16th and U Street Car Dealership

This month's location is another celebration of neighborhood history.  but it also gives you a peek behind the curtain at how we arrive at the fabulous homes and institutions to celebrate each year.  The DCCA house tour committee is comprised of neighbors who love, respect and adore our neighborhood and it's their curiosity about a home, their commitment to researching  and their respect for history that makes the home collection magical.  Whether they are knocking on your door asking your to share your home or offering up their musings, or carefully documenting the stories and people that give featured locatinos life, the DCCA House Tour Committee excels at creating a unique experience.  Read on to gain a little more perspective about how a backyard discovery led to this walk into Dupont's past....

An Old Car Dealership by Marcy Logan

While digging in my back yard not so long ago, I found a small, old-looking enameled steel item which appeared to be a belt buckle. Printed on this mysterious piece was the name “Jewett."

Thinking I had something of great interest, I Googled this immediately and was taken back to the early 1900’s when an auto dealership flourished on the corner of 16th and U St. NW which catered to the local market, the elite African American population of the Striver’s District, local doctors, dentists, and Howard University professors.

The Jewett was an automobile built in DetroitMichigan by the Paige-Detroit Motor Car Company from March 1922 through December 1926. The Jewett was named after Harry M. Jewett, president of Paige-Detroit.  After the first 17 months of production approx. 40,000 vehicles were sold. 

An intriguing tidbit about these vehicles was that embedded in the dashboard of every Jewett was an amulet, visible on the passenger side as a dashplate. Apparently, Harry's wife was something of a spiritualist, and these amulets were purported to have mystical power that protected the occupants.

While I am not sure I have the amulet, referred to above, I have what I believe to be the radiator plate of a Jewett car sold at this location. Unpaved alleys and a bumpy ride behind my house likely shook the badge off a fancy Jewett car as it bumped along the alley. My imagination takes me back to those days when African American photographer Addison Scurlock and his two sons recorded the rich life emanating from Howard University and nearby U Street:  weddings, ballets, sororities, intellectuals at work, jazz artists, military men, professional athletes, and the cars. Pictured are the auto dealership, a Jewett car and a Scurlock photograph of a car filled with neighborhood children.

The car dealership was found located at 16th and U St. NW until the late 1920’s.

Founded in 1922 in a townhouse at 1767 P Street, to promote and protect the interests of the residents, the Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA) is the premier civic and residential organization in the Dupont Circle area.  DCCA brings neighbors, including residents, businesses and non-profit organizations, together to improve the quality of life in an active and diverse urban neighborhood. It holds membership meetings nine times each year, which are open to the public, organizes the Dupont Circle House Tour, resolves neighborhood issues through its committees, donates to local causes, and incubates innovative projects.

Dupont Circle Citizens Association | 9 Dupont Circle, NW | Washington, DC 20036
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