Archive for Adams Morgan

Lost Washington: the Knickerbocker Theater

Posted in Adams Morgan, Lost Washington, Theaters with tags , , , on July 7, 2009 by Kent

Knickerbocker Theater Oct. 1917The Knickerbocker Theater — once located at the southwest corner of Columbia Road and 18th Street, NW —  was designed by the young Washington architect, Reginald W. Geare, to seat 1,700 movie goers at a time. When it opened in October, 1917, it was the newest theater in Harry Crandall’s string of Washington theaters. This was by far Crandall’s largest theater at the time and was a good example of early-twentieth-century architecture inspired by neoclassicism.Knickerbocker Theater foyer

Knickerbocker Theater Interior Oct. 1917Unfortunately, the Knickerbocker Theater will always be linked in people’s minds to tragedy. On Friday, January 21, 1922, a heavy snowfall began in Washington and continued for thirty hours. It left the city paralyzed under 28 inches of snow in the worst storm the city had seen since 1889.

Despite these conditions, the theater opened as usual the following Saturday evening. As the movie was ending and the organist was playing at 9:10 p.m., a groaning and cracking sound began from above. Two minutes later, there was a mad rush to the exits as the roof crashed in under the weight of the snow.

Knickerbocker disaster 198 people had died and 136 were trapped under the rubble. The crowd of about 3,000 bystanders made it difficult for rescuers to assist the victims until a company of marines arrived to restore order at 11 p.m.

The subsequent investigation determined that the contractor had inserted the steel beams supprting the roof only 2 inches into the walls rather than the 8 inches Geare had specified, and Geare and Crandall were found innocent of any wrong doing.

Crandall rebuilt the Knickerbocker in 1923 and reopened it as the Ambassador. As the Ambassador, the building survived until it was razed in 1969.

Geare and Crandall didn’t fare so well. His career ruined by the disaster, Geare committed suicide in 1927. Similarly, Crandall ended up bankrupt and took his own life in 1937.

More photos of the disaster after the jump: Continue reading


Then and Now: the Former Italian Embassy

Posted in Adams Morgan, Real Estate, Then and Now, Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 10, 2009 by Kent

italian embassyThen: Photographed shortly after completion in 1925, the Italian embassy would stay at this location for the next 75 years.

Former Italian EmbassyNow: The former Italian embassy is now vacant and for sale. You can view listing information here>>

History: The story of the Italian embassy on 16th street starts in January of 1924, when it was announced that plans for the new embassy had been completed and sent to Rome for approval. It was believed this would happen since the project had already been ratified both by the Italian government and the parliament and the Italian Ambassador Don Gelasic Caetani had been given a free hand in the matter.Proposed Italian EmbassyBefore moving to the 16th Street and Fuller location, the Italian legation had moved no fewer than 13 times between 1881 and  1925. Finding a long term location was a high priority for Ambassador Caetani. Continue reading

Crime Camera Installed at Kalorama and Champlain

Posted in Adams Morgan, Crime with tags , , on June 10, 2009 by Kent

MPDcameraAccording to Councilmember Jim Graham’s Web site, there is now a MPD crime camera at the dead end (soon to be opened up) at Kalorama and Champlain. While Graham acknowledges crime cameras are no substitute for an officer’s physical presence, he does believe it will help with the crime in that area.

I know that Ward 1 has had a tough time of it lately, relative to crime, and with only so many resources to go around, I think anything is a step in the right direction. I also strongly believe that MPD can not do it alone, and for a neighborhood to move in a positive direction is takes the active participation and cooperation of the citizens living in the neighborhood.

We’ll see if crime cameras actually do make a significant difference in crime deterance, but we are certainly no worse off for having them. Even if they don’t stop the initial crime from occuring, if they help catch and convict someone, it does prevent future criminal activity.