Dear PoPville – Learning About the History of my House?

by Prince Of Petworth — December 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm 9 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user DCFryguy

Dear PoPville,

So we hear through the grapevine that our new house was previously at another location and was physically moved.

I poked around some in the 1940 census that was released recently. There are two addresses present there that are not present now.

Do you have any ideas about how to go about connecting the dots, or finding out more? At least it’s Takoma, and people cultivate this kind of history.

We looked at some suggestions back in Oct. 2011. Anyone else have any tips about where to learn about the history of your house, preferably for free?

  • dcgent

    Assuming it’s DC, this is a big help http://www.historydc.org/UserFiles/file/Building_History_Resources%283%29.pdf
    Start at the MLK library–Washintoniian room.

  • Type your street name and “DC” into the search on Shorpy.com, they have tons of really interesting photos from the 1920s… You might get lucky and find your block.

  • I attended a House History Day workshop in February 2012 at the MLK library. It was sponsored by the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C. (http://wdchumanities.org/ ) and was listed in PoPville (which was how I found out about it — thanks, PoP!).


    Maybe check to see if the Humanities Council has any more of these workshops planned in the next several months?

    • And even if they don’t have any workshops scheduled, they might be willing to send you PDFs of the materials from the most recent workshop.

      The article that Saf linked to described some of the key steps I remember from the workshop: looking at the enormous D.C. atlases (huge bound “books”) and looking up the house address in multiple years of the city directory (on microfilm).

      • ah

        I did some of this . . . if you have the block and square, and address of course, you can find stuff reasonably easily at the MLK Library. It’s fairly well indexed, and I don’t recall having to look in too many places. You may have to run through some microfilm, but you can find out a lot in a couple of hours. The librarians there are helpful.

  • saf
  • Anonymous
  • Brian Kraft

    Please go to Washingtonian, Room 307, MLK Library

  • Anonymous

    MLK, DC Recorder of Deeds, Washington Historical Society (at 9th and Mass Ave), DC Archives, Peabody Room at Georgetown Library, find a university that will let you access Lexis Nexis.

    It’s a fun process but will take multiple days if you are new to the process. My guess is that at a minimum you will need 20 hours to do an exhaustive search. Building permits and old City Directory (predates the Phone Book) listings take a lot of time!

    In the end it’s great fun and you learn all about the develoent of your entire neighborhood.


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