Moving Up in Washington DC, 1890 – 1948

When my father died in 1990 I inherited a ragtag collection of photographs, letters and Bibles. They were all from his Grandfather, my Great-Grandfather, Edwin Alfonso Niess. Among this collection are a few  pictures of homes the family lived in during the Washington D.C. stage of their lives.

In November of 1889, Edwin moved from Harrisburg, the city of his birth, to Washington D.C. He had just completed 4 years of schooling at what is now Millersville State University and passed the Clerk’s examination for the Federal Government in August. In November he was hired to work in the War Department at a grand salary of $1,000 a year. Edwin went back to Harrisburg the following September to marry my Great-Grandmother, Carrie Virginia Carvell. They left Harrisburg right after the wedding, taking the train back to the District to set up housekeeping at 822 I Street N.E.  By 1897 they had moved from the I Street home to 1113 C Street N.E. The picture below was taken that year. They didn’t remain in that house long since the 1900 census shows the family living at 239 10th St.Edwin worked, belonged to all the right organizations and went to Law School at Columbian Universtity(now George Washington University) earning a LL.B in 1895 and a LL.M in 1896. Working for the War Department he kept getting promotions and in 1900 transferred to the Post Office Department as a Postal Inspector. By 1905 he was a Law Clerk and 2 years later the Niess family found the house to raise their family in. A proper house for an up and coming attorney in Washington D.C. society.This picture was one of the pictures that was torn from a photo album at one point. It is glued on the page with a picture of my great-great-grandparents glued to the other side of the page! The date at the top of the picture seems to indicate August 2, 1907. Keep that date in mind.Another picture, in not so primo condition, shows the front stairs and elements of the Rhode Island Avenue home. The older boy would have been my grandmother’s brother, Edwin M., who had joined the Army and my father standing next to him. I show this picture so you can compare the elements with the picture taken on Christmas Day, 2011. Black handrails, porch, and detail around the front door.It’s a beautiful home today, isn’t it? It should be since estimates it’s value at $747,200!!! It also states that it was built in 1909, a date we now know is not accurate.The only structural change I noticed is the deletion of the rail on the balcony and the addition of a gate and iron bars around the windows and front door. This home, however, was not the last home the Niess’ would purchase.

By  1924 the couple, since that’s what they were again, had downsized and moved north, close to Rock Creek Park. 1422 Crittenden NW is a slightly smaller home with 1960 square feet and only 4 bedrooms. Once again, Zillow’s estimate of the property value would probably make the Niess couple faint! $556,000! I’m sure if this home were in their hometown of Harrisburg, you could lop off at least 400K from that figure! Several years ago we drove past this home and unlike the home on Rhode Island Avenue, this one has changed. The awnings, shrubbery and rock along the sidewalk; all different. This is the home that Edwin and Carrie lived until Carrie died in 1933. Almost two years later, Edwin remarried, and outlived his 2nd wife. Edwin died 18 April 1948 in his home on Crittenden.
Edwin’s final move was to Warrenton, Virginia where he is buried with his 2nd wife, the sister of Edwin M.’s wife, Lucy Kelly Niess. Father, Son and both wives are buried in the Kelly Family Plot. Carrie is buried in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania in the plot with her father, Rev. Jeremiah Mark Carvell, and her daughter, my grandmother, Nellie Viola Niess Sherman.

We visit both cemeteries as we get a chance.


2 thoughts on “Moving Up in Washington DC, 1890 – 1948

  1. Great photos! It’s a shame they don’t still have the gingerbread railings at 1113 C Street N.E. My favorite thing about the Florida Ave house is how much of a front yard they had before the road was widened! Hard to imagine a Florida Ave without all the traffic there now.

    With the bedrooms, you have to think of how many bedrooms there were at the time, not now. 1422 Crittenden NW was probably a three bedroom, one bath house when your great grandfather lived there. The houses were built with sleeping porches and unfinished basements, which many people have since finished and made into additional bedrooms. Here’s a house that keeps pretty true to the original layout that’s on the same row of houses:

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