820 F Street: Follow Up


File:International Spy Museum.JPG

The 800 block of F Street, NW, Washington, DC
Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid at en.wikipedia


In my post yesterday about Selinger’s jewelry store at 820 F Street in Washington, DC, I had asked about that location and what might have been reflected in the windows of the store.  My ever-reliable medical consultant/cemetery photographer is now also my Washington architectural researcher.  He sent me this link that provided this information about the history of one of the buildings on that block, the Adam House, that may have housed the Selinger store:

“The building, built in 1878, was originally leased to J. Bradley Adams, its namesake. Adams, a book salesman and stationer, later owned the building. The building housed an impressive amount of retail establishments and offices throughout the years. The building is done in a High Victorian Italianate style, with friezes and ornate moldings, as well as a gable with the year the structure was built (either 1876 or 1878, it’s unclear).”


My brother also found this website, which includes the same photograph of Selinger’s jewelry store and dates it as taken in 1920[1], after World War I, when there was suddenly a surplus of military watches available for sale to the public.  On this page, I also found an ad for Selinger’s from the Washington Post in May, 1920, reinforcing the conclusion that the photo was taken in 1920.  Neither of these pages indicates who took the photograph or for what purpose.  (I had originally thought that the photograph was a family photograph, but it appears not to have been.)

UPDATE: My cousin and fellow genealogist Jean Cohen found this information about the Selinger photograph from the Library of Congress at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/npc2008009720/

Title: Selinger front, 820 F, N.W., [Washington, D.C.]
Date Created/Published: [ca. 1920]
Medium: 1 negative : glass ; 8 x 6 in.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-npcc-29219 (digital file from original)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: LC-F82- 4412 [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Title from unverified data provided by the National Photo Company on the negative or negative


The Library of Congress page also states that the photograph was a gift from Herbert A. French in 1947.  Herbert French was a  photographer as well as the owner of the National Photo Company; he donated his entire collection to the Library of Congress, including the photograph of Selinger’s.




The ad says that the store was located at the corner of 9th and F Street, so it might have been in the Warder Building,  which was built in 1892  near the Adams House.





Both buildings are today used to house the International Spy Museum.


Int  Spt Museum 820 F St


The building across the street, seen in the reflection of the Selinger’s window, is the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, part of the Smithsonian.  It was originally the building for the US Patent Office.


Old Patent Office Building, Washington D.C.

Old Patent Office Building, Washington D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

F Street NW, view from Patent Office - Washing...

F Street NW, view from Patent Office – Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thank you to my brother Ira for finding most of these sources.








[1] For those who may wonder, a photograph taken in 1920 would no longer have a valid US copyright and is thus in the public domain.  Shorpy’s may be selling copies of it, but that does not include or suggest a copyright still exists on the photo.




Wonderful Surprises and Gifts

I had two wonderful surprises this week.  Usually I am hunting down family members, hoping for a response.  Twice this week I heard from relatives who found me.

Lou, a relative by marriage, is a cousin of my cousin Marjorie.  He had visited Marjorie recently and heard about my contact with her.  He sent me two wonderful photographs of Marjorie.  One is posted here: a photograph of Marjorie and her parents, Bessie and Stanley Cohen, at her graduation from Trinity College in Washington, DC, probably around 1947.  I’d never seen a picture of any of these family members before, and it was so meaningful to be able to see Marjorie’s face after spending time getting to know her on the phone this summer.  I hope to be able to meet her in person in the coming months.  I also was excited to see what my great-uncle Stanley looked like and what his wife Bessie looked like.   It really helps to bring these people to life when you can put a face to the name.  Bessie and Stanley look so proud of their daughter, a college graduate back when most women did not even dream of going to college.  (The second photograph I will post when I get to my Seligman relatives as it depicts two of them.)

Bessie and Stanley Cohen with their daughter Marjorie at her graduation

Bessie and Stanley Cohen with their daughter Marjorie at her graduation

The second wonderful surprise came in the form of a comment on the blog from a descendant of Julius and Augusta Selinger, their great-grandson Cito.  He had just accidentally found the blog while searching for something else and was pleased to see and learn more about his family’s history.

