79. 2708 O Street

2708 O Street, NW
Photo by Bob Rives

Butler Family

The Butler family occupied the home after the father moved from Virginia. The house was bought and paid for. A large extended family lived in the house.  Butler’s son, born in 1917, lived there for 24 years until he left to join the military. As a serviceman, the son remembered going to Georgetown Hospital for the first time during his physical because African Americans were usually relegated to Freedman’s Hospital, Old Gallinger Hospital (renamed DC General Hospital later the prison was built on the site), or what is now the Children’s Health Clinic on 11th , NW.  The family kept a billy goat that they used to haul a wagon, including delivering Thanksgiving and Christmas Turkeys. The father, who worked full-time for the District [of Columbia] government, also had a barbershop in the basement. He opened the shop to specifically cater to the black community.


“It was a strong community. The relationship between the people that lived there was very, very strong. Everybody was poor, but nobody knew it because every, everybody helped everybody. O Street from 27th to 28th Street was all black. Memories include a delicatessen on the corner, run by George Kent; Ice Cream man lived two doors down; AME church; parsonage across the street; Charles Warren lived next to church, had business; beyond the church was a black drugstore; next to it was a cleaning establishment. Blacks and whites played baseball together each week.  Living with an extended there was no need to think about segregation because it was not talked about much at home. The adults felt there was no need to try to upset the children when there weren’t really any problems. Coming from Georgetown to other parts of the city could cause trouble. If they knew we were Georgetown, there were a few problems and you might have to defend yourself.”