Old Jewish Home For the Aged on 11th Street and Spring Road

11th Street and Spring Road, originally uploaded by dullshick.

Reader query:

“My wife and I live in Columbia Heights and read your blog. Walking around last week we came across the impressive and slightly spooky old Hebrew Home for the Aged building at 11th St. and Spring Road, NW.

We posted some pictures to Flickr:


As I was searching around to get a sense of the building’s history, I found some informative comments posted in response to a post of yours from last year. Point being:

Do you have any other thoughts or do you know anyone who might have some additional thoughts on the history?”

Folks never cease to amaze me with their knowledge of DC history. So who’s got the history of this home on 11th and Spring?

28 Comment

  • As posted before, Petworth back in the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s had a substantial Jewish presence. The Seventh Day Adventist Church on 8th (?) and Sheperd right off GA was an orthodox synagogue. Carl Bernstein, in a book discussing his youth in Washington, mentions a synagogue I think his grandmother attended on Jefferson, near Kennedy St. So the Hebrew Home, before it relocated with the population it served to Montgomery County, was in Petworth at the Spring Rd. location. By the mid 60s, and definitely after the ’68 riots, Jewish migration was happening, mostly to Wheaton, Silver Spring and other areas in Montgomery County. There was even a great Jewish grocery store on GA Ave, just south of Missouri Ave called Posins, that many long time Petworth residents, Jewish and not, will remember. It stayed there long after most Jews moved out of Petworth to larger homes in the suburbs.

  • Posin’s had pastrami and chicken salad to die for! There was a synogogue on the corner of 7th and Jefferson. That’s the synagogue Carl Bernstein is referring to.
    Not that anyone asked, but I wrote a poem called “1959”, which deals with the white flight I experienced when -seemingly overnight- my Jewish playmates disappeared..
    Oh well. More meaningless drivel from yours truly…

  • My parents and I moved out of DC in the early 60s from an apartment in SE to a house in the suburbs. Though I certainly know about blockbusting and white flight, there were other reasons why Jewish families left DC in the late 50s and early 60s. Blacks didn’t start moving into our old apartments, now located in an incredibly high crime zone off Wheeler Road, until the mid to late 60s. All our neighbors were fellow transplanted New York Jewish families that had come to DC right after WWII to work for the federal government. They were young lawyers for the Justice Department, physicists and engineers and other professionals, sons and daughters of the Polish and Russian Jews who had immigrated to New York in the early 1900s. They made the leap to the middle class and when they got good stable jobs and stated having children, it was time to buy a house. Most chose to do so out of the city, as Toby mentions in places like Silver Spring and Wheaton. The Jewish families I knew and was a part of were militantly anti-racist, intellectuals rather than shop owners and supporters of civil rights and other progressive causes.

  • Anonymous- I wasn’t hating on anyone . But it was bewildering for a 3 year old boy to suddenly lose many, many friends (including the hauntingly beautiful Faye Weissman, but that is another story). And yes, some of the kids were not allowed to play with “schvartzes”.

  • Reuben, I want to see your poem! do you mind posting it to share with us?

  • Yes, I remember the thing about schvartzes. Some of the ladies my mother knew (they weren’t her friends) would refer to their black cleaning lady as the schvartze, as “It’s Friday and the schvartze is coming,” instead of using the woman’s (first) name. It was sign of being middle class to have a day worker come in and clean the house once a week. They were invariably black and took the bus to go and work for these “nice Jewish ladies”. They were paid in cash and also given car fair. My mother went through a series of them, as I bet she was hard to work for and demanding. But never racist. I’ve been to Jewish funerals attended by long-time black domestic workers for the family. When I came to live in Petworth, my African American next door neighbor received a pension from the Jewish family she had cleaned house for for many years. I bet Faye and her family moved to Silver Spring or White Oak.

  • Really interesting history, everyone, I love learning about his kind of stuff.

    On a side note, what I really want is a good Jewish deli in DC proper! (Do any even exist other than Eli’s near Dupont?)

  • What about the one on Wisconsin Ave near the Hudsons Trail Outfitters? It has had various names in its existence. And its matzoh ball soup is almost as good as my mother’s.

  • I tried the one on Wisconsin once. The pastrami left a grease trail on my plate. That’s NOT a good reuben! (Not to be confused with Reuben, of course).

  • closest things are:

    krupin’s on wisconsin north of tenley
    and so’s your mom on columbia

  • would you really consider So’s Your Mom a Jewish deli? I know it used to be run by a Jewish family but now it’s run by an Asian family now (sorry, can’t remember which country they’re from). It’s good and all, but I wouldn’t call it a Jewish deli.

