The Georgetowner’s March Through History . . . and Georgetown

January 29, 2014

As The Georgetowner newspaper
closes in on its 60th Anniversary, it
seems fitting that your town crier
will be relocating to new digs, of
course, in Georgetown. Unlike other newspapers
that call Georgetown theirs, this is the only
newspaper that makes its home in Georgetown
— and has for six decades, albeit at 14 different
locations in the community.

The Georgetowner newspaper was the brainchild
of Ami C. Stewart, who at the age of 66,
began publishing it on Oct. 7, 1954. She knew
the newspaper business; she was a longtime
advertising representative for the Washington
Evening Star. Her sales territory was Georgetown
and its surrounding environs. She dreamed of
starting a newspaper for Georgetown for several
years when, with great encouragement from the
Randolph sisters, owners of Little Caledonia, a
small department store of delightful surprises at
1419 Wisconsin Ave., N.W. It was on the second
floor in Little Caledonia, where Ami Stewart created
Volume 1, Number 1, of the newspaper. It
was The Georgetowner’s first address.

Some of us still cannot get used to the idea that
there is no Little Caledonia in Georgetown. Then
again, most of the shops that existed here in 1954
are long gone: Neam’s Market, Dorcas Hardin,
Dorothy Stead, Baylor Furniture, Little Flower
Shop, Doc Dalinsky’s Georgetown Pharmacy,
Chez Odette, Rive Gauche, the French Market,
the Food Mart, Magruder’s, Muriel Mafrige, the
Georgetown University Shop and on and on. All
have left us. But The Georgetowner marches on.

Soon after its founding, Stewart moved
into 1204 Wisconsin Ave., NW. The building
was headquarters for the National Bank
of Washington. The Georgetowner occupied a
small room in the back, one desk, two chairs,
one window. Riggs Farmers & Mechanics Bank
was across the street. Both banks are long gone.
Our third location was 3019 M St., NW. We were
next to a funeral home. We, however, lived on.

Stewart finally found an office more to her
liking. It was situated at 1610 Wisconsin Ave.,
NW. Ami and her right-hand gal Sue Buffalo
ran the newspaper from these premises for close
to eight years. The staff also included Carol
Watson, a wonderful artist; Marilyn Houston,
who wrote many articles of historic interest;
and a young man, fresh out of the army, Randy
Roffman, my older brother. It was he who drew
me into the wonderful world of Ami C. Stewart.
I never would have guessed at the time that I
would spend the next 42 years with the newspaper,
but it happened.

In the early 1970s, with Ami’s health failing,
we moved to 1201 28th St., N.W. The lone brick
building at that corner was our home for the next
8 years. From our second floor windows, we
watched the construction of the Four Seasons
Hotel across M Street. We also witnessed the
mass arrest of the yippees who tried to shut down
the government in May 1971, protesting the
Vietnam War. They marched en masse down M
Street from Key Bridge. They were arrested and
put in huge detaining trucks right below our windows.
I remember a National Guardsman yelling
at us to get away from our window and quit taking
photographs. Protestors who were rounded
up were transported to RFK Stadium where
they were held for processing. (The May Day
1971 protests in Washington, D.C., provoked the
largest-ever mass arrest in American history with
more 12,000 individuals detained.)

Our sixth location was on the third floor
above Crumpet’s, a pastry shop in the 1200 block
of Wisconsin Avenue. John and Carol Wright
were the owners. This was when writer Gary
Tischler joined the staff. Britches of Georgetown
was a few doors away. Billy Martin’s Tavern
was across the street, as was Swensen’s Ice
Cream Parlor. (There was formerly Stohlman’s
Ice Cream Parlor, now memorialized at the
Smithsonian’s Museum of American History.)
Climbing those three flights of stairs was rough,
especially when balancing two cups of coffee
and four Danish. We survived.

A few years later, we moved across the street
to 1254 Wisconsin Ave., NW, to the third floor
above Swensen’s. It was the final years of disco,
and Michael O’Harro’s Tramp’s Discotheque
was closing. The Key Theatre, next to Roy
Rogers at the corner of Prospect and Wisconsin,
had them lined up around the block each weekend
night for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
After several years high atop Swensen’s, we had
to move again.

You might be asking yourself at this point,
why did you move so often? Usually, it had to
do with the landlord renting out the entire building
to a new tenant. Because we were second- or
third-floor occupants on short leases, well, we
had to go.

Our next location was Hamilton Court, the
beautiful courtyard developed by Al Voorhees.
The courtyard was fronted by a row of new
storefronts which included the Old Print Gallery,
Cliff and Michelle Kranick’s gallery, an antiquarian
book store, and Ann Brinkley’s antiques
store. Behind it was a series of spacious offices,
of which we occupied one at the rear of the
courtyard. We enjoyed our stay here, the setting
was in the heart of Georgetown across the street
from our beloved, landmark post office. But we
had to leave when the architectural firm above us
had to expand … into our space.

We next occupied the top floor of the
Georgetown Electric shop on M Street, next to
Old Glory restaurant. Spacious quarters indeed,
and once again we climbed a lot of stairs every
day. But we were close to Harold’s Deli, the
Food Mart and Nathans. What more could we
ask for?

While running the newspaper from
these quarters, we also founded and ran the
Georgetown Visitor’s Center in Georgetown
Court off Prospect Street. Robert Elliott, owner
and landlord of the courtyard, gave us the space
rent free, the merchants chipped in and afforded
us the opportunity to publish brochures and pamphlets.
Robert Devaney joined our staff at this
point in the early 1990s.

When Duke Rohr closed the GE shop, we
moved once again. This time we returned to
familiar digs at 1610 Wisconsin Ave., NW, way
up the hill. We felt so removed from everything.
The block had changed drastically. There was a
7-Eleven at the corner of Que and Wisconsin,
the legendary French Market was gone and
Appalachian Spring crafts had moved down the
street. We felt like strangers up there.

We moved after five years, down to 1410
Wisconsin