Greater Greater Washington

History


Lost Washington: Good Hope Road’s German orphanage

Good Hope Road SE, one of East Washington's historic thoroughfares, has been home to many places now forgotten. While still a pastoral area the arterial road hosted, from the late 1800s into the 1960s, an orphanage for children of German ancestry, one such place with an obscured memory.


German Orphan Asylum on Good Hope Road SE. Photo from Historical Society of Washington.

Too rural for street addresses, the German Orphan Asylum at 2300 Good Hope Road wasn't given an address until 1945. It first opened its doors in August 1880. Today, the Marbury Plaza apartment complex looms over Good Hope Road where the orphanage previously stood.

"In the second half of the nineteenth century, Washington's native-born and immigrant German population was significant in numbers," writes Mona E. Dingle in 1996's Urban Odyssey, A Multicultural History of Washington, DC. At their peak presence, Germans represented 10% of the city's population, significantly less than Chicago and Baltimore where nearly one-quarter of city residents were of German ancestry.

With an increase in the city's German population, a concern emerged to care "for orphans and the aged." In 1879 parishioners of Concordia German Evangelical Lutheran Church at 20th & G Street NW began to raise money for an asylum for needy German orphans. With financial support from leaders within the city's established and emerging German American community, the "German Protestant Orphan Asylum Association of the District of Columbia" was incorporated with a twenty year charter from Congress. The Protestant designation was later stricken from the title to allow admission of children of other religions and eventually non-German children were accepted.

"Admission requirements, based on race and age, stipulated that a child must be of the white race … at least three (3) years old but not over eleven (11) years,'" according to Louise Daniel Hutchinson's seminal 1977 work, The Anacostia Story: 1608-1930. These restrictions were relaxed in later years.

Before the turn of the century, the German Orphan Asylum was one of the first institutions built for the care and welfare of children in Anacostia, but other charitable efforts soon followed. The Stoddard Baptist Home for "colored elderly and indigent women" was founded in the Garfield community near Hamilton Road, present-day Alabama Avenue. In 1904 the Episcopal Diocese expanded its work to provide "for winter service to homeless children at Anacostia, D.C." according to Hutchinson.

Local beer manufacturer Christian Heurich, known for his popular "Senate" beer, was one of the earliest benefactors of the German orphanage. Later contributors included local department store owner Julius Garfinckel.

Simon Wolf, a German Jewish immigrant and successful lawyer, assisted the orphanage, with funding from Congress, in purchasing the 32-acre Good Hope Hill Farm from Captain Samuel G. and Flora Cabell in what is today the Fairlawn neighborhood. With the help of Wolf and friends of the asylum, a new brick building was constructed and dedicated in October 1890. The asylum had formerly occupied space in downtown Washington.


Photo from Historical Society of Washington.

"The new two-story home, perched on top of Good Hope Hill measured 52 feet x 100 feet, and was designed to accommodate up to 80 children," according to, "To Help A Child: The History of the German Orphan Home," an article in the 2006 edition of Washington History by local historian Anna Watkins.

According to Census records from 1900, the orphanage had 52 "inmates" and was run by the Henry and Elizabeth Harrold along with their four daughters and one son.

The board of directors controlled the admission and release of the children, and selected their schools until they reached the age of about 14. The youngsters were then placed in carefully surveyed homes where they worked as household help or nannies, or were assigned as an apprentice to a trade or profession. The board retained responsibility for the children until they reached legal adulthood. The older adolescents attended public school in Anacostia, while the younger ones prepared for school at the asylum.

The orphanage taught, studied, and used both German and English. Due to the national mood during World War I, the board decreed in 1918 that use of the English language would take precedent "because we must show ourselves thoroughly patriotic and loyal; we are American in every sense of the word and proud of it." During this time the American flag was raised daily on the main building. However, in 1929, when an illustrated 50th anniversary history book was published, it was done so in both languages.

The Orphanage's relocation

With the growth and development of Washington following World War II the neighborhood dynamics around the orphanage began to change.


1959 Plate Map. Photo from DCPL Washingtoniana Division.

"Increasingly developed with housing and institutions, the area was no longer conducive to having children do farm chores as heavy traffic sped down the hill bordering the property," according to Watkins. Long-time Superintendent George Christman "noticed that more people were walking across the home's grounds. Some ran dogs on the property, teenagers had parties and played games there displaying loud and annoying behavior, and drunks used the front steps to take a rest."

With the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954 and other factors, such as the construction of the Barry Farm housing development and urban renewal of the SW waterfront, the demographics of the surrounding neighborhoods began to shift. Herein the orphans began to face difficulties in the neighborhood schools.

