Since 1917, the Capitol Hill Barber Shop has been a landmark, first in what is called the 100 block of Independence Avenue SE (it used to be B Street), and is currently -- since 1961 -- at 209 Pennsylvania Ave SE.
It's my sad duty to report that the landmark barber shop will close on Saturday, a victim of changing styles and rising real estate values. In a phrase: hair got longer, clients got fewer and rents got higher.
So Patrick Donoghue has decided to shut down and go to work for the Stanton Park barber shop -- one of the last of its kind in the eastern half of the city, he says -- at 601 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Saturday will be his last day on Pennsylvania Avenue, which he likens from its steady stream of traffic to the Atlantic City Boardwalk.
The shop was a bit of a showplace in two different ways. Its walls contained pictures of every Redskins team through history, and some Washington Senators baseball teams as well. And, since the shop was and remains a stopping-off spot for D.C. police officers taking a break, he assembled a spectacular collection of police shoulder patches from around the land. The cop stops, incidentally, helped make the 200 block of Pennsylvania Avenue SE one of the best-protected daytime places in town.
Pat Donoghue grew up in Washington, attended the old Saint Anthony's High School at 12th and Monroe streets NE, went to barber school, then in 1950 joined the late Phil Manuel, who founded the Capitol Hill Barber Shop in 1917. It was then a block to the west in what was called, both mockingly and affectionately, Ptomaine Row -- a block with many restaurants where the Madison Building of the Library of Congress now stands.
Donoghue took over from Manuel in 1970 and for years had five barbers working for him. Those were the days when men got haircuts every week, for $1.75. (His current price is $5.) As long hair became fashionable, and as his barbers died or left, Donoghue's trade dwindled to the point where he now is alone.
Despite subsidized competition from congressional barber shops, Donoghue said he has enjoyed patronage from legislators. Among those whose hair he has cut was Rep. John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.).
There was no word what will replace the barber shop. The building is now owned by Stuart Long, the restaurateur whose holdings include the nearby Jenkins Hill restaurant. Donoghue said he holds no grudge against Long; he recognizes it was a decision based upon economics.