachusetts Avenue, Southeast. Can you picture that house?
MARTIN: 13... let me think, 1367 Mass.
HALL: Do you know Brian and Charlotte Furness?
MARTIN: I do not. I only know that famous name.
HALL: Well, I sold them my house eventually. They live in what at one time was my home. And people said, "You are an idiot! Have you lost your mind to move east of Lincoln Park? Don't you know that you will be killed or something?" Well, it was a very very fortunate thing. And then later, I bought another house in your block, 1102 East Capitol. Aren't you between Eleventh and Tennessee?
MARTIN: No, we're right off of Twelfth.
HALL: You're just beyond Twelfth.
HALL: 24, OK. 1102 is the second house from Eleventh. And Inez said, "Now Joseph." And she said, I don't know whether she told you, but she was a realtor.
MARTIN: Oh yes.
HALL: She was a broker. And to this day she brags about Congressional Realty Company. And she ran it right out of this house.
MARTIN: Oh yeah, I know. You'll enjoy reading her interview.
HALL: Well, she is a doll. She's an absolute doll. So I bought that house.
MARTIN: Did you live in it?
HALL: No, I never lived in it. I used...
MARTIN: Who bought it, or who rented it?
HALL: Who rented it? I have no idea about names. I know I had two...
MARTIN: Not names but...
HALL: I had two young lawyers, well there was a couple upstairs, and the main floor was occupied by two young lawyers. And they gave me fits. "Well, but as a landlord you're supposed to do so-and-so and so-and-so and so-and-so." And I would do so-and-so, "but you didn't do so-and-so and so-and-so" and I finally decided that I would never ever rent to lawyers. I would never, if you were a lawyer, my dear, I would have to check you at my door. [laughs] Anyway, rambling, rambling.
MARTIN: All of this is interesting.
HALL: Well, it's just rambling. Anyway, I moved from, and I had always told John and Inez, I said and, I wish you could have known John. John was such a prince of a guy, he really really was a wonderful wonderful chap, and it was one of the best love affairs I ever... to the day he died they were lovers in the best sense of the word. He had a stroke and she took great, marvelous care of this guy right here in this house. And when they retired...
MARTIN: He should see her now, by the way. She is absolutely fabulous.
HALL: Well, I see her quite often, as a matter of fact, they were invited here to our Christmas party which we have every year, and Leland wrote and said they would do their best to get here and she got here the year before. Inez was always a fabulous dresser, and she's a wonderful, not only is she a stylish person, she's a fabulous cook. She would entertain, I would be here many many times, at holidays and birthdays and anniversaries and what have you. She could entertain so lavishly and. Well, again, I ramble but.
From 1367, when they retired, I always said now I want that house. She came to me and she said, "Now Joseph." She said, "You've always said you wanted this old place and you know that I'm in the business to make money." And she said, "Now I'm going to give you a price and a chance to buy it if you want to, if you're really sincere. And I don't want you to argue with it. I don't want you to question the price now. I'm not going to take a counter-offer. I'm not going to deal with that. I'm going to give you the rock-bottom and that's it." So she gave me a price of one-oh-eight. And she had spent, I think they paid, seventeen-five for this house. And she wanted one-oh-eight [$108,000].
MARTIN: In what year? About?
HALL: That would have been in 1975. And I said, "But Inez dear." She said, "Don't. Don't. Don't. Don't come at me." And I said, "But it does need, the woodwork needs painting outside." I said, "Look at it, the paint is peeling." "Oh," she said, "well, I hadn't noticed that." But she said, "I'll tell you what. And no more arguing. I'll take off five thousand dollars and you have the thing painted yourself and do what you want to with it but that's it." And she turned on her heels and left me. So for one-oh-three, I got this house. [laughs] Oh, she's a doll. She really is a doll, and they're very fond of Inez Jones. OK, that brings us to this house, and pretty much the street scenes here and there.
MARTIN: And did you live there, at 1367 Mass.?