The board began to consider relocating and selling their property on Good Hope Road. In early 1964, developer Charles Smith offered to rent the property for 99 years at a price that allowed the orphanage to relocate. The Smith Company would later demolish the facilities and build the present-day apartment complex Marbury Plaza.

Soon thereafter the directors of the orphanage purchased a large parcel of land in Prince George's County, opening a new home on Melwood Road in Upper Marlboro, Maryland in 1965. In December 1978, at the end of the semester, the orphanage closed to its last student.

John Muller is an associate librarian, journalist and historian. He has written two books, Frederick Douglass in Washington, DC, Mark Twain in Washington, DC, and also writes at Death and Life of Old Anacostia

Comments

Add a comment »

Great article John! Really loved it and the pictures are too cool. Thanks for sharing. :)

by The Advoc8te on Dec 28, 2011 2:44 pm • linkreport

DC is usually assumed to have been a "Southern" city, when it was really more of a border one, with a lot of Southern governance (via Congress and people like Woodrow Wilson). There were many immigrant and European ethnic neighborhoods, particularly North & West of the Anacostia, as well as neighborhoods like Mt Pleasant that were settled by Northern transplants. The ethnic patterns of settlement were pretty evident well into the 50s.

by Rich on Dec 28, 2011 5:40 pm • linkreport

Irish Catholics in Swampoodle (actually they call it "St. Al's), Italians in Truxton Circle (North Capitol St. at Florida Ave.), Jews near the old Adas Israel and the 7th Street commercial corridor. The one ethnicity, or rather group of ethnicities that's lacking, compared to other cities of the Northeast and Rust Belt, is Slavic-Americans. Possibly due to the lack of heavy industry.

by Frank IBC on Dec 28, 2011 6:41 pm • linkreport

Great article. Members of my family (which has roots in Foggy Bottom dating to the 1860s) were involved in the German orphanage for many decades -- some relatives sat on the board of directors. The orphanage's charitable foundation was still in existence as of a few years ago (but it dissolved itself if I remember correctly).

by Michael Grass on Dec 28, 2011 6:43 pm • linkreport

So that is why Marbury Plaza is haunted and it be randomly catching on fire every week

by Michael on Dec 29, 2011 11:59 am • linkreport

Awesome reporting, John. Interesting how back then "people were walking across the home's grounds. Some ran dogs on the property, teenagers had parties and played games there displaying loud and annoying behavior, and drunks used the front steps to take a rest" and how today not a lot has changed!!!

by Troy Donte' on Dec 29, 2011 12:30 pm • linkreport

See: http://www.h-net.org/~dclist/german.html
German Orphan Asylum

The Historical Society of Washington, D.C. has the very rich collection of records of the German Orphan Asylum. Call (202) 785-2068 x111 to gain access to them.
1900 census of the Asylum from a genealogy site on the internet.

by MBG on Dec 29, 2011 2:38 pm • linkreport

My family supported the GOH over the many years thru about 1960s. I became a board member in 1972, and served as president for about 10 years. The advent of Social Security provided family support and funds, so that what may have been a destitute child almost ceased to exist. This reduced the population of the Home, and by the late 1970s we began planning orderly closure. The physical assets and funds were directed by the Board to other charatible caused thru no cost or low cost use of the facility and specific grants to sustain other programs.

by Harry Kriemelmeyer on Dec 29, 2011 5:43 pm • linkreport

Does anyone know what happend to the Steuben sculpture at the assylum? You can see it in both of the photos with this article.

by Kent Boese on Dec 30, 2011 3:40 pm • linkreport

The Steuben statue may be in the garden at the Heurich house museum. Before the sale of the Upper Marlboro property, the Board arranged for the statue to be moved and preserved from further weather damage.

by Harry Kriemelmeyer on Jan 1, 2012 5:21 am • linkreport

With respect to the sale of the property in Upper Marlboro, I was told that it was sold to a non-profit and then immediately flipped for big money to a developer. Is there any truth to that rumor and can someone shed light on what happened, and who was the non-profit?

by Dave on Jan 6, 2012 1:13 pm • linkreport

I grew up on Good Hope Road one block from the Anacostia library beginning in 1965...my family moved away in 1976 to Oxon Hill (now Fort Washington). When I was a small child, the German Orphan's home had closed, and my mother and I and sisters would walk up there to play on the grounds and the castle. The stone wall that circles Marbury Plaza (which is now at that site) is the same stone that the castle's outer veneer is constructed of. I will never forget it.

by William on Jun 1, 2012 3:17 pm • linkreport

Where is the Steuben statue now? In the garden on the grounds of the German Embassy in Washington DC. See link: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/8219050

by Terry P. on Aug 30, 2012 12:06 am • linkreport

In 1910 two of my great aunts were in the orphange their last names were Washney. They went there after their mother was killed in a fire, and their father was badly burnt. No one seems to know where the dad went after the girls were placed in the home. If anyone has any information about that they could share I would love to here about it.

by Cindy Lou on Nov 1, 2012 2:01 pm • linkreport

My mother Edith Martin Adams (Jan 24th, 1919 to Nov 28th, 2012) was born in 1919 ..... spent her early childhood in the German Orphan Asylum at 2300 Good Hope Road, Anacostia, Virginia. Her maiden name at that time was Edith Adams.