He then sent me this wonderful photograph of his great-grandfather Julius’ jewelry store.  Although the photograph is not dated, if you look at it closely, you can read the larger sign in the window that says “Sale…Watches…$4,” and see at the bottom “Price during the War +15.”  I am not exactly sure what that means, but I assume that the reference is to World War I, dating the photograph during the second decade of the 20th century.

Selinger's Jewelry Store 820 F Street, Washington, DC

Selinger’s Jewelry Store 820 F Street, Washington, DC

That makes sense because the young woman to the right standing in the doorway is assumed by the family to be Eleanor Selinger, the daughter of Julius and Augusta who married Henry Abbot and moved to London in 1926.  Eleanor would have been about 22 years old in 1917 when the US entered World War I.  I love being able to see Eleanor’s face also.  She has such a searching, pensive look on her face—what was she thinking?  You can see the reflections of a crowd of people looking into the window as well as some of the buildings across the way.  The store was at 820 F Street in Washington, DC.  Perhaps some of you recognize that location?

Thanks to both Lou and Cito for generously sharing these photographs and for contacting me.  I am so happy that you both were able to find me.  I also received photographs from another family member this week, my cousin Jack, the great-grandson of Joseph Cohen, who was my great-grandfather Emanuel’s older brother.  I will post some of those photographs next week after I have a chance to scan them.

So it’s been a great week to be doing genealogy research.  I am feeling very fortunate for all the gifts that genealogy has provided to me.  Happy Labor Day Weekend, everyone!


Grandsons and Memories

The last five days were spent with my grandsons Nate and, for two of those days, Remy.  Nate came back to our house for three days, and I just had the best time with him, doing not much of anything special, but just enjoying him and seeing life through his eyes.  Being with my grandsons makes me think about how important those first few years of life are—how they form us, teach us about the world, and introduce us to relationships, love, trust, friendship, and family.

I was fortunate to get a box of old photographs from my cousin Jody a few weeks ago, and I spent one day last week scanning those photos, many of which will eventually get posted on the blog.  But for today, as I think about being with Nate and Remy, I want to recognize those people I spent most of my time with during the early years of my own life—my parents, my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, and my older cousin Jeff.  We all lived within a few minutes of each other in Parkchester, a large apartment complex in the Bronx, and I probably saw them every day or almost every day during those years.  We also spent summers together near Lake Mahopac, New York, on Long Pond.  They called me Kugel, or Amy Kugel, or sometimes just Kug–the only people who ever did.  (My mother still occasionally does.)

They made me feel loved, and they gave me a sense of family that has stayed with me all my life.  I can only hope that we are doing the same for Nate and Remy, even though we don’t live close enough to be with them as much as I was able to be with my grandparents at their ages.   Although I don’t have many specific concrete memories of those years, these photographs capture those magical years of my early life.

amy florence abt 1954

My mother

amy and john 1954 abt

My father

Amy Gussie and Isadore

My Grandparents

elaine and amy 1953

My Aunt Elaine

My cousin Jeff

My cousin Jeff

Jeff and Amy


jeff gussie amy 1955 abt

Jeff, my grandmother, and me


Ray and Leah: Two Beautiful Portraits

When I published the photograph of Ray Strolowitz Adler several days ago, my cousin Jean emailed me to say that she was struck by the similarity between that photograph and one she had sent me months ago of her grandmother Leah Strolowitz Adler, Ray’s younger sister.  Looking at both photographs more carefully, you can see that they were taken at the same studio with Leah and Ray standing in similar poses.  You can definitely see the family resemblance between the two sisters.

Leah Strolowitz Adler

Leah Strolowitz Adler

Ray Strolowitz Adler

Ray Strolowitz Adler

In rescanning the photo of Leah, Jean took it out of the frame and found this inscription on the back.

back of photo sept 1918 cropped

If both photos were in fact taken at the same time in 1918, this would have been after Ray was married and a few years before Leah married.

I wonder if all the siblings had these portraits done.  Unfortunately, the others may have been lost forever.  It always surprises me when I see studio portraits of the recent immigrants who could not have had a lot of extra money to spend on luxuries, yet so many of them did have these photographs done.  I am so glad they did, and I am so lucky that their descendants were willing to share these two with me.

