Then and Now by the House History Man is a new series by Paul K. Williams. Paul has been researching house histories in DC since 1995, having completed more than 1,500 to date. Read Paul’s previous post here.
Every house has a history, but to those living on Capitol Hill in the 1300 block of A Street, NE today might not realize that their house history would include a tornado. The residents living there on November 27, 1927, however, would certainly have the shock of their lives. That day, a rare tornado ripped through the block, severely damaging several houses on the south side of the block, seen here. The resulting mess didn’t seem mind Miss Berry Wilson, however, seen in her overalls and high heels, who did not leave all the labor to the men of the family.
The tornado was larger than it appeared in these pictures, damaging a 17 mile tract through metro Washington. It began at 2:15 that day, and was gone less than 25 minutes later. It damaged 372 structures, and created an even more rare 300 foot tall waterspout in the Potomac River in its aftermath. Hundreds were injured by flying debris, but only one woman died of a lightning strike. Property damage was estimated at $690,000 in 1927.
The house at the far left of today’s picture is 1371 A Street, NE – the third house from left the 1927 image (looking west). If you look closely, you can notice brick repair at the cornice line for several houses necessitated from the tornado damage. (Photographs from Capitol Hill by Gregory J. Alexander and Paul K. Williams, Arcadia, 2004).