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Remember the Alamo!

The outer Gate from Shorpy

This photo of the Alamo Theater in Washington DC attracted my attention when I saw it some time ago posted on the Shorpy photo website at www.shorpy.com.  The Shorpy site is dedicated to “always something interesting” relating to vintage photographs.See http://www.shorpy.com/node/2307#comment-47573 for the full discussion of this photo on Shorpy.

We featured it as Photoquiz #184 for the week of November 16, 2008 (see www.forensicgenealogy.info/contest_184_results.html), asking our Quizmasters to tell us what year the picture was taken, what city it was taken in, and what the name of the theater was when it was demolished. 

The caption for the Alamo photo provided by Shorpy says that the photo was taken in December 1937 by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration.

The movie posters advertising The Outer Gate (1937), the Law of the Ranger (1937), and The Shadow of Chinatown (1936) provide the answer to the first question about the date the photograph was taken. The second question about the city was inspired by a comment posted on the Shorpy site giving the address of the theater as 1223 7th St. NW, Washington DC.  The third question about the name of the theater before it was demolished came from the website http://www.cinematour.com/theatres/us/DC/1.html that gives the address of the Mid City located at 1223 7th St.

Mid City Address

 

 

 

 

 

However, had I searched further on the CinemaTour site, I would have discovered that it gave the address for The Alamo as 1293 7th St NW, implying that The Alamo and the MidCity were separate theaters, and that the address given on the Shorpy site was in error.

Alamo Address

 

 

 

 

 

Our research uncovered yet a third address for The Alamo on the site www.culturaltourismdc.org/usr_doc/SHT__English_guide.pdf dedicated to the history of the Shaw District where the theaters were located.  According to this site:

For much of the 1900s, inexpensive entertainments lined Seventh and Ninth streets, from D to U streets. Vaudeville houses, pool halls, record shops and taverns made for a busy night life. And everyone went to the movies. Two small theaters once operated on this block, the Alamo (1203) and the Mid-City (1223). Seventh Street also boasted the Happyland (1020), Gem (1131), and Broadway (1131), with the Raphael nearby at 1515 Ninth.

A fourth site sirismm.si.edu/archivcenter/scurlock/AC0618.004.0000981.jpg Mid City Theaterprovided this picture of the Mid City, but gave no address for it. The Mid City did not look anything like The Alamo, confirming that they were not the same theater.

By the end of the week, we had not resolved the controversy about the address of the Alamo.  However, after the contest was over, Dave Doucette, one of our Quizmaster Extraordinaires, continued to research the theater and discovered a picture of the corner of 7th St. NW and Avenue M in Washington DC that included the Alamo.  He located the picture on the website of the Washington DC Historical Society at http://www.historydc.org/Do_Research/research.asp?ID=128909&IMAGE_NUMBER=1

Alamo Theater Hist Soc of Wash

Dave from Shorpy pointed out in his response to our postings that there was a second photo of the Alamo on the historydc.com site that showed the theater second from the corner, but with a larger building next to it.  The URL for this photo is http://www.historydc.org/Do_Research/research.asp?ID=128909&IMAGE_NUMBER=1  

Alamo Theater Wash Hist Soc 2

According to Google Maps, the corner pictured is the north east side of the intersection.  This means that The Alamo Theater was close to the south end of the block. The address of 1203 given by the Shaw District website is consistent with the Alamo being located second from the corner, as shown in the picture.

We now believe that the correct address of The Alamo was 1203 7th St. NW at the intersection of M Ave, Washington DC, and that the Mid City Theater, listed at 1223 7th St NW was not the same theater.

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