If you're a longtime Washingtonian who walks only occasionally through familiar parts of the city, it's possible nowadays to get totally disoriented. I strolled recently up 13th Street from the Federal Triangle, looking toward massive construction projects, and felt myself in a different world of new buildings.
But when I turned left onto G Street, where the ambience dominated by lovely old Epiphany Episcopal Church is comfortably familiar, something had disappeared without a trace: a parking lot now occupies the site where the old Presidential Arms once stood.
The Presidential Arms? Oldtimers will remember it as the City Club, an ambitious and impressive four-story building erected by a men's organization in 1921 as a place for businessmen and officials to eat and discuss public affairs. An old Washington Board of Trade publication unearthed by the Washingtoniana Division of the D.C. Public Library said it was a fountainhead of support for the city's still-sought goal of congressional representation.
In 1931, in the depths of the Depression, the club failed. The building later was occupied by government offices. In 1955, a new owner converted it into a hall for catered luncheons, dinners and other events. One of my most memorable early assignments for this newspaper occurred there.
But downtown was on its pre-Metro downslide, and the place closed. In recent years, except for ground-floor retailers (including the University Shop menswear store) it was a bleak, hollow relic. Now another piece of old Washington is gone.