HALL: Oh I lived there from '69... at 1367? Sure, I lived there from, 1969 until I moved here, I bought this house in '75, moved here into this house in '76, because they took their good time in leaving. So I was on -- at 1367 from '69 to '76. Then I came to this house and here I have been ever since.
Now let's talk a bit about churches. When I came to this -- I have down here a little note about Ingram Congregational. That name would not mean anything to you but it is now this white church down here...
MARTIN: Oh yes, the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
HALL: ...where the Seventh Day Adventist Church is now. It was a Congregational church, it was called Ingram Memorial. It was a growing concern in the early '60s, but by the time I came here in the '70s...
END OF TAPE 1/SIDE 1
MARTIN: You can proceed.
HALL: Well, we were speaking of Ingram Memorial Congregational Church. I have no idea who Ingram was but it was named for a person because it was a memorial to someone. In, as I was saying, in the early ‘60s, when I came here, it was attendable. The congregation was still there, I think, in smaller, smaller numbers.
MARTIN: Did the congregation, did they live here on the Hill or did they come in from the suburbs?
HALL: Well that's part of the interesting story. No, they lived here, pretty much, on the Hill. But then when I moved to this house, closer to Ingram, they were leaving. We have, let's face it, there was such a thing as white flight, and it did happen. I think much to the detriment of this city. If people had stayed and it had become, well, an integrated area as it hopefully is now, I don't think there would have been the deterioration of homes and the neighborhood but...
MARTIN: When did the white flight begin? Can you...
HALL: In the early '60s. And that -- big time in the late '60s and big time in the early '70s and by that time, it was pretty much done and when I came here to this house in '76, that church was completely abandoned. They had let it go to rack and ruin and I went into that building and there were pigeons flying around and that big dome, the big, what you would call the meeting room, the major portion of that church. It's quite an attractive building.
MARTIN: And so well kept up now. Aren't you impressed?
HALL: So well kept up. I'm very impressed, but not one of those people lives in the District.
MARTIN: I know that, and they're willing to come in.
HALL: Well I said to some of them, here in this block the parking is atrocious on Saturday and Sunday, and I said to one of them, "Don't you people have churches in Maryland?" Oh, I thought they were going to throw me out of town.
MARTIN: Oh really.
HALL: Anyway, over there at the corner of Seventh and A [NE], where Unity is now, there was a church, and when I lived on A, at 708, there was a deck out back, out the kitchen, out the back. And we would have coffee out there on Sunday morning and go out back and hear the music from that church and by that time, it was "DUNK DUNK DUNK DUNK DUNK DUNK DAH. DUNK DUNK DUNK DUNK DUNK DUNK DUM." So it was an African church even at that time, so you see, the white flight had already started because these churches were all white at one time as you know. The Hoover Church, also, here on Capitol Hill, you know the Hoover Church? Well, it's called United Methodist, is that the one over there on Seward Square?
HALL: Well, it was built in a block where stood a house in which J. Edgar Hoover lived for many many years. In fact, I think he was born in that house, don't hold me to that but, it was his childhood home, and that block was torn down for the purpose of building that present church.
MARTIN: I have never heard that story before. Is that well known?
HALL: Well, I would think so. At least I know it. And it was called, at that time, they referred to it pretty much, as the Hoover Church. And as a matter of fact, J. Edgar Hoover lived on out Branch Avenue in the last house before you hit the Maryland line, a lovely big brick home that sits up on a hill, and if you notice, just before you get to Southern Avenue, the very last house on the right, you go down Branch Avenue and you drop down a hill into Maryland on Branch Avenue going toward Marlow Heights. And there's a lovely lovely house in what is called Randall Highlands now, I think is the residential area, isn't it called Randall Highlands? I think so, of the city. That's not part of Capitol Hill. But anyway, he moved as an adult. He bought that house and lived there for a number of years. Out on Branch Avenue.
I'm thinking also of schools. I was in the old Hine Building. The old Hine Junior High School. And it was called Horrible Hine, have you ever heard that?
