Dr. Jack Lynch is a third-generation Georgetowner whose grandfather was a physician and whose father was a pharmacist here. In his interview with Ronda Bernstein, he tells stories of Georgetown when it was a small village – with milk delivered by horse-drawn carts – and its transformation into a bustling social hub with the entrance of the Kennedy administration. Coming from a large family (all seven siblings were born at Georgetown Hospital), Dr. Lynch’s memories cover a large variety of topics about growing up in Georgetown. “We used to roller skate because all the streets were macadam. It was great for roller skates. Just next to Martin’s many years ago, there was a garage. You could skate into the garage where the Gap is now and use the oil can to oil up your skates and get back on the streets.” And, talking about school days, he recalls “On lunch time we’d go out to the trestle where the street cars went over to go to Glen Echo and climb up in there and stick our heads up when the street car was coming and try and frighten the driver. My parents would have killed me if they knew….”
Ronda Bernstein: This is Ronda Bernstein, it’s Saturday, August 15. I’m interviewing Dr. Jack Lynch at his home in the Cloisters at 3719 Winfield Lane in Northwest Washington. Let us start with, when and where you were born, and then tell me about your parents one more time?
Dr. John Lynch: I was born at the old Georgetown Hospital at 35th and N Street on November 5, 1928. At that time, my father was a general practitioner and his office was in the home at 3120 N Street Northwest which was right off of Wisconsin Avenue. We lived there until 1931 or 1932 and he decided to go to Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York to train as an obstetrician and gynecologist. We returned 18 months later and he continued his office there until 1939, when we moved to Connecticut and Wyoming [Avenues], near what is currently one of the Hilton Hotels. Georgetown, as I remember was a small village with lots of shops along Wisconsin Avenue.
One place that I remember is going to get ice cream was the ice cream factory called Fuzzle Young. That was right on the northwest corner of Wisconsin and N, 3200 Block N Street, on the south side of the street was a horse garage for the Chestnut Farm and Chevy Chase Dairy. Their main operation was down on Pennsylvania Avenue, just as you would come across the bridge and M Street turned into Pennsylvania Avenue.
Ronda: Was this for delivering milk?
Dr. Lynch: Delivering milk, yes. They were one of the major dealers at that time. They were there until I can’t remember how long but certainly, for many, many years. I went to school at the Holy Trinity Catholic School at 36th and N Street. I went through the first, second and third grades there until we moved and we went to Saint Thomas the Apostle Grammar School across the Wardman Park Hotel. Life in Georgetown was pleasant. We had a grocery store on the corner called Fisher’s which my mother used to send us to get hamburger meat, ground twice. It was sort of self‑contained life in Georgetown. My grandfather, William Jay O’Donnell was born as a second generation, or really first generation, at Four‑and‑a‑half Street Southeast on Saint Dominic’s Church.
Ultimately, he lived on 30th Street in Georgetown between N and O on the north side of the street. That’s where my mother was born. She never really was very fond of Georgetown. She never appreciated that it was a great place to live. She couldn’t get out fast enough on two occasions that we moved out. After my father died, my grandfather though it would be a wise idea to come back. My mother was a widow at 36. Aged 36 with seven children, I was the oldest.
Everybody knew everybody else from Georgetown. We lived right next door to the Kings. William King who owned King Coal company down on the K Street, right next to where Maloney Concrete was in those days. It has long since it was moved out there, K Street was sort of a ‑ that wasn’t the great place to be.
Ronda: K Street in Georgetown or K Street in…
Dr. Lynch: K Street in Georgetown.
Dr. Lynch: One of my memories as a child, I don’t know whether it was ’35 or exactly when it was though it was one of the major floods. The water came up, half‑way up at Wisconsin Avenue between K and M. I remember my father taking us and showing us the water. My grandfather was a pharmacist by apprenticeship. He never went to school for that. He owned three drugstores on three different corners in Georgetown. Two banks bought him out; it was the Riggs Bank that was his first drugstore to the best of my recollection at Wisconsin and M Street on the northeast corner. When they bought him out, he moved to the northwest corner.
His last drugstore was at the corner of Wisconsin and M on the southwest. On the year I was born, I think he sold out to The People’s drugstore which was a chain drugstore. That subsequently became the Rive Gauche, which was probably the first fancy French restaurant in Washington. I don’t remember the year; it may have been sometime around 1957 or maybe even a little earlier than that.
