Thursday, June 28, 2012

Washington's own terrifying "Jack the Slasher" finally caught in 1894

The winter months from 1893 to 1894 were full of terror for all Washington residents. 

 Why, you ask?   

Because the Washington area had our own version of the London’s famous “Jack the Slasher.”  The tormentor was nicknamed Jack, and the mere mention of his name terrified children and adults alike.  And we all would have been too: there was an average of 15 slashings a month!

“Every householder before retiring [to bed] locked or bolted every door in the house and put a chair under the doorknob as well…no burglar as daring as this one could remain unapprehended for long” wrote the Sunday Evening Star.  His victims included residents from Fort Myer Virginia to Washington, DC and to Takoma Park, Maryland.

It wasn’t until March 19, 1894 that Police thought they caught “Jack the Slasher” inside a Tenleytown house belonging to Judge Governor Hunt near the intersection of Rockville and River Roads, NW. 

“George Taylor, alias, Jones, arrested yesterday at Tenleytown,” wrote the Evening Star on the following day, “evidence of various kinds points to him as being that much-hunted-for person.  In his pockets were found the tools that the slasher must have used in his singular work of destruction – razors and sharp knives – and all were stuffed with small pieces of cloth and dress goods, mementoes of his little trips…If he is “Jack the Slasher,” though, he will probably never be sent to prison.  An insane asylum will be his future home, for Taylor is undoubtedly a crazy man – a person not of a violent manner, but one whose brain does not control his actions in conjunction with his conscience.”

Richard Sylvester’s 1894 history of the police department included a poem that illustrates the state of panic that all Washingtonians were in that winter, and that Jack the Slasher did all sorts of additional unsavory things to his victims:

The bedstead’s on the mantel piece,
The clock is on the floor,
The cooking-stove is on the roof,
The bolt’s slid in the door.

The cat’s in the lasses jug,
The dogs’s tail in a loop,
The milk’s in sister’s slipper,
The household’s in the soup.

“Police! Police!” the father cried,
“Come save the bathroom splasher;
Too late, too late, it’s cut in shreds,
By doughty Jack the Slasher.

He fitted on my undershirt,
He smoked my cigarettes,
He used my well-worn toothbrush,
He gave notes for my debts. 

He rang the doorbell loud and well,
He turned on all the gas,
He sat down on the doorstep,
He saw the Police pass.     

“Police! Police!” the father cried,
“Come catch the naughty dasher;
I cannot stand the impudence,
Of horrid Jack the Slasher.

Jack went into the neighbor house,
He heard an awful snore,
He didn’t stop at anything,
He even slammed the door.

The tired sleeper lay out-stretched,
His features drawn and pale,
The coat nearby was closely trimmed,
With knife-slits down the tail.

The sleeper, in his peaceful dream,
Heard no distressful call,
And cared less how prolonged & sad,
Was his neighbors’s mighty bawl.

Smiles were Jack’s while others wept,
As he hastily withdrew.
So soundly the M.P. slept,
Not even said “Adieu.”

Taylor was caught by a milkman Charles Wise, who had glimpsed him through Judge Hunt’s venetian blinds. “He did not attempt to get away, but remained there until the arrival of the officers.  He did not seem to realize that he was being arrested when officers Easley and Law took hold of him…a big sigh of relief went up all over town, and everybody breathed more easily” the Evening Star reported. 

His fifteen slashings per month had come to an end.  He was sentenced to 30 years in the Federal Penitentiary in Albany, NY. 

Oh, by the way, he didn’t slash people.  He spent months breaking into homes to slash their drapes, evening dresses, sofas, upholstered chairs, and ottomans.                  

Taylor obviously didn’t like the fabric of society!    

Copyright Paul K. Williams

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ice Cream Cones and their connection to 1514 R Street

One never knows what interesting history old houses have ingrained in their past until one begins to research the past occupants, owners, and evolution of the building.  A single house in the 1500 block of R Street may not stand out among its many neighbors architecturally, but our recent research revealed that it was built by an individual that changed the way ice cream was manufactured in 1856, making it instantly available and affordable to the masses.         