MARTIN: Oh yes, when we came here it was called that...
HALL: Well, it , that referred to the building because the building was horrible. The building is where the playground is now. And the playground is where the building is now.
MARTIN: I see.
HALL: And it was an old wooden type building inside. I remember splintery old floors and that. I was in there because that's where you went, in this neighborhood, to have the first polio vaccine. They held those clinics in schools and Hine was used, and I remember Hine was quite ugly and horrible inside.
MARTIN: Ugly because of -- was built late, not during the early 19th century and was...
HALL: It was run down. I would have to say it was quite run-down.
MARTIN: Would it ever have been a beautiful building?
HALL: No, not what we would call beautiful. It would have been a utilitarian useful building and it was still being used. But they did tear it down because interiorly, it was a wreck. Now it stood where the playground is now, right by that alley, you know there by Agnes Anilian, if you remember Agnes Anilian? [affirmative noises from Martin] Her little shop right there on the alley. Well right across, where that fence is now, that's where the building stood, and the playground was down at Pennsylvania Avenue, at the corner there, Seventh and Eighth, where the building now exists. So that was quite an improvement when that building was built.
MARTIN: Do you know about what year the new building was built?
HALL: That would have had to be in the late '60s. '67, '68, '69, along in there. They took the playground, I don't know what the children did at that time, but they built the new building before they tore down the old one, of course, and then when they tore down the old one they recreated a playground. Now Peabody, looked exactly like it does now on the outside, and that building was not allowed to deteriorate to the degree that Hine did.
MARTIN: Do you have any idea why? Closer to the Capitol? Congressmen sending their children there, anything like that?
HALL: I would, I have no idea. I would have to hazard the guess, just guessing, that because it was always a primary school, an elementary school, and when I came here it was K through six. But because it was, I think parents were more interested than junior high school parents might have been. And I think the PTA would have gone in and the parents would have lent a hand toward doing various fix ups and fund raisings and cake bakes and that kind of stuff, you know.
MARTIN: Room parents.
HALL: Right, right, exactly. That kind of covers the schools. Back to this hos...
MARTIN: Tell me about Eastern High. Do you have any comments about that, how that changed? Because usually when people report history of the Hill, they talk about the massive change of Eastern High which is a gorgeous building. Have you been in there?
HALL: Oh yes, yes, it is a gorgeous building and it is a twin to, is it Woodrow Wilson? I think it's a twin to Woodrow Wilson. They're two very handsome buildings such as Eastern, but I know nothing, really, about Eastern because, when I came here, that was not considered part of Capitol Hill.
MARTIN: Oh I see.
HALL: When I came here, the Hill ended at one time, going way back, at Second Street, as I said before. But then when I came here and people said, you moved beyond Sixth Street, into the seven hundred block of A? You went beyond Sixth Street, on the Hill? And then I told you the story about going beyond Lincoln Park. "Oh, you've lost your gourd!" So, that was not considered part of -- it's now called Capitol Hill East, as you know, up by the river, but I knew nothing about it except that it was supposed to, at one time, have been a very fine school. As a matter of fact, in the pre-World War II days, the Washington, DC school system was one of the best in the nation. Bar none. And that's a provable fact. Dunbar for the black students, these others for the white students. They had PhDs running around in all these high schools teaching. There was good discipline, there was good study skills. Parents were supportive. Pre-World War II history of schools in this city sparkles, it really does. The schools were outstanding.
Back to the hospital over here for a second. I mentioned the houses that were there before the parking lot before the new houses. The third building was being built when I moved onto A Street, and I remember watching them move that taller building. The one at the corner of C and Seventh? You know, the tall building?
MARTIN: The free standing tall building?
HALL: The free standing tall building. Before that, the hospital consisted just of this curved part here, the original 1928 building and then the '53 building were joined together to form what is there now, and this '28 portion in this recent fight with the city about selling of that property. It was declared by the historic review board, Bose Bergman -- that's not his name -- Tersh... Boasberg is the head of that committee, don't ask me to say it again. Anyway, they declared the '28 building, although it's not a hundred years old to be historic because of the facade that's right across when you look at my windows and see the facade.