He also owned a little piece of property next door which was called the Mattress Factory. Sort of there’s two buildings combined and it had been at one time an old firehouse. After the Mattress Factory, we had an offer from a Boston restaurant company called Paparazzi where it currently is. It was a major redo of that property. I have somewhere the records of the architect who went through and pointed out a lot of things. There was a major construction done. That remained in the family until a few years ago when it was sold to the people that were the tenants. The Rive Gauche went out of business. I’m not sure what was in there directly after them, but now it’s the Banana Republic.
My grandfather also owned City Tavern, which I think was an old firehouse. He also, during his time, he sold medicine to the Capitol Traction Company which horses pulled the cars up to Capitol Hill. Also, the street car was running all the way from Georgetown to Rockville.
For one summer, one year, he had a farm out in Rockville. I’m trying to think of the name, it’s Montrose which was a community and a family all lived out there. He used to commute by street car. The street cars, when I was a youngster, they had switched from the electric current coming up through the street to the overhead when they would get up to Wisconsin and P. Then some of them would switch and go out towards Glen Echo. As the matter of fact, we used to go out in the open cars, in the street cars, and go to Glen Echo.
My grandfather’s sister, Aunt Nell, owned a drugstore at Wisconsin and probably Q, no not Q, P. My grandfather’s mother… There were two boys in the family, James and William, the mother was very much of a very strong matriarch. She made the boys buy drugstores for all of the daughters, so I think there were four or five of them and one at the drugstore over in southeast on Pennsylvania Avenue. As I said, Aunt Nell had one there.
But, my grandfather was said to have owned 28 pieces of property in Georgetown. He was a little bit of a slum landlord. He owned, I think it was Bell’s Court which was later, many years later, written up in National Geographic on the Volta Place.
I remember him taking my brothers and me in there occasionally to clean up. In my recollection, there was no electricity initially, and no inside plumbing. It was not a very nice place. He also owned a couple of pieces of property on 35th Street, right across from Visitation. One of those was his wife’s father who fell upon hard‑times, Anthony Allan, who owned a fancy grocery store, I think at Wisconsin and O, on the northwest corner. My grandfather was great for getting things as cheaply as he could. He’d go to auctions or when people go out of business. He was well‑known in Georgetown.
At that time when I was a youngster, he was living off 16th Street on Blagden Avenue on 4801 Blagden which is where Blagden and Decatur came together and they actually had two addresses, 4801 Blagden, 1625 Decatur but he came to Georgetown everyday to look at his properties and there was a real estate agent here, his name is escapes me. He ran an office on Wisconsin Avenue, probably right near where the Third Edition is. She managed all these properties that he rented out. One was a hardware store down at M Street. I think he also may have acquired the PT Moran Feed Company. Mrs. Moran, Aunt Annie, was one of his sisters. There was this famous surgeon, Pete Moran or Dr. Robert Emmett Moran who was his nephew.
One of his sisters owned all the property. There are nine houses right across from the main campus at Georgetown they call it The Nine Fridays. Also, one of the sisters owns the property, probably between ‑ I could show you the buildings. I’ve never remember the names of street. It’s 28th or 29th and Q. That building is still there.
Ronda: Is it one of the apartment building?
Dr. Lynch: Probably apartment buildings, yes.
Ronda: Was it the Stoddard?
Dr. Lynch: I think it might have been. It was one of those. We moved out of Georgetown permanently when I was in high school. We came back once and then my mother was able to convince me to move to Chevy Chase Village on Kirkside Drive which was just across the District line.
Many, many years later, when I was married to my first wife, we had raised our five children at Rittenhouse and Nevada up in Chevy Chase. Most of them were gone except one and so we came back to Georgetown at 3325 N streets, which was allegedly where the guy that was the publisher of the Post, Ben Bradley, allegedly lived there. I don’t know whether he did or he didn’t. When he got divorced and re‑married, he moved next door allegedly and had a door put it in the house so the children could come over to the other house. Whether that’s true or apocryphal, I’m not sure.
Ronda: Was there actually a door?