The Flat: A film by Arnon Goldfinger


The other night we watched a fascinating movie, The Flat. It is a documentary made by Arnon Goldfinger about what he learns about his grandparents after his grandmother dies and he and his family clean out their apartment in Tel Aviv. His grandparents had lived in Berlin until 1936 when they left for Israel. Goldfinger and his family, including his mother, had almost no knowledge of the grandparents’ lives before they left Germany.

I do not want to reveal too much about what they learn because each viewer should be able to experience the revelations as they are uncovered in the course of the film. But I will say that this is a film that anyone interested in family history and the ethical dilemmas that are created when you learn something surprising and perhaps troubling about the past should watch. What is our obligation to reveal the truths we learn to those left behind, even if they were innocent of the past actions of their family members? Why do people hide from the truth? Why do some of us ask questions and seek answers whereas others prefer to avoid uncovering the past?

But this is not only a film for genealogists. It is a film for everyone who has an interest in human nature. The film addresses important questions of identity and nationality. What makes people identify with a country, a religion, a family? How do we pick our friends? How does denial play into our sense of who we are? 

Finally, this is also a film about our legacy. What will our families do and think after we are gone?  When the family throws out bag after bag after bag of the treasured belongings of the grandparents, I couldn’t help but think about the way we all collect objects—clothing, books, jewelry, letters, photographs—that our descendants will toss away with barely a thought. We have to leave something else behind besides these material things—our good name, our good deeds, our stories, and our love. All else will vanish.

Solomon Monroe Cohen/Cole:  Post Script

Yesterday I received a copy of the death certificate of Sol Cole, who died on June 11, 1938.

I learned a number of things from this document.  First, Sol died of heart disease when he was only 58 years old.  He had had hypertension and arteriosclerosis for fifteen years and myocarditis for over a year, and then for a week before he died, he suffered from coronary thrombosis and finally acute cardiac failure.  He had been under the same doctor’s care for close to a year and had been living in New York City for about the same period of time.

sol cole death cert page 1

He had been living at 12 West 72nd Street in what was then a hotel, located less than a block from Central Park.  The certificate indicates that he was working up until a month before he died as a manager in the furniture business, the same industry he had been working in for 35 years, starting in Detroit, then in Columbus, and ultimately in New York City.

sol cole death cert page 2

The certificate also corroborated the fact that Estelle had predeceased him, as he was a widower at the time of his death.  Sol’s remains were cremated by Ferncliff Crematory, and both of his sons, Ralph and Robert, signed a sworn statement to the New York City Department of Health that it had been their father’s wish to be cremated.  I called Ferncliff to see if they had any records for Estelle, but they did not; they only had records for Sol.  Although I cannot be certain, my hunch is that Sol moved to New York after Estelle died since there is no record of her death in New York City nor were her remains handled by the same institution.  I still do not know when or where Estelle died, but I will focus on Ohio as that is where I know she was living as of 1935.

How Genealogy Research Works:  Solomon Monroe Cohen as A Sample Case

English: City seal of Detroit, Michigan.

English: City seal of Detroit, Michigan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve had remarkable luck tracking most of the descendants of Moses Cohen, Jr., even with the women who are usually so much harder to track because of the change in their names when they marry.   But when it came to the youngest son of Moses, Jr., and Henrietta Cohen, Solomon Monroe Cohen, I hit a few obstacles.  There are a few things that remain unresolved, but I’ve made a lot of progress.  I thought this would be a good example of just how much luck, persistence, and serendipity it takes to find records about a family member.

As reported in an earlier post, as of 1910, Solomon had married Estelle Spater of Detroit and settled in that city, working as the manager of a mail order business.  They had had two sons, Ralph born in 1907 and Theodore born in 1910.  Theodore had died in 1912 of complications from cerebral palsy.

In 1911 according to a Detroit city directory, Solomon was the general manager of Peoples Outfitting Company, where he was still employed in 1917 according to his World War I draft registration; he described his position as manager of the advertising staff and married to “Stella S. Cohen.”

Sol M Cohen World War I draft registration

Sol M Cohen World War I draft registration

The 1920 census has him living with Estelle and Ralph, working at a furniture business.  So far my research was moving along easily, just using ancestry.com to find the census report and the Detroit directories.

Solomon Cohen and family 1920 census

Solomon Cohen and family 1920 census

Then things got more complicated.  I could not (and still cannot find) Solomon or Estelle or Ralph on the 1930 census despite using wildcard search techniques, different databases, with and without date restrictions for births, with and without geographic restrictions.

