Goodbye Stairs, Hello Sushi

While we are very fortunate that the former Surratt boarding house on H. Street in Washington, D.C. is still standing today, we all know it is nothing but a shell of what it was in Lincoln’s day. The interior has been altered many times, even as recent as September of this year.

Aside from modern upgrades and advertising awnings for the Wok ‘N Roll, however, the exterior of the building is still very much identifiable as the former boarding establishment of Mary Surratt. The biggest exterior difference between its 1865 appearance and now, is the removal of the stairs and the first floor entrance.

Boardinghouse 1

In large, dirty cities like Washington first floor entrances were commonplace. This helped to keep the filth on the street from being tracked inside as easily.

While researching today, I came across the following picture which shows the boarding house with its stairs only recently removed:

Boardinghouse without stairs

When this picture was taken, you could still see the first floor door and the beautiful moulding around it but it no longer served as an entrance to the house unless a passerby was willing to give you a leg up. This was a transitional time for the building, and soon after the “phantom” door would be replaced by a window making the building closer to what we know it to be today.

Boardinghouse Today

References:
The Suppressed Truth about the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln by Burke McCarty

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10 thoughts on “Goodbye Stairs, Hello Sushi

  1. In the late 1920’s the Surratt House was raided and padlocked by federal authorities for housing large stocks of paraphernalia being used to violate prohibition laws. During the 1970’s the house was raided on account of numbers racketeering. According to the February, 1999, Surratt Courier, since “becoming a nice Chinese restaurant in the 1980’s, we have only heard good things….”

    • Steve Lohrmann

      Fantastic! Love the photos. I’ve eaten there many times. The food at Wok-n-Roll isn’t the best but the history makes an interesting place to have lunch.
      Dave, I wonder what the upper floors are like now? Does anyone out there know?

  2. Rich Smyth

    I have seen period photos with a boy standing in front, a female at an upstairs window and now one of these with two gentlemen sitting on a window sill.

    • I think this and Roger’s comment proves Mary was innocent. Clearly this house was THE place to meet. No wonder so many bad “eggs” were hatched there.

      • Laurie Verge

        I just have to say – …and then the government made egg drop soup out of them!

        On a more serious note, even though I have read McCarty’s book, I do not recall ever seeing this 1922 photo of the H Street house. Is it possible for you to send it to Surratt House in a format that we can use in our photographic files? It’s a great one.

  3. richard Petersen

    In 2003 (my last visit to DC) I had lunch and tried to imagine I was in a “Twilight Zone” situation and was back in time. Tried to imagine that the walls were talking. Ford’s theater, Petersen House, Surratt House… add the Surratt House as a must visit.

  4. Laurie, I have Ms. McCarty’s book, and there is also an April 1922 photo of the tavern on p. 139. You probably already have it, but I thought I would mention it in the unlikely case you don’t.

  5. Laurie Verge

    Thanks, Roger. I have seen that photo from the time that the Penns lived there. I like it because it shows the kitchen wing. That was the second kitchen; the one from the Surratt era had a fire that did some damage shortly after the Surratts left (according to carbon dating from the charred studs that are still visible on the main block of the house).

    There was also another fire in 1942, because it was recorded in the log book of the newly formed Clinton Volunteer Fire Department.

    The caption under the 1922 photo gave information that had slipped my mind also. In one of our display cases in the visitors’ center, we have a white linen handkerchief with “Surratt” embroidered on it. I knew that it had come from descendants of a student of John Surratt, Jr’s during his brief attempt at teaching in Rockville, Maryland. I did not remember (or didn’t know) that the student was related to Mrs. Penn.

  6. Great post!

  7. Jim Garrett

    Hey Dave: Great picture of the house without the steps.

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