Dr. Lynch: Not when we were there. We moved in probably 1984 or 1985 and the owner before said they’d done extensive remodeling. So a lot of the things that was original were not there but that house was built in 1891. I always thought that was one of the greatest blocks in Georgetown. I really, really enjoyed being there. My wife, unfortunately, became demented and we had to move out to an all one‑story area. She died in 2001 but she loved Georgetown. I agreed that I would move there if she found a place for me to park. That was not an easy chore, but she did find somebody that was renting right off 34th Street, next to a house. The guy had space there in the alley.
Then when that house changed hands, I got a space at the back of the alley, further down the alley. It was while we living there that Mrs. Heinz started going out with Senator Kerry. So we had a lot of activity.
Actually, the garage and the alley that was on our original property didn’t belong to us. A lot of the people during the Depression sold those garages, and Georgetown University bought a lot of them. I think people actually lived in them because some of them had chimneys.
Ronda: This is on the alley behind the N Street?
Dr. Lynch: Yes, the alley between N and O, between 33rd and 34th. A lot of pretty famous people lived along that block. There’s Jackie Kennedy and Jack Kennedy’s place was there next to the last house. In the last house, it had been a fraternity for Georgetown for many, many, many years. The next block down on 3200 block, I think it’s 3200, was where the famous author just died a few years lived in one of those houses. I think there was a female author that lived in those places. There was the son of the famous woman who had a line of beauty products, I’m trying to think of a name. She lived in that block too, well, he did, her son did up until just fairly recently.
It was an interesting place. One of the places I remember from childhood was Conner’s Bar and Grill which is at Wisconsin and O. That’s where the famous Russian spy had come over to the country, but then he escaped from his handler. Ultimately, he was sent back to Russia. The Russians caught up with him in New York. He never actually went to the Russian embassy.
Later in life, after I went to college and medical school in the army, I ended up as a resident at Mount Alto which is the site where the Russian embassy is now. That was an all girl school, before it was a hospital. I never could figure out why the country sold that property, or allowed that property to be sold to the Russians because it allegedly is one of the highest sites in DC. Although when I moved to, years later after my wife died, I moved to Tenley Hill, that was supposed to be one of the highest sites. I’m not sure what the truth was.
Georgetown’s always been a favorite place of mine. As children we used to go to the Dumbarton Theater or movie house. We would see a double feature, a serial, and the news.
Ronda: Is that the one that’s on Wisconsin?
Dr. Lynch: The one on Wisconsin is a Jewel boutique, not boutique, but it is sort of a jewel mall in there. So I was sorry see the place go. The last movie I saw in there, I was married and had children, was a Woody Allen movie. I can’t remember which one it was. I have a cousin, Bill Donahue who has an antique shop on O Street just in from the corner. And another cousin, his brother, Matt Donahue, who probably knows a lot about Georgetown and somebody may want to be in touch with him. He had an office on the second floor on the corner right on the building where there use to be a drugstore, Dr. Linski who was a friend of everybody’s. Buchwald used to hang out in there. This was after my childhood.
My Uncle‑in‑law Matthew E. Donahue Sr., who had a general practice on 35th Street right across from Visitation, right across from that field. That house is now for sale for over a couple of million dollars. The house that we lived in, 3120, I don’t know what my father paid for it but when my mother sold it about 19 ‑ probably I would say when I was in college so probably in the late ’40’s – she got $25,000.00 for it. It has since gone for over couple of million dollars now, people will put some stuff in there. When we lived there on the top floor they still had the gaslight fixtures. No gas in them, but those fixtures are still there.
It was not unusual to see, when there were big parades downtown, that the horses from Fort Myer would parade, come down N Street because, N rather than M because M was so crowded. We used to see horses all the time. Actually as I mentioned, they still delivered milk.
I can remember as the child the horse‑drawn carts, little bit fancier than carts. It was an interesting place to be. We used to roller skate because all the streets were cadum. It was great for roller skates. Right where, just next to Martin’s, not Martin’s, Martin’s has been there before I was born. I had my first martini at Martins, many years ago, there was a garage. You could skate into the garage where the Gap is now and use the oil can to oil up your skates and get back on the streets.
Ronda: What was the material that the streets were using?
Dr. Lynch: Cadum. It was not concrete. It’s a dark stuff and this one is very smooth and it is great for roller skating.