I decided to focus my search on Ralph, figuring that there might be more recent records. I lucked out and found a marriage license application on familysearch.org  for a Ralph Cole to marry Lois Hollander in 1938, and it was indexed with Ralph’s parents’ names, Sol M. Cole and Estelle Spater.

Ralph Cole and Lois Hollander marriage license

Ralph Cole and Lois Hollander marriage license

It also indicated that Ralph was born in Detroit in 1907 and that he was in the furniture business, so I knew I had the correct Ralph.  From that application I learned that Sol had changed his name from Cohen to Cole, as had Ralph.  I also learned that Estelle had already died by the time of the application, January 3, 1938.  Finally, I learned that Sol was then living in New York City, not Detroit.  By finding just that one document, I’d gained a lot more information about the family.

Armed with all this new information, I went back and searched again for Solomon and Estelle and Ralph in 1930, but again I could not find any of them.  But as I was searching, I decided to broaden the search beyond the US on the long shot that perhaps they had left the country in 1930.  I did not find them, but on familysearch.org I found a Robert Cole, born in Detroit, Michigan in 1917, whose parents were Solomon Monroe Cole and Estelle Spater.   I actually found four documents for him, all Brazilian immigration documents for different years for his business travel.  Here are two:

Robert Cole Brazilian immigration documents

Robert Cole Brazilian immigration documents

Robert Cole second immigration

I went back to the 1920 census again to see if I had missed a child named Robert in the household of Solomon and Estelle, but he was not there.  Just Ralph.  I checked the next page; no Robert Cole.  If he was born in 1917, where was he? I could not find him with or without his family in 1930 nor could I find him on the 1940 census, again using many different possible locations and variations on his name.  I even searched for all Roberts born in Detroit in 1917, but came up empty.

Then two days ago I went back once again to the 1920 census and decided to look at each page in the enumeration district where Sol, Estelle and Ralph Cohen were listed.  They were listed at the very bottom of page 4; Robert was not on page 5.  But this time I went on to page 6, and there he was at the top of that page, listed as part of the Newcombe household, but the name and age were Robert Cohen, three years old.  Obviously the census reporter had skipped a page and put Robert two pages after the rest of his family and then the indexer had treated him as the son of the family at the bottom of page 5, instead of the Cohen family on page 4.   I can’t tell you how much time I spent on that wild goose chase caused by one simple mistake in the census.

By using the city directory database on ancestry.com, I found all four members of the now-Cole family living in Columbus, Ohio, at the same address in a 1935 directory for that city. I’d been searching for them in Detroit and was surprised when they turned up in Columbus instead. I never would have thought to look at Columbus, Ohio, without some reason to think they had moved there.  Ralph was listed as a salesman; he would have been 28; Robert was listed as a student; he would have been eighteen.  Sol was listed as a manager, his spouse listed as Stella.

Coles on the 1935 Columbus, Ohio directory

Coles on the 1935 Columbus, Ohio directory

But were they still in Detroit in 1930? Or were they already in Columbus by then?  When had they left Detroit? I found Robert Cole on the Social Security Death Index and saw that he had died in Jupiter, Florida, so I searched for and found his obituary.  According to Robert’s obituary, he attended Grosse Point Academy outside Detroit before attending Brown University.  Since he probably graduated from high school in 1934 or 1935, the family probably had not been in Columbus for very long as of the time of that directory.  Also, I had found several yearbook entries for Ralph Cole at the University of Michigan and knew that he had graduated in 1928, so I assumed that the Coles were still residents of Michigan during that time period.

1928 University of Michigan yearbook Ancestry.com. U.S. School Yearbooks [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

1928 University of Michigan yearbook
Ancestry.com. U.S. School Yearbooks [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Then yesterday I decided once more to try the 1930 census, figuring that if I could find an address where they had lived in Detroit close to 1930, it would turn up.  I had already searched for Sol Cohen and Sol Cole in Detroit directories between 1920 and 1935 and had had no luck.  So this time I figured I’d search for any Cole in Detroit in the city directory database.  I found that there were in fact Detroit directories in the ancestry.com database for the years 1930 and 1931.  Since no Sol Cole or Cohen had come up when I searched those, I searched for any Cole, found the directory pages that included anyone named Cole, downloaded those pages for 1930 and 1931, zoomed in, and sure enough Sol was in both.  Ancestry.com must have used an optical character reader to create the index of those directories, and looking at the indices for those two reveals the inadequacy of that method.  It’s mostly gibberish.  Obviously the small typeface and blurry image is too much of a challenge for an OCR.

