To my fellow Washingtonians, have you ever walked past the Subway at Connecticut & Q and wondered about the building's history? Yeah, I didn't think so. Leave it to me, the gay nerd, to actually wonder such a thing. I did a little bit of research and found some interesting details about 1605 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Read along and learn about events that occurred in the building, including the death of a Senator's wife, marriage of a Congressman, and founding of a WW2 women's organization.
On August 16, 1894 the Washington Post mentions a man by the name of L. J. Bryant, an employee of The Fidelity Investment Company, receiving building permits for a three-story, brick dwelling at 1605 Connecticut Avenue. The current facade shows four-stories, but as you'll see in the older picture, the street level has changed and the entrance is no longer on the second floor. The estimated cost for construction was $8,000. Compare that to the 2009 property value, $2,281,870. Inflation is a bitch.
By 1902, Robert F. Mason lived at 1605 Connecticut. He was a physician and member of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia. I'm not sure how long Robert had lived there before 1902, but by the end of that year, a prominent family called 1605 home.
Senator George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts purchased the building in 1902. George had served in the House of Representatives for eight years (1869-1877) prior to his election to the Senate. George was a Republican who was often at odds with his own party, especially in regards to the Philippine-American War and torture. Read an excerpt from one of his speeches on the Senate floor. Notice anything similar to our current situation?
"You have sacrificed nearly ten thousand American lives—the flower of our youth. You have devastated provinces. You have slain uncounted thousands of the people you desire to benefit. You have established reconcentration camps. Your generals are coming home from their harvest bringing sheaves with them, in the shape of other thousands of sick and wounded and insane to drag out miserable lives, wrecked in body and mind. You make the American flag in the eyes of a numerous people the emblem of sacrilege in Christian churches, and of the burning of human dwellings, and of the horror of the water torture. Your practical statesmanship which disdains to take George Washington and Abraham Lincoln or the soldiers of the Revolution or of the Civil War as models, has looked in some cases to Spain for your example. I believe—nay, I know—that in general our officers and soldiers are humane. But in some cases they have carried on your warfare with a mixture of American ingenuity and Castilian cruelty.
Your practical statesmanship has succeeded in converting a people who three years ago were ready to kiss the hem of the garment of the American and to welcome him as a liberator, who thronged after your men when they landed on those islands with benediction and gratitude, into sullen and irreconcilable enemies, possessed of a hatred which centuries can not eradicate."
I won't list all of George's noteworthy relatives (you can read about them on the Wikipedia article), but his grandfather, Roger Sherman, signed the Articles of Confederation, Declaration of Independence, and Constitution. George's wife, Ruth, died not long after they moved into their 1605 residence. A Washington Post article on December 25. 1903 says Ruth "died very suddenly of heart disease" (heart attack) at 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The article mentions that she died in her house. So if you see a floating, six-inch meatball marinara the next time you eat at Subway, now you know it's the ghost of Ruth Hoar trying to scare you. George died the following year and ownership of 1605 transferred to his son, Rockwood.
Rockwood was elected to the House of Representatives in 1904, but died just two years later. His widow, Christine Rice Hoar, continued to live at 1605. A New York Times article on November 25, 1915 reported the marriage of Christine to Rep. Frederick H. Gillet. The two were married at 1605 Connecticut with only a few family members present. Roland Cotton Smith, pastor of St. John's Episcopal Church, presided over the ceremony.
I'm not sure who lived in the building during the next 25 years, but by 1940 the newly-incorporated American Women's Voluntary Services was using 1605 as its national headquarters. Founded by Alice T. McLean, the organization was modeled after the Women's Voluntary Service in the UK. On January 30, 1941, a Washington Post article mentions that more than 10,000 women in "sixteen states and Alaska" were working in the AWVS. That number increased to 18,000 by the time Pearl Harbor was attacked.
Skip ahead a few years and we come to Mills Astin. He was a WW2 veteran and Chief Clerk for the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. The 1952 Congressional Directory lists his residence as 1605 Connecticut Avenue.
By the 1970s, the building was being used for commercial purposes. Current tenants include Subway (1st floor), The Eloft (2nd floor), Campaign for Innocent Victims of Conflict (3rd floor), and Free Range Studios (4th floor). It's now a contributing property to the Dupont Circle Historic District.
So, now you know a few interesting facts you can tell the cashier at Subway. I'm sure he or she will be so "interested," but that's okay. At least you can tell them about Ruth and hope it freaks them out.
Thanks for reading.
The More You Know