Dr. Lynch: Another person who is a few years older than I am lived right across the street. His name is Dick Curtin. His father was a guard down at the district building. He is still living. I think he lives up in Burlieth somewhere. He will be a great source of information.
Ronda: Do you know how to spell the last name?
Dr. Lynch: C‑U‑R‑T‑I‑N. First name is Richard. He is a junior. But he used to take me to school, walk me to school when I was in the first and second grades. Or if he didn’t, my mother did. My father insisted on that. On lunch time we’d go out to the trestle where the street cars went over to go to Glen Echo and climb up in there and stick our heads up when the street car was coming and try and frighten the driver. My parents would have killed me if they…. [laughter]
I remember the old Georgetown Hospital in emergency room which was right on, the windows where right on N street. There on the 3400 block of N street. I remember this was either the second or the third grade, they were still building the cathedral. A number of workers fell off this scaffolding or the scaffolding crashed. The ambulance brought down to Georgetown. We all, few of us went across the street.
We are looking in the windows. The nurses slammed the windows down. I don’t know how many of those people died, or how many lived but it was sort of an exciting thing for a youngster. My father practiced at the hospital so he used to take us on rounds. The nuns would give us candies, goodies and things.
Ronda: The Georgetown Hospital was it at that time related to the University as well?
Dr. Lynch: Absolutely. It had been. I don’t know how old the hospital was but the hospital moved to the current site in 1947, probably April or May, somewhere around there. I don’t know exactly, I’m not sure. It was great move. The foreign service, it’s used now, part of it is used for foreign service school on 36th Street side but now there’s dormitories there. Excuse me. It was a place where we would not infrequently go with our father. In where the 1789 was, was a, I think they called it the Hilltop Restaurant, a couple of pictures in here. [shows pictures in a book] That’s where Flag is now, Tombs downstairs and the 1789 which was the year Georgetown was…
Dr. Lynch: Yes. Cooley is the guy who first started that. It’s now part of all the Clyde’s arrangement, I think.
Ronda: Right, so this is the “Nostalgic Views of Washington DC”. It’s published by Arcadia Publishing for Boarders Group. Are there other pictures in this book of Georgetown?
Dr. Lynch: There’s one other here that I think it relates too ‑ This is just a view actually from Georgetown probably from the Healey Building.
Ronda: Which building is the Healey Building? Is that the main building?
Dr. Lynch: The Healey Building is the main building as you go around on 37th street. I said those houses are right across… The Nine Fridays were owned by of my great aunts, and one of my two childhood friends, one who remained a friend until he died last year lived in and grew up in those houses, in two of the houses. They were kind of small but one of the family’s was pretty big.
Ronda: Let me ask you a couple of questions, it’s about your grandfather.
Dr. Lynch: Sure.
Ronda: You said he originally lived over in southwest…
Dr. Lynch: He was born and raised in southwest, in the same neighborhood as Al Jolson, Kate Smith, and he went to Saint Dominic’s, Saint Dominic’s grade school.
Ronda: Do you know what year he was born?
Dr. Lynch: He died in 1960 and he was 86. I haven’t done the math lately. His father was a hack driver. His mother had two husbands. When she came over from Ireland, she didn’t know whether she was going to be a nurse girl or find some man to marry her.
Ronda: He had, how many children did your mother have?
Dr. Lynch: There were seven of them.
Dr. Lynch: They lost a set of twins. There is my mother, Angela, my aunt Catherine, my aunt Claire, my aunt Mary Jane, my aunt Margaret and my uncle Jay Hannan O’Donnell, and William Jay O’Donnell Jr. who was a meter reader for the Gas company.
Ronda: Did they also live in Georgetown?
Dr. Lynch: No, my mother did and some of the girls did. My father moved out, my grandfather moved out of Georgetown. They have a place off Connecticut Avenue, Woodley, and then they’d spend a year out of Montrose at a farm. He during the Depression bought the house at 4801 Blagden Place, for a song. He never paid what it was worth. That’s the way he was. That mirror he bought at auction. I don’t know how much he paid for it. Everything he bought, he bought it at auction, get the cheapest price. He never did figure. He had a place down in southern Maryland, Plinny Point. There was a merchant down there, Swans who has a general store. So every summer when we would go down, first go down to Plinny Point, we would stop at the hinges factory or distributor and buy a bunch of goods and he would use Swans’ name so you can get the cut right. I think there is some people in town when they saw it coming they jack the price up and then take it down to the regular price was. He thought he was getting a deal.
