As I walked down Wisconsin Ave to my office a couple of days ago, I heard…coming from the hill above, behind the Georgetown Library construction site…an amplified voice. Turns out the voice belonged to Mayor Fenty, and he was helping mark the occasion of placing the cupola on the under-renovation library building. (http://www.dclibrary.org/node/3855).
I was reminded of the day nearly three years ago when I could hardly get to my office because of the fire fighting equipment, and the smoke which engulfed the library building and surrounding area. It was heartbreaking to see that significant building burning so ferociously, and to know we were losing its contents. Beyond the obvious loss of the books and historical objects, there was a loss of particular significance to the real estate community.
The flames ate through the Peabody Room, the key source for original historic materials about Georgetown. The second-floor room was named after the financier who in 1867 provided seed money for a library for Georgetown. For years Georgetown real agents and brokers had gone to the Georgetown Library to do historical research on Georgetown properties. The collection in the Peabody room had always been a unique one, and its curator a knowledgeable source of historical property information. Seeing the collection go up in flames was disheartening. Thankfully though, the fire was stopped before it consumed that collection, and nearly all of the collection was saved.
The Peabody Room presently houses a special collection of current and retrospective materials that relate specifically to Georgetown, its history, culture and economy. The collection contains information about local houses with chain of title, assessment records and other pertinent information; and local residents in both text and non-text formats. There are plats, maps, vertical clippings files, local newspapers, photos and engravings that depict various aspects of Georgetown life and history. There is also a collection of published books and journal articles either about Georgetown or by Georgetown residents.
What was there in the Peabody Room then, is now housed temporarily at the MLK,Jr Library in the Washingtoniana Division. Jerry A. McCoy is the Peabody Room librarian and archivist and may be reached at (202) 727-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Historical research can still be done by those who are particularly interested in the history of Georgetown properties, and the people who have owned those properties.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library
901 G Street, NW
(TTY 202-727-2145, M-F 9:30am - 4pm)