  • When I get those cravings, my roots are calling, time for comfort food, I go to Rockville to Bagel City. There is one in DC on Mass. Ave almost at the MD line, but it’s not as good as the original one. Also, I don’t think they’re owned by the same people anymore. It was Krupin’s I was thinking about above.

  • saf

    Reuben – http://www.culturaltourismdc.org/info-url_nocat2536/info-url_nocat_show.htm?doc_id=70262

    On 8/16, the Brightwood Heritage Trail will be unveiled. I bet some of the stuff you’re remembering here will be on the trail. Posin’s is.

  • Parkway Deli in Chevy Chase/Silver Spring is pretty good.

  • New York. As in yes, New York City.
    I moved to DC 11 years ago and can’t say I’ve had a truly good Jewish meal ever in this city. And Krupin’s didn’t even cut it (at least not the pastrami!) It saddens this little Jewish girl to be without a good bagel. sniff sniff.
    Reuben, how about that poem?

  • Posins is gone but is definitely missed! I used to host a brunch on Palm Sundays and would have Posins deliver a few platters of food!

  • Thanks, Saf… I remember the Seven Seas, too… Being 127 has its priviliges.
    The poem I mentioned was published in anthology of African American poets back in the day. I cant remember all of it. I’ll find it tonight and post….Thanks for asking, ColHeights

  • My bad. How could I have forgotten Parkway Deli, which is basically right off 16th St if you go by back roads? I even have its # on my cell. Their hot pastrami on rye is decent.

  • saf

    Reuben – the 7 Seas is also on a sign, both in the Greek and the Asian incarnations.


  • ColHtsChic-not a good Jewish meal in 11 yrs????? Ok, she may be Catholic, and you can NEVER EVER tell my mother I am saying this…but if you dont have a place, you are so coming over for our non-traditional passover next year…my wife’s brisket is actually better than my mother’s. Now…if a good Jewish boy can say that in a public forum (anonymous though it is), you can bank on it being stellar. But generally, I agree with you, there are times I would kill for decent chopped liver without having to make it myself.

  • saf

    CH Chick – Max’s, in Wheaton, makes great Kosher food. Also, the market next door that forget the name of, has good chopped liver.

  • saf

    Oh, and if kosher style, but not all the way kosher, will do, head over to Spring Valley, and talk to Pam at Wasgshal’s. She makes the very best chopped liver ever.

  • Here’s my poem, which is entitled “Autumn ’59”. Yeah, it’s poetry, but I promise it won’t hurt a bit.

    Autumn ’59

    no more
    densely freckled girls
    ordering cokes

    looking dreamily
    at the leaves
    by the window

    no more playmates
    staring quizically
    at the negroes
    on my father’s
    album covers

    or my brother’s
    half court prowess

    (their every jump
    shot an homage
    to bob cousy)

    sarah goldfarb
    looked like the
    girl on the royal princess
    doll house commercial

    even though her
    father said

    sarah’s jewish
    and there are no jewish girls
    on television

    rocco quinzani
    was a dead ringer
    for ricky nelson

    who and where
    was i?

  • i agree with those who arent thrilled by krupin’s…. not a big fan…

  • Reuben, thank you so much for sharing your poem! How old were you when you wrote it?

    And BS, YOU ROCK! I will now clarify my previous statement. I’ve had some good home-cooked Jewish meals (including out of my own kitchen), just haven’t found good Jewish restaurants in DC. Some of the area suburbs have some decent spots, but it gives me a headache to go out to the burbs. So BS, I’ll be stooping on your front doorsteps (if you have a stoop?) on Pesach eve! ha.

  • Reuben, really liked the poem and I read it twice. Sarah’s father was wrong. There were Jewish people on tv, though certainly few. Dinah Shore had her own show, if I heard correctly and then my parents talked about a Jewish Miss America, Bess Meyerson. Glad to hear that other ethnic groups (Rocco) suddenly disappeared too, not just Jews in Petworth.

  • Thanks, ah, anonymous.. The Jewish girls (pre-teen) reference had more top do with the Dad’s feelings about
    exclusion, which the speaker (the presumed “I”) touches upon at the end of the poem. You know-looking for yourself in the wider world… Gee. I sound like a fifteenth rate lit prof…
    I wrote this as an adult, Col.

  • Reuben, glad to hear you wrote that as an adult. I was feeling unbelievably inadequate thinking there was a chance you wrote such a beautiful poem at a younger age. 🙂

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