Ronda: That’s interesting. Your father wasn’t originally from Washington?
Dr. Lynch: No. He was from New Haven, Connecticut. He came down and worked for my grandfather while he’s going to medical school. That’s how he met my mother.
Ronda: You lived at N Street, originally. How many of your brothers and sisters, you had?
Dr. Lynch: There were seven of us. All of us were born at Georgetown except my sister, Mary Margaret who was in Brooklyn in Kings County. She was an infant when we came back. I guess my brother, Tom, who now lives in Warrow and he owns a Ford company dealership; he was probably an infant when we went up. I’m sure he was an infant because they were only a year apart.
Ronda: Did all of you go to Holy Trinity except when you moved?
Dr. Lynch: Some of them started at Saint Thomas’ and some ended up at Blessed Sacrament. My brother Tom and I went to Gonzaga. I got out in ’47, he got out in ’49. My brother Bill who started at Priory and then was at Central and then graduated from Western High.
Ronda: You have three brothers and three sisters?
Dr. Lynch: Yes. One of my brothers died of lung cancer about 10 years ago.
Ronda: What were your sisters’ names?
Dr. Lynch: Mary Margaret, Mary Angela, Catherine, no it was Kay.
Ronda: Did they stay in Georgetown as well?
Dr. Lynch: No. Nobody came back to Georgetown except me.
Ronda: Where was your practice?
Dr. Lynch: I started practicing 1964 when I started at Washington Hospital Center. At that time, when I first went in practice I was probably the second or third medical oncologist in town. At first I went in practice, I’d go to Holy Cross, Suburban, Sibley. Then later I went to, when I had somebody join my practice he was apprenticed at Doctor’s, so I practiced at Doctors’ also. That whole neighborhood changed. I worked from in high school, starting the second year of high school, I worked at Maxwell and Tennyson at 1835 High Street which was what we call those days a professional drug store, no soda fountain or food, it was just prescriptions and a few cosmetics and over the counter medicines.
I worked there regularly all through high school. When I went to college up on Mount Saint Mary’s in Emmittsburg, I would work on holidays and on weekends, not on all weekends but on the Christmas vacation and in the summer time until I graduated and then shortly after I graduated in June of `51 and I went to the army in October of `51 got out in October of `53.
Ronda: Is that Korea?
Dr. Lynch: That was Korea. I never went to Korea. I actually ‑it’s a long story. I was supposed to go to Korea. My sister had a friend whose father was a Colonel in the Air Force he’s not a pilot. I asked if he could get me flight from Washington DC to Fort Walton in Washington which was the port of embarkation because it would take me four or five days to go by a train. It just would mean I have more time off. So he wrote a letter stating that my mother was a widow and it would be nice if I could stay near home. I ended up at Walter Reed but all my records have been shipped what they called FECOM, Far East Command. So they couldn’t assign me, they said, to any duty, any special place that I was, I was on extra duty. I would pick up trash, clean offices, help move the generals and the colonels out of the houses because they were building the Armed Forces Institution of Pathology and they were tearing down these houses.
I ended up getting assigned to the blood bank on the campus. It was a tough life in the sense that I had my army friends. I had my family and I had my friends here. So, I was exhausted. There was never a free time for myself. The army in the public health service had a project at the Federal prison in Atlanta, they had projects in all the prisons, and they would use the army enlisted personnel for technicians and the public health supply.
The doctors, I was not a doctor, I was a private in the army but they transferred me to the prison in Atlanta. I actually lived about a block away. It turned out that I lived in a boarding house and the woman who rented was the widow of the prior commander of the guards at the prison. She was quite a person.
I was down there and they sent me to school with CDC [Center for Disease Control], which taught me how to read malaria slides. The project they were doing, see malaria was a real problem in Korea and they were working on new drugs.
They would give the prisoners the drugs. They’d give them malaria, either by directly injecting them with malaria cells or getting malaria, doing it with mosquitoes who were infected because in Milledgeville, Georgia, there was a 10,000 bed mental institution and they would treat tertiary syphilis by giving them malaria so the fevers would go fairly high up with the thought that that might kill off the malaria cells in the brain.
