16th and U Street Car Dealership
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 Detroit, Michigan 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.