National Geographic : 1953 Apr
A Slum Alley in 1950, Pomander Wal k Presents a Tidy Look Today Authorities condemned ten houses in this small court as unfit for habitation. Restoration experts modernized interiors and r epaired brickwork. Here Georgetown's itinerant knife sharpener m a kes his rounds. House, completed in 1858, shares its space with the Georgetown Post Office. Regardless of what coast or harbor a vessel uses , consianments for Washington from an- other country must clear customs here. The office also handles anything dutiable outbound from the District, and its jurisdiction extends more than three mile down the Potomac to ational Airport, where international air freight and bagaage are checked . M issing: a City Hall I stopped at the Custom House one day to chat with an official. It was good to hear that silks and satins for milady are still promi- nent among imports as in early times. Almost anyone can direct a stranger to the Post Office on the fir t floor. Fewer are aware that customs is ju t up tair . It takes a real old-timer to tell you the whereabouts of the missing City Hall. It, too, was in this building. The customs man recalled hearing about it. " vVhen I came here a a young man , there was a battered metal sign drifting around. It read 'Office of the Mayor.' You never knew where it would turn up. That went on for several years, and then it disappeared." The sign had survived a long time. The last mayor, councilmen , and magistrates moved out in 1871, the year Congress integrated the towns government with that of Washington. Georgetonians had reason to mourn their lo t autonomy. Town ordinances over the years indicate that the officials were unusually prac- tical and conscientious men. Indeed, the act founding the town pro- vided that those failing to improve their prop- erty should lose it. Although legal penalties have lapsed, residents today comply with the law 's spirit, some with their own paintbru hes and ladders. Councilmen were stern with themselves, too.