It didn’t work but they tried it. We used the mosquitoes too. It was very interesting year but I was happy to get out. I spent a full year there.
Ronda: Right. And then you came back to Washington?
Dr. Lynch: I came back to Washington yeah and then took me in the year to get into medical school. I got out in October so I certainly wasn’t going to get in until the following year. But I did, I actually applied to every medical school in the country. I think there was only 76 then. I don’t think it required more than $5.00 to apply. Now it’s just $50.00 or whatever it is, but I’ve had a good life and married another wonderful woman.
Ronda: Great. When did you all get married?
Dr. Lynch: It will be four years in March.
Ronda: Have you lived here?
Dr. Lynch: Let’s say three years. No. We got married in March. We moved here in June. We both had apartments, that’s how I met her. We both had apartments, condos in the same building. We liked the building and we try to deal with the people in either side. If we could got on either side we could have joined them, we could opened them up.
Ronda: Which building was that because you have been back on N Street, different house?
Dr. Lynch: From N Street then my wife was taken ill, we moved to condo in Arlington. In Washington if you were a native Washingtonian you just don’t cross that bridge to live. Plus it was a pain in the neck because my life totally revolved around getting across. Either I would go out 66 in to Constitution Avenue but traffic was horrendous. After she died, my daughter who was in real estate found this place. It is a brand new condo, small building and it was at 4750 45th Street which one block off of Wisconsin Avenue. So we moved here. It turned out that my son‑in‑law works as an accountant for Pepco. A friend that he worked with, a woman who is a lawyer, she didn’t want to fool around with putting the house in the market. She was getting married. He heard about it and he came down to looked at it and said, yeah this would fit our needs.
Ronda: Now, how old would you say…?
Dr. Lynch: These houses are 23 or 24 years old. The ones up 35th Street is a little bit older, a year or two but when we moved in we had to, sort of bought it as is. My wife was very concerned. I said, “well you know, as is, we’ll find out how much we need and we’ll do it” because the price was right. So, we put on a new roof, put in a new hot heater, put in a new washer and dryer. Ultimately we put on elevator, which adds to the value. Put in all new windows, which made a huge difference in terms of noise, primarily. I mean, it’s just unbelievable because there’s a huge amount of traffic with these buses go by. If I had a basement, the wall will be cracked by now. These houses sit on a concrete block. But they are very nice.
Ronda: Now, the house at 3120 N Street, did you all have the whole house?
Dr. Lynch: Yes. It was a basement that had been done over and rented out. So it made a nice little office and sitting room. I had a modified kitchen and a first floor, which consisted of a living room, a small kitchen and a dining room. The second floor was three bedrooms and the fourth floor was sort of an attic that turned into one bedroom. It was more than adequate for us. We were fortunate, none of our children came back to live, although one daughter who is a nurse came back to live with us for a year when she got a masters’ degree at Georgetown. Another son and daughter in between moving from one house to another stayed with us for a few months. But it was not a problem.
Ronda: Is that the house you lived in with your wife? That’s 33….
Dr. Lynch: That’s 3325. Somebody has moved in since that is a friend or acquaintance of my daughter and they’ve gutted the whole place so they made it very modernistic. I’ve not been in, I’d love to get in and see it.
Ronda: How long would you say you lived at 3325?
Dr. Lynch: Approximately `84 to about 1999.
Ronda: Were your children little?
Dr. Lynch: Everybody was either in college. My youngest daughter was a junior I think at Visitation.
Dr. Lynch: So she was the only one really home. Audio Ends.
Conversation continued after audio ended. Notes taken during this time are found below.
All of his daughters attended Visitation, just as all the other women in the family had.
He and his friends would ride the trolley to Glen Echo. It felt great when it was hot, riding there in the open air trolley with their arms out the window. Sometimes they would just ride the trolley to the end of the line and back. If you walked down the “Exorcist” steps to the former Car Barn, you could buy trolley tickets for 3 each in a book of ten.
After his father dies, his mother moved the family back to 3120 N Street. At one point, when he was in high school, his mother rented the top floor to Ed Brennan and his wife while he was a student at Georgetown School of Foreign Service. The couple would often have dinner with the family. They were more like family friends than boarders. He and his friends would walk up to Montrose Park. The Home for the Blind was on R Street and they would see me walking up and down 31st Street with their white canes.