Jacob Fussell applied for a Permit to Build on August 24, 1886 for the construction of a single family house for himself at 1514 R Street.  He listed architect Albertus R. Duryee on the application as responsible for its design, and builder John H. Lewis for its construction, estimated to cost $5,000.  The estimated cost was slightly higher than the typical townhouse being built in Washington at the time, which usually ranges from $2,500 to $4,000.  
Architect Albertus R. Duryee first appeared as an architect-apprentice in the 1880 census, when he and his large family resided at 1606 Q Street, N.W.  Duryee had been born about 1862 in Connecticut, and his City Directory entry from 1881 indicated he was a draftsman, at the young age of just 19.  He was listed as an architect the following year.  Little is known of his other Washington commissions.
From 1885-1886, Duryee was not listed in the DC Directory, and apparently ventured to Philadelphia, as several of his designs appeared in the Builder and Wood-worker, published in 1884.  Jacob Fussell hired Duryee to design 1514 R Street in 1886 as one of his two personal residences, the other being in New York City.  He was 67 years old at the time, when most individuals of that era were living with their children.  
Fussell was the founder and owner of the Fussell Ice Cream Company, said to be the first large scale, wholesale ice cream business in the country.  By 1886, he had businesses in Baltimore, New York, and Washington.  He had been born on February 24, 1819 in Hartford County, Maryland.  His first career followed an apprenticeship and journeyman in the tinsmith business.  Fussell left that occupation in 1851 to open four milk routes in the emerging city of Baltimore, before opening the first manufacturing plant for ice cream in the country on June 15th of that year, utilizing manually operated churns. 

He advertised his ice cream business liberally, and the business grew such that he left the milk delivery business to a partner to manage in 1856, when he began an ice cream business in Washington at 1427 New York Avenue, NW.  In 1863, Fussell purchased a house in New York City, establishing an ice cream store on Fourth Avenue.         

Fussell shipped his ice cream in trains packed with ice from Baltimore to Washington, Boston and New York, earning the title of the “father of the wholesale ice cream industry.” From then on, ice cream popularity skyrocketed, and Fussell’s contribution is often cited in the ‘history of ice cream.’  Other inventions were made to make ice cream better and faster, such as William Clewell's mechanical ice cream scoop in 1878. 

Fussell sold his ice cream at less than half the price charged by others (twenty-five cents a quart against sixty-five cents a quart charged by others in the city).  By 1856 he had opened manufacturing operations and parlors in both Washington and Boston.  At the corner of Hillen and Exeter Streets in Baltimore, the Maryland Historical Society has erected a plaque in Jacob Fussell’s honor, proclaiming Baltimore as the “Birthplace of the ice cream industry.”

During the second half of the 19th century, ice cream became the delight of masses of Americans, thanks to the development of the wholesale industry. Before the advent of the ice cream factory, the frozen treat was made primarily by confectioners and sold in their stores, in retail shops, restaurants, saloons and parlors.  By increasing output and by sharply lowering prices, they put ice cream within the economic reach of nearly everyone.

National ice cream production in 1859 was estimated at only 4,000 gallons. Ten years later output had jumped to 24,000 gallons, and by 1899 it topped five million.  In 1874, James Horton became full owner of Fussell’s original firm, although Fussell continued many of his other ice cream businesses.  The operation grew rapidly and by 1895, it employed 250 men and ran 250 wagons.  The business continued until it became part of the Pioneer Ice Cream Division of Borden Company in 1928.

Fussell’s tenure at 1514 R Street was short, however, as he sold the house to Rear Admiral John Mitchell Hawley and his wife Ella by 1893, according to the tax assessment records.  Fussell died in 1912, and a copy of his Last Will and Testament was filed in Washington, in which most of his belongings were left to his wife Caroline C. Fussell, sons Mordecai, Francis, and William, and daughter Carrie E. Craft.  It revealed that he maintained a house in Washington that contained “bookcase and books, trunks, traveling bags, canes, umbrellas and personal effects,” which were left to his son William.  He also left him books at the Fussell house in Manhattan, located at 38 East 28th Street, between Madison and Park Avenues.  It was located adjacent to the MIT Technology Club at 36 E 28th, established in 1903.               

