by Donna Hanousek
Washington was not known for being a large immigrant town in the 19th century or early 20th century, but the near northeast did have a higher concentration of immigrants, mostly Irish, Germans, and English in the 19th century, along with Italians, Eastern European Jews, and Greeks in the early 20th century. A study conducted of the near northeast in 2002-2003, found about 30% more foreign born than the city as a whole — a rate of about 8% as opposed to 6%. Elliott Street’s population was consistent with this trend early in the 19th century — its immigrant population exceeded 8% until 1930.
In 1900, most of the residents on Elliott Street had been born in the US, but there were some immigrant families, one each from Italy, England/US, and Denmark/Sweden. (While three doesn’t sound like many, there were only nine families total; that represents one-third of the population of the street.) In 1910, there were four immigrant families out of 23, and by 1920, there were four out of 25 families. By 1930, Elliott only had the Danish family and a Scottish/US family, making up a portion of its more than 45 families. That year, the city’s population was more than one-quarter African-American, but none were yet living on Elliott Street.
Of the nine families living on Elliott in 1900, the majority was employed in white collar professions — three clerks, a merchant, an engineer, and a boat dealer; the others were a carpenter, a molder, and a lift operator. One boarder on the street was a sculptor. (A portion of the 1900 U.S. Census for Elliott Street is shown above.)
In 1910, the occupational profile of the street had begun to shift and the majority of the jobs held by Elliott’s residents were blue collar. Professions included four white collar jobs (a clerk, an agent, a physician, and a lawyer) and fifteen blue collar jobs (stationary engineer, an electrician and a plumber, merchants, carpenters, a telegraph operator, a policeman and a fireman, a plate printer and a printer’s assistant, a lathe operator, a stove setter, a cashier, model makers, and servants). For the first time, there were two wives and a daughter working.
By 1920 the street became less blue collar – there were nine white collar and 16 blue collar jobs. Occupations included a sheet metal worker, a plate pressman, an accountant, a 2nd Lieutenant, sales, a clerk, an electrician, a bookkeeper, an auditor, a plate printer, a dispersing clerk, a pressman, a machinist, a file clerk, a plasterer, a stationary engineer, a fireman (steam railroad), a brakeman, a pressman, a carpenter, a metal lather, a ship fitter, a dynamo tender, a car repairer, and a merchant. We see more types of government jobs represented (at least 16 of the jobs are clearly government jobs), but still quite a mix between blue collar and white collar types of employment.
In 1930, the new jobs added were mostly blue collar and included those of night watchman, engraver, executive, laborer, newsboy, dial instructor, tinner helper, messenger, painter, tallyman, real estate sales, taxi driver, tailoress, rodman, woodworker, awning hanger, attendant, truck driver, housework, sexton, motorman, mechanic, repairman, bricklayer, parker, saleslady, driver, operator, refinisher, seamstress, and manager. A large number of the jobs are represented in the automobile, train or railway, and utility and power industries.
Some long time Residents
There were a handful of residents of Elliott Street that stayed for multiple decades. Here are snapshots of some of these interesting folks:
Antonio Palidini, molder/artist lived on Elliott Street during the 1900 and 1910 censuses. Born in 1856, Paladini came to the U.S. from near Lirea, Italy with his wife Desire, aboard the Normandie. They arrived in New York on September 13, 1886 and by 1890, the DC City Directory shows that the family lived at 2319 G Street Northwest. Sometime before 1900, Paladini rented 637 Elliott and lived there with his wife and two sons, Frank and Louis. During 1900 he had a boarder, Peter Giordani, who was listed as a sculptor. In 1910, Desiree's brother, Casimno Rioci, listed as a model maker, came to live with the family. Pallidini was working on the plaster finishings, frets, cornices, and borders for the US Treasury building. Presumably, the boarder and brother-in-law were too. In 1920, the family bought a house at 1526 A Street, NE. The sons, in school during 1910, went on to become a lawyer and a clerk by 1920. The family is buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery.
Edgar Speiden, (engineer/physician from the 1900 and 1910 censuses) owned 639 Elliott Street. He and his wife Eunice had five children, four of them while on Elliott Street. Born in January, 1867, Speiden graduated from medical school in 1905, and is listed as a physician in the 1910 census. The family moved to 3523 14th Street, NW in 1911 to a three-story Harry Wardman house that was designed by Beers (profiled in part one of this series). Interestingly, the 1900 census lists Speiden as a lift operator. We know that he worked for 29 years at the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company, and then went on to practice medicine for 25 years.
Charles Burton Allen, (government employee from the 1920 and 1930 censuses) owned 611 Elliott in 1930. In 1920, Allen was a clerk for the US Treasury. He and his wife Eunice were from Maine and lived on Elliott with their two daughters, Marian and Marjorie. Allen’s sister-in-law, Mabel Hutchins, employed as a clerk at the Bureau of War Records, also lived with them, along with a lodger who worked as a clerk at the General Land Office. By 1930, Allen had become an “executive” with the US Treasury and was in fact “in charge of the income tax unit in this city” (Washington Post, October 9, 1927). The Allens showed up in the society pages and Ms. Hutchins was active in the Women’s Guild of the Central Union Mission.
Peter Peterson (1900–1930 censuses) owned 627 Elliott Street (valued at $2,600 in 1930). He came to the US from Denmark in 1891; his wife Clara from Sweden in 1884. They had two daughters, Alma and Hulda. He was a naturalized citizen and worked as an engineer, according to the 1900 census; a merchant in the Navy Yard, according to the 1910 census; and a machinist in the Navy Yard, according to the 1920 census. The 1930 census lists him as a sexton (church caretaker). He was still living in this house when he died in 1941.
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