MARTIN: I know, but they still damaged that.
HALL: They did, by putting that crazy band on the thing.
MARTIN: Which serves no purpose. Actually, we saved, you know, we owned 707 Massachusetts and we bought it in '71. And...
MARTIN: 707 Mass.
HALL: You sold to the Hathaways!
MARTIN: I did. Yeah. Right.
HALL: Well I'll be damned.
MARTIN: Well, the marble in that fireplace that we put in and the overhang that looks like a marquee overhang?
MARTIN: It looks like it had stained glass. It was black wrought iron and then stained glass on it, we put that in our fireplace, because it was just chucked out on the street. And we saved that. There was no interest.
HALL: When was that?
MARTIN: '71. Early '72 if not '71.
HALL: I was down at 1367.
MARTIN: Yeah. And we, in that restoration, we bought the house from a podiatrist who practiced at the hospital until '71 and he had his bookkeeper who lived upstairs who kept guns, two guns by her bed. And, we wonder about the bookkeeper, but anyway, the podiatrist gave us his two podiatrist chairs. We told him what we were going to do with the house and while we were doing that, talking about purchasing the house through Bill Creager, if you remember, Bill Creager with Houses on the Hill.
MARTIN: Well it is he who found our house. Since we were interested in preservation, we went over across to the hospital and took as many of those fine pieces that we could. The workers didn't care. It seemed like no one cared. And then when they put in that crown that serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever and was an architectural travesty, we could not understand it.
HALL: Well, I can add a bit to that. I should be interviewing you about what you just said, fascinating. But they did that when they built the tall building with those weird wings, those wings are windows that protrude from the building. They did that to join the three period buildings together. They wanted to make them look like one unity -- unit. And so...
MARTIN: That's the cause for the ribbon.
HALL: Right. So they put that silly crown on there, that aluminum I guess it is. But I went through with Nancy Simpson and the committee that fought this tearing this down. I was down there at that hearing many many many times and we finally won and preserved this building over here, through Boasberg's good offices. But I watched them build that newer building, and that would have been in the early sixties. When they built that freestanding building. You know my notes are so random here, I'm rambling but maybe you can pull this together. Did you know Libby Sangster?
MARTIN: I sure did.
HALL: Well bless her old heart, I meet up with Barry Hayman every once in a while, her son-in-law, if you know that story. When I first came here, back to Pennsylvania Avenue, and I've skipped that part of that story, charging down through there. Libby Sangster's messy, scruffy, hard-to-get-through antique store was where the Hawk and Dove is now. Factual. Next door...
MARTIN: Now she has a sign up there, "established in 1960." So in 1960, her store was where...
HALL: ...Hawk and Dove is now. And it was a scruffy looking, they've dolled the front up as well as the inside. And the little sidebar, do you know the little sidebar?
MARTIN: Next to the Hawk and Dove?
HALL: Part of the Hawk and Dove now.
MARTIN: I don't really.
HALL: Well you go in the main door, and then there's a door that leads into just a very small sidebar. That was a cobbler's shop. That door was not through there, they were two little separate buildings.
MARTIN: I do remember the cobbler shop.
HALL: You remember the cobbler shop?
MARTIN: Yes, you would go down a couple of steps.