The new owners of 1514 R Street in 1893 was Rear Admiral John M. Hawley and his wife Ella.  Hawley was born on July 28, 1846 in Northampton, Massachusetts, a descendant of one of the oldest and most prominent families of the town. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1868.
From 1887 to 1890, Hawley was executive officer of the Nipsic (above), one of the United States fleet sent to Apia, Samoan Islands, during the uprisings in 1889. The American, British and German fleets in the bay were overwhelmed by a fearful hurricane which swept the islands in March, 1889, and the Nipsic was one of only two vessels that escaped total destruction, but both were driven ashore and seriously damaged. During the next two months, Nipsic was repaired enough to allow her to depart for Honolulu, Hawaii, where she arrived in early August 1889.  He remained at 1514 R until his death in 1925. 

Who invented the ice cream cone? The answer is yet another ice cream mystery. Most sources credit Ernest Hamwi, who sold waffle-shaped cakes at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. He rolled his cakes into cones when a nearby ice cream stand ran out of dishes.

Copyright Paul K. Williams 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Groovy Pool at the International Inn, baby.

The structures located at 10 Thomas Circle have had a long and varied past, from a regal dwelling believed to have first been built in 1843, to the large and streamlined International Inn, built in 1962 with an innovative pool enclosure, designed by controversial modernist architect Morris Lapidus.  Interestingly, while the mansion that occupied the site from 1843 to 1947 was elaborate, it was not unique for the era or a rare example if its style when demolished in 1947. 

             However, the International Inn that replaced the dwelling, while not pleasing to every eye, has its own, more contemporary history that may be far more innovative and unique to the architectural historian.  It often takes decades to develop an appreciation of architectural styles, and critiques of today’s designs often need to be reminded that the Victorians thought little of Greek Revival architecture, and routinely adapted and upgraded it to fit their more fanciful taste.  All styles are subjected to this cycle, as periods of art noveau, art deco, streamline, and even 1950s modern all went through periods where they are lucky to exist all today.

            In any event, the first house that is known to exist at 10 Thomas Circle was a house built for Charles L. Coltman (1800-1862), an early brick maker and builder in Washington -seen above as a red brick house to the right of the church.  It was believed to have been built in 1843.  However, the house was long known as the Wylie house when a later owner named Judge Andrew Wylie occupied the house during a time when he presided over a sensational trial surrounding the Lincoln assassination conspirators.  It sat prominently on the northeast section of the circle until a fire on April 20, 1947 destroyed a significant portion of the structure, and it was torn down a short time later. 

            In 1962, the International Inn chain of hotels hired architect Morris Lapidus to design a modern hotel at the site.  It marked the beginning of a transition of Thomas circle from a residential circle to commercial uses.  It appeared in the July 26, 1963 edition of LIFE magazine, seen at left.  Lapidus was a highly successful designer of a new form of Hotel structures, albeit one that was panned by architectural critiques for more than 40 years of his career.  Born in Russia in 1902, Lapidus began his design career by revolutionizing retail architecture: from the previous tendency of large display windows and small signs to his concept of letting the stores name become one with the building.  His examples include the Floresheim shoe storefronts, where the ‘F’ extends from the second floor to the sidewalk, and shoppers literally wander around the remaining letters to browse their way right into the entrance of the store. 

            Morris Lapidus big break came in 1954, when he was provided Carte Blanc to design a hotel in north Miami Beach coined the Fontainebleu.  He chose to design it for the user, and not the critic, which

Monday, June 04, 2012

History Mystery Solved: The Heaton House in Spring Valley

The Heaton House at 4861 Indian Lane in Spring Valley
When I acquired the drawing at left of a fine house in DC from an online auction, I knew that it was designed by noted local architect Arthur B. Heaton.  What I didn't know was where it was, or even if it had been built.  After a little investigating, I discovered that Heaton had designed the house for himself.

