National Geographic : 1953 Apr
520 The N a tional Geographic Magazine Undue absence from a session or tardiness meant a fine for the offender. That law had teeth in it. Checking on sessions in 1791 , I found three of the most important men in town, John Threlkeld, William Deakins , Jr., and Charles Magruder , listed among those penalized for being late. The fine assessed was 78 cents, no trifling amount then or for some years to come. The town 's fir st police force, known as the watch , did not come into existence until the early 1800's , and the men 's pay was $2.89 a week ! Celebrities from Washington to Spaatz Georgetown today is credited with having more li stings in Who's Who than any other place of comparable size. Illustrious ghosts might add that the town has been a ss ociating with famou s names for generations and pro- ducing its own share of them. George Washington , a frequent gue st , passed this way to his first inauguration. * Earlier, the town watched Braddock 's redcoats depart for disaster at Fort Duquesne during the French and Indian War, then Lafay ette lead- ing troops through for the rendezvous with victory at Yorktown in 1781. Union Tavern , on Bridge Street , long was a favorite with Government officials and celebrated visitors . Con gressmen who dwelt there rode to and from Capitol Hill in a special stagecoach drawn by cream-colored horses. The hostelry sheltered such men as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson , Aaron Burr, Henry Clay, Martin Van Buren, John Marshall , Louis Philippe, Robert Fulton , Talley rand , Jerome Bonaparte, and Washington Irving. Francis Scott Key stopped there often after taking a house a few blocks away, near the site of the modern bridge that bears his name. One of the la st public functions Washin gton attended was held in the tavern. Decades later Louisa M. Alcott, author of man y novels , nursed Civil War wounded in its ballroom. Sight-seers should have no trouble locating the northeast corner of Bridge and Washing- ton (M and 30th) Streets, where the inn stood until 1935. A gasoline station has inherited the historic site . Prominent Georgetonians of the Nation's fledgling years included Dr. William Thornton , architect of the U. S. Capitol ;t Henry Foxall , whose foundry supplied many of the guns for the War of 1812 ; Stephen Bloomer Balch and John Carroll , noted clergymen and educators ; William W. Corcoran, philanthro- pist who gave the Capital its Corcoran Gallery of Art; and George Riggs , Corcoran 's partner in the banking company which helped re store Europe 's shaken faith in the credit of the United States at a critical period in 1848. This firm was the precursor of Riggs National Bank, now the foremost in Washington. Many notable names have since been added: U. S. Grant, Robert Todd Lincoln , Alexander Melville Bell (page 53 5), Gen. Adolphus Greely, Maj. Walter Reed , Julia Marlowe, E. H. Sothern, Mrs. E . D. E. N. Southworth, James Forrestal, Sir Willmott Lewis , and J. R. Hildebrand, beloved Assistant Editor of the NATIONAL G E OGRAPHIC MAGAZINE. Among well-known residents at the present time are Supreme Court Justice Felix Frank- furter; Senate Majority Leader Robert A. Taft ; Massachusetts' John F. Kennedy, youngest member of the Senate, and almost a score of Congressmen ; Allen W. Dulles, Di- rector of the Central Intelligence Agency; Dean Acheson , former Secretary of State ; Adm. Alan Kirk, Ambassador to Moscow , 1949-1952 ; Gen. Carl Spaatz, former Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, and other officers of the armed forces and diplo- matic service , both active and retired. Loss of Trade Brought Dark Days Georgetown has been called a city of brick. The bricks and exceptionally fine masonry work were major factors in preserving the Federal character of the town during the lean years that befell it. Many factors contrib- uted to the decline , but the full impact was not felt until late in the last century. A fall in the area 's water table and the silting up of the Potomac , due in part to bridge building for Washington, probably marked the beginning. As early as 1807 Georgetown reminded Congress of the gravity of the problem. Another memorial in 1836 complained that $ 180 ,000 of town funds had been spent between 1802 and 1830 for naviga- tional improvements below the Capital and on the town harbor. Adequate aid did not materialize. Larger vessels sought other ports. Trade kept dropp ing off , however slowly. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal , in which the town invested heavily to recoup its big * See " T ravels of G eorge Washington," by William Jose ph Showalter , NA TIONAL G EOG RAP HIC MA GAZINE, Janua r y, 1932. t See "U. S . Capitol, Citadel of Democracy," by Lonnell e Aikman , N ATIONAL GEOG RAPHIC MAGAZIN E, August , 1952 . © National Geographic Society Kodachrome by Katlonal Geographic P hotographer B. Anthony Stewart Tiny Homes and Inviting Doorways + Lend Charm to Georgetown Many small houses once used as slave or servant quarters we re moderniz ed during the community's recent renaissance. Their narrow fac;ades in many cases mask fairl y spacious li ving quarter s . Less than 11 fee t wide, this recessed three-story home is one of the smalles t. It w as f ashioned from the domestics' wing of a house on N Street near 31st.