HALL: And they joined that all together and they put a fireplace back in there for the Hawk and Dove. And the Hawk and Dove now is a wonderful, well it's one of the established restaurants of the Hill. And at that time we, you couldn't eat on the Hill when I first came here. You took your life in your hand. You ate mainly in the Florida Avenue and please [apparently addressing Martin who is eating a snack] raisins are good for you too. Those are a nice mix together. Smitty makes those. We had company the other day and we had bowls of those out. You went for a decent meal, you went to Florida Avenue Market, from the Hill. There was the Cannon Steakhouse, which was outstanding, it was outstanding. You see, Florida Avenue still has green grocers, fishmongers, meat shops and that sort of thing, to a lesser degree than they did in those days, but it was a big city market such as Eastern Market is now. And they had built in over there Cannon Steakshop, Cannon Steakhouse. Wonderful, wonderful place. And there was an Italian, what was the name of that, still there, at the corner as you go into the Florida Avenue Market, from the Florida Avenue side on, what would that be, Third Street, Fourth Street?, Third Street. An Italian place that was absolutely wonderful. It was romantic, they had candles, they had a strolling fiddler, they had the whole works and it was a beautiful. That's where you went to eat. There was nothing to eat, we had no place to eat on the Hill. We're fortunate there are so many places.
MARTIN: Until when?
HALL: Well, the Hawk and Dove went in there, and do you know how it got the name, Hawk and Dove?
MARTIN: I imagine it was, I thought perhaps the Hawk and Dove was established just before the Vietnam War or during the Vietnam War.
HALL: You're absolutely right. There were the hawks and there were the doves, under Johnson. And they picked up a guy by the name of Long and Lang -- bought that building and started the Hawk and Dove -- I think, one of them still has some interest in it. Anyway, it was a spoof on the Hill, but the name stuck and now it's quite, quite an institution here on the Hill, but at that time it was, "oh, he's a hawk, oh he's a dove."
MARTIN: And we knew exactly who those people were.
HALL: [Laughs] OK, that gets that little one covered. The houses on the Folger lot we mentioned. When I first came here in 1960 to live in the city, having lived two years in College Park. Finally finishing up years later, all the work I did there, but anyway. They were tearing down the East Front of the Capitol. Do you know about that? Well, that's a fascinating national story, but it certainly is important to Capitol Hill. Old GW had the builders of the Capitol go out in Virginia and they got sandstone, there was a sandstone quarry out close to Aquia, I think it was. And they got sandstone and made the columns for the east front of the Capitol and by the fifties, late forties, fifties, sixties, the sandstone columns on the east front of the Capitol were rapidly deteriorating. Congress saw fit to spend our money mightily by redoing that, I can see it now. They said, "OK, while we're replacing these columns, let's make some more space." So they extended the east front of the Capitol out, thirty-some, I think it was 38 feet and gained much much more office space there, much more office space, and if you look at it today...
HALL: Thirty-some feet. I think it was 38 feet they brought it out.
MARTIN: Out east.
HALL: The east front. And if you look at it today, you can tell a difference in the color of that new protrusion and the new columns. They sent to Vermont and got real marble for those new columns. And when they took the old columns down, don't you know, they had these derricks just, what is now the east front, what is now torn up big time, putting in the underground. They just, the derricks just punk! And let them drop. And a lot of the capitals on the tops of those were broken and they just threw them into a batch there and then later, they said what to do. And they finally got some sort of rig or something and hauled them and dumped them into a ravine in Rock Creek Park. And this wonderful woman whose name was, oh isn't it awful to tell a story and not know her name, Stella something, I think it was. Anyway, this wonderful woman said for years she said, "This is a disgrace! This is part of our early history. These columns stood for many many years upholding the front of our Capitol, and they're just down here molding away." Do you know where those are now?
MARTIN: That's in the Arboretum isn't it?
HALL: Exactly. Those are the Corinthian columns they were able, they finally listened to her. We owe her a medal of honor.
MARTIN: Stacy, Stacy somebody. Is that what you said?
HALL: I don't, don't quote me. I just read, I thought her name was Stella something.
MARTIN: Oh Stella. OK.
[ed: according to the National Arboretum website, the woman was Ethel Garrett.]
HALL: I don't know, I don't know. We'd have to look her up. But anyway, we owe her a debt of gratitude because it's a beautiful sight, when you come up on that site over there, [doorbell rings]. Smitty'll get it. But that is the true story. And if you go up into there and look at those you can see that the sandstone was wearing away. I think they did a little bit of repairing and they saved one of the Corinthian capitals, the top of the column. And it's now put on a big display stone this side of the grove of columns, have you seen that? If you go in front of it...