My mom's dad committed suicide (or was murdered) when she was 4-5 years old, back in the roaring 20's ... she ended up in the german orphange in anacostia virginia ... back in the 1920's .... along with her sister Levena, and her younger brother Robert.

here is a link to the Historical Society Article about the Orphanage with pictures … if you see these pictures you will see the tower. Mom took us to see the Orphanage One time when we were very small kids I still remember that day. The main thing a kid noticed was that tower, and mom said her bedroom with some other kids … was in the top of the tower.

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/13134/lost-washington-good-hope-roads-german-orphanage/

these short videos I shot that last day I saw her Nov 22, 2012, she was telling some of the old stories, in this one she talks about the orphanage …

She mentions the Hoffman’s that ran the orphanage, it could have been Mom’s memory she may have meant Henry and Elizabeth Harrold. Mom’s name was Edith, but with their thick german accents they pronounced her name …. “Editt”

https://plus.google.com/photos/107987644211264821464/albums/5814018513539722193/5888228398197932802?partnerid=gplp0&pid=5888228398197932802&oid=107987644211264821464

this is part two of her story about the orphange …

https://plus.google.com/photos/107987644211264821464/albums/5814018513539722193/5888244249978226386?partnerid=gplp0&pid=5888244249978226386&oid=107987644211264821464

by Doug Adams on Jun 11, 2013 12:48 pm • linkreport

My father died in August 1937 and my mother was Glen Dale Hospital with TB and I was raised by the home from September 1937 until May 1944.When I entered home we had 22 boys and 20 girls. Superintendent was the Rev. Tapey but Huffman had been in charge before him.After Tapey a Mr.and Mrs Clark ran the home for about 4 months. In August of 1944 Pop and Mrs Christman ran the Home until it sold and moved.

by Scott L Seymour on Feb 27, 2014 12:13 pm • linkreport

I was raised at the Home from September 1937 until May 1944.When I entered the Home we had 22 boys and 20 girls.Rev.Tapey took over from Huffman MR and Mrs Clark took charge for about four months then Pop and Mrs Christman from August 1940 until it was sold.

by Scott L Seymour on Feb 27, 2014 12:22 pm • linkreport

Scott,

Thank you for sharing. Would you be interested in speaking with me? I'm working on a project that will include a more detailed history of the orphanage. It would be great to speak with you.

John Muller
jmuller@ggwash.org

by John Muller on Feb 27, 2014 12:56 pm • linkreport

John,

Yes, I would like to speak with you and tell you more. I really enjoyed this article!

Scott Seymour

by Scott L Seymour on Feb 27, 2014 2:37 pm • linkreport

Scott:

Do you use email or phone?

by John Muller on Feb 27, 2014 2:39 pm • linkreport

John: I am getting close to 87 now so my computer skills are limited so phone would be best. 410-266-7242

by Scott L Seymour on Feb 27, 2014 3:03 pm • linkreport

my mom grew up in the orphanage, she was born jan 24th, 1919 .... she may have gone there as a young girl maybe 5-6 years old? .... here name was edith martin adams .... the german couple that ran it call her "edittt" because of the accent could not pronounce the H in edith .... she said she lived in the tower at one time, and she was a favorite, he would invite her in the kitchen and give her candy, called her ... edittt .... i think her brother Robert Berkly martin was there also, and her sister lavena martin, the 3 kids

by Doug Adams on Feb 27, 2014 3:05 pm • linkreport

I'm a proud alum of the GOH from 1957 to 1970 having been a resident of both the DC and PG county homes and retain fond memories of both. Pop Christman Rules (ed)! Sorry to say the former PG county location is being considered by the regime to house "refugees" from the orchestrated illegal invasion.
https://www.numbersusa.com/news/not-my-backyard-feds-efforts-relocate-illegal-aliens-border

by KS on Jul 7, 2014 1:28 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or

Support Us

How can our region be greater?

DC Maryland Virginia Arlington Alexandria Montgomery Prince George's Fairfax Charles Prince William Loudoun Howard Anne Arundel Frederick Tysons Corner Baltimore Falls Church Fairfax City
CC BY-NC