Anyway, I was now very excited because I had evidence that Sol was still in Detroit in 1930 and 1931, and I had his address and his place of employment.  He was the vice president and general manager of Weil and Company.  Further research revealed that Weil and Company was a home furnishing store, selling furniture and home appliances.

Now armed with the home address for Sol, 5440 Cass Avenue in Detroit, I turned to stevemorse.org to find the right enumeration district in the 1930 census for that address in Detroit. I found the right district, I even found the right pages with the listing of residents at that address.  It was the Belcrest Hotel, a large residential hotel that catered to wealthy residents,  according to Wikipedia.  There were many residents, but not one was named Sol Cole or Sol Cohen.  The closest were Max and Sadie Cohn.  So where were the Coles?  I’ve concluded that they either moved there after the census was taken in 1930 or that for some reason they just were missed by the census taker.

"BelcrestDetroit" by Andrew Jameson - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BelcrestDetroit.jpg#mediaviewer/File:BelcrestDetroit.jpg

“BelcrestDetroit” by Andrew Jameson – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BelcrestDetroit.jpg#mediaviewer/File:BelcrestDetroit.jpg


So as of 1931 the family was still in Detroit, but by 1935 they were in Columbus.  Perhaps the family moved to Columbus in the 1930s for economic reasons.  It was the Depression, and Sol may have had to move to earn a living.  Maybe Weil and Company went out of business or Sol lost favor with its owner, Mrs. M.C. Weil. Or maybe they sent him to Columbus to expand the business. I noticed that many members of Estelle’s Detroit family—her Spater brothers—also left their home town before 1940.  Maybe things were particularly bad in Detroit.

Knowing that Sol was living in New York City in 1938, as seen on Ralph’s marriage license application, I was able to locate a death record for him in New York City on June 11, 1938, only six months after the date on that application.  I have not found a death record for Estelle, but I know she died between 1935 and January, 1938.  I have ordered Sol’s death certificate so perhaps that will tell me where he, and possibly Estelle, are buried.

I have not found Robert on the 1940 census, but Ralph did show up on the 1940 census, living in Indianapolis with his wife Lois and working as the head buyer in a department store.

Ralph and Lois Cole 1940 US cens

According to his obituary in the July 22, 1998 issue of the Indianapolis Jewish Post, he worked for 32 years for William H. Block and Company and retired in 1971.  He then was active as a volunteer for several organizations in the Indianapolis community as well as assistant business manager of Indianapolis Business Development Board for ten years after retiring.  His wife Lois died in April 14, 1997; according to her obituary in the April 23, 1997 issue of the Indianapolis Jewish Post, she had graduated from Wellesley College and had worked as a journalist for four years and had also been active in many community organizations.  Ralph Cole died the following year on July 17, 1998 at age 91. Ralph and Lois had two children.

Robert Cole died ten years later on February 28, 2008. He also was 91. He had retired to Jupiter, Florida.   His obituary in the Palm Beach Post of March 4, 2008, reported that he had been Executive Vice President at McCann Erickson, the global advertising agency, where he worked for 28 years and been in charge of Latin American operations.  After he retired, he volunteered for the International Executive Services Corp.  Robert also had two children.

I am left with just a few more questions.

  1. Why did the Cole family move to Columbus in the 1930s?
  1. Why was Solomon in New York City in 1938, as stated on Ralph’s marriage application? How long had he lived there?
  1. When did Estelle die, and where are Sol and Estelle buried?

Fortunately, I am in touch with a couple of Sol and Estelle’s descendants and am hoping that perhaps together we can find the answers to those remaining questions.

As you can see, it took a lot of false starts, dead ends, jumps and turns, and a lot of different sources to learn the story of Solomon Monroe Cohen/Cole and his family.  That’s what makes this both so much fun and so challenging.

Skyline along the Detroit International Riverfront

Skyline along the Detroit International Riverfront (Photo credit: Wikipedia)