MARTIN: There's a little hill.
HALL: Right, before you go down to the columns themselves. They found one of the capitals you know the Corinthian capitals, without a column, and so they enshrined it on a pedestal this side of the columns and then you walk down, and then the pool and so on. But that's a true story of that, and that was being done when I first came here. And if you look carefully at the East Front, you will see the new marble. They brought, instead of out like this [gesticulating], as it was, they brought it out like this [gesticulating] and then put the new columns on the front and sides, but they gleaned a lot of new space, and if you go in there, on the interior, you can tell that you're walking from an older period of the Capitol to a newer period. But they did it quite tastefully. You don't notice too much difference. And they had a time in the sub-sub basement. You know, that's a wondrous building, if you've ever been down in the sub-sub basement. They didn't know what to do, whether to burrow it under there and underpin the new front or not, but I think they finally decided and poured concrete or put stone or something, they did not burrow it under there lest they thought later the new front would be in peril. They wanted it to be stable and sturdy so it was left without a basement, as I understand the story. But that was, that to me is a wondrous part of the Capitol Hill story, that those columns were finally rescued and should never have been thrown out in the first place. I don't object, there was no harm in replacing them but then they should have been given some place of honor because George [Washington] himself said, "Go make columns out of that quarry down there." And how dare they defy George! [Laughs]
HALL: Let's see, we've talked about East Capitol Street. Somehow I've dwelt on the streets.
MARTIN: Talk about Eastern, Eastern Market. Were the issues the same then that they are today?
HALL: Eastern Market is exactly the same and these idiots, tell them I said so, who will not decide what to do, why there's such a 30 year fight as to what to do to preserve. Do you know at one time there were eight markets in this city. Old Central Market was where the east end of the Federal Triangle is now, if you can imagine the Federal Triangle, the east end. And it extended from Pennsylvania Avenue back into what is now Constitution, or B Street, for quite a way. And it was a riot. The fish were spoiling, the meat was spoiling and yet you went and got it and boiled the thing for a whole day and you finally [laughs] that'll do. [laughs] Anyway, there was it, and there was a K Street Market, there was, the O Street Market is still there. Eastern Market is one of two out of eight left. And it was the supermarket of that day. That's where you went like down to the Safeway now. Smitty, come join us! [SMITTY: No, you go ahead.] Oh, he doesn't like the old professor talk.
MARTIN: Well, you're going to read the transcript then!
HALL: Honey, nobody will ever be able to transcribe all of this nonsense. Anyway, I did not dwell on the portion of East Capitol Street that -- at the corner of Sixth where there is now a nursery, that was once a Catholic girls school called St. Cecilia's.
MARTIN: Oh yes. St. Cecilia's. And we tried to save that.
HALL: And we tried to save that. We tried to save, were you here? Say, you've been here as long as I have, I gather.
MARTIN: '71. We came in '71. And then we went back to Alaska for a couple of years.
HALL: I see.
MARTIN: Yes, somebody will be interviewing me in a couple years.
HALL: I would love to do it. Now, St. Cecilia's...
MARTIN: [overlapping] OK, that's it. But St. Cecilia's, that was not that long ago and the school tried desperately to save it but they just didn't have enough students.
HALL: And they combined it, as I remember, with a boys school somewhere and tried to make a go of that. I'm not just sure what happened there. Were you here when they tore the houses down at the corner of Fifth and East Capitol?
MARTIN: Remember that was on Channel Seven that night?
HALL: I was one of the ones that sat down in front of the bulldozer!
MARTIN: So was I! Then we have a picture of you with that huge guy driving the bulldozer with the hard hat on.
HALL: I don't remember the huge guy, but I remember the thing coming.
MARTIN: Did you save the photo from the newspaper?