The drawing had appeared in the June 5, 1929 edition of The American Architect, so I knew approximately when it might have been built.  So I looked up Heaton's address a few years later, and compared it to the house located there today at 4861 Indian Lane in the Spring Valley neighborhood, and after peeking through the trees via Google, viola!  It was the same house.  The shutters are gone, which has changed its appearance considerably.   

The current view is at right (from the other angle).  Heaton received his permit to build on July 31, 1928.  The house cost $20,375 to construct.  The floor plans are below. 

 Architect Arthur B. Heaton


Arthur B. Heaton designed over a thousand commissions that included lavish apartment buildings, commercial buildings, theaters, and lavish private mansions and homes in the metropolitan Washington area throughout his career, which lasted from 1897 to 1947.

 He was born on November 12, 1875 in Washington, DC, the son of Frank M. and Mabel (Berthrong) Heaton.  Following his 1892 graduation from Central High School, he was employed as a draftsman for the local architectural firms of Frederick B. Pyle, Paul J. Peltz and Marsh and Peter, and continued his own education in Europe, touring the great cathedrals and attending the Sorbonne for a year.   He partnered with architect George A. Dessez for the seven houses located between 1712 and 1720 22nd Street, and 2206-2208 Decatur Street, N.W.    Heaton then opened his own office in 1898.  

Immediately successful, Heaton designed four important apartment houses in the first two years of his own practice, an impressive feat for any aspiring architect.  They included the Highlands (1902), the Montgomery (1901), the Marlborough (1901), and the Augusta (1900).  In all, Heaton would go on to design twenty-eight apartment houses during the period from 1900 to 1940, including the Altamont in 1917, located at 1901 Wyoming Avenue, perhaps his best example.  Heaton also served as the first supervising architect on the construction of the Washington Cathedral from 1908 to 1928. 

Embassy Building, Conn & N Street (LOC)
  Heaton also designed a number of homes for private individuals of means, including William S. Corby, David Lawrence, Rudolph Kauffmann, George Judd, and Gilbert Grosvenor’s country house in Rockville, Maryland.  He provided the plans for the stone clad house at 1500 Farragut Street in 1915 for coal business owner William E. Barker.   Heaton designed the house at 2122 Bancroft Place, N.W., for lawyer Frederick Eichelberger in 1911, and the house at 1848 Biltmore Street, N.W., for owner R. V. Belt.  Seen at right, it was featured in the February 22, 1911 issue of American Architect.  He also provded the plans for the Embassy building located on Connecticut Avenue and N Streets, which was built in 1902 (right).       

Heaton provided plans for more than 500 more modest homes in the Burleith neighborhood for the Shannon and Luchs development company between 1917 and 1932.   He is also noted for an unusual section of homes along a cul-de-sac at Rittenhouse Street and Broad Branch Road in Chevy Chase DC, designed and built in 1931.  An early preservationist, Heaton incorporated salvaged architectural elements from a H.H. Richardson designed mansion, built in 1884 for the Henry Adams at 16th and H Streets and razed in 1926, into two individual houses he designed that same year at 3014 Woodland Drive and 2618 31st Street, NW.         

Heaton’s commercial designs include the National Geographic Society in 1911, John Dickson Home for Aged Men at 14th and Gallatin Streets in 1912, Equitable Building Association, Washington Loan and Trust Company at 17th and G Streets in 1924, the Capitol Garage, and what is considered the first planned neighborhood shopping center in the country, the 1930 design for the Park and Shop complex in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington. 

Heaton married Mabel Williams in 1902, and together, they had two children; Doris (b. 1906), and James (b. 1911).  The family first resided at 3320 Highland Avenue, NW, but moved into his own designed house at 4861 Indian Lane, NW, in 1928.  Heaton maintained an office at 1211 Connecticut Avenue for mush of his career, and a later colleague, Leon Chatelain III, donated nearly 10,000 of Heaton’s drawings and plans to the Library of Congress.   

Copyright Paul K. Williams