HALL: I don't remember.
MARTIN: It was on television, I remember that. And that would be 1972.
HALL: Well, I was on A Street at that time, and I thought, well, what a shame, what a shame, what a shame. But they finally won and tore it all down and now there are houses again. Just as up here on Seventh Street, there were houses, torn down, parking lot, now houses again.
MARTIN: And gorgeous houses.
HALL: Deja vu.
MARTIN: That's a wonderful block to live on. With Jimmy T's across the street and Congressional Market and Eastern Market there.
HALL: And these houses up here are no slouches. You know, they're going for seven and eight and nine [hundred thousand dollars]. They're quite wonderful houses inside. But anyway, that covers that.
MARTIN: Tell me more about Mary's Blue Room. Do you remember, did you go in Mary's Blue Room before?
HALL: I remember Mary's Blue Room, but I was never in there very much.
MARTIN: Was it a restaurant, or?
HALL: It was a restaurant, right, of sorts. And Jimmy T's was a restaurant. Now, Cindy's father, who is now in Florida, ran that thing. It's exactly as it was then, it's exactly. And how the hell the department doesn't get those people. Do they ever inspect that place? [whispering] I don't know. I'm very fond of Cindy.
MARTIN: I love going there.
HALL: And she has wonderful little kids. I'm very fond of her children and her but.
MARTIN: Oh and she knows too.
HALL: She would be a good person to interview too.
MARTIN: That's exactly right.
HALL: Because she knows that whole thing. And she grew up here, she's now, I guess Cindy's forty-something.
HALL: But she grew up right here, I think she was born here, unlike most of us who are not native.
MARTIN: What's her last name, or what was her maiden, what was Jimmy T's last name?
HALL: You shouldn't have asked me, I can't tell you. He was just always Jimmy T. Now there was before them, I think that was a, was that a little drug store, an apothecary? I think that was an apothecary shop before Jimmy T got it. Because if you look up, it was quite, it must have been quite a wonderful building. The tin ceiling in that main room is still very outstanding. It's covered and then it comes down the wall a bit, about a foot or two, down the wall. It's a shame that the place, if you look at the floor, there are rat holes in the floor and all that, it's just. I have teased her a number of times, would you sell me this house. That's an enormous building, and it would make a wonderful house. But do you know, at the time the Hill was developing, late, mid to late 1800s or early 1900s, this house is 1910, it was zoned so that there were little mom and pop markets on corners. Because you had no way of going, they would go and get the freshly slaughtered chickens and put them on a block of ice in the markets and you would scurry by there and get your chicken and scurry home, fix it real quickly because people did not have refrigeration.
And as a matter of fact the little house right across the street that's now a cute little small home [ed: southeast corner of 8th Street and Massachusetts Avenue NE] was built as a market. It was an apartment, the plan was apartments above, the owner would live above, and it was called the Fox Economy Market.
MARTIN: Fox Economy?
HALL: Fox Economy Market was the name of that little...
MARTIN: And that was before it was the Chinese place.
HALL: Chinese takeout. And then Helen somebody bought it and put in a Chinese restaurant and then these latest people got it. These awful, awful people who last had it. And then they finally went back to Hong Kong. Oh, she was nasty! The man was pretty decent, but the woman was, she was atrocious.
MARTIN: And how long did they have it? Is that the family that put their four sons through medical school? Or that's a myth anyway.
HALL: I think that was Helen -- what was her name? See there were two different Chinese places in there. Helen Wu and then this other one, they didn't use their family name but they reared a son and daughter in that building. But you would go in, the once or twice that I went in there, she would be on the counter waiting. Is it your rolls? Spring rolls. Are they shrimp or beef? ìFjkjl bkjkjlj; [gibberish] She was, oh, she was vile!
MARTIN: She punished you.
HALL: I, for asking any question, because you see, she was resistant to English. They would...
END OF TAPE 1/SIDE 2
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This interview transcript is the property of the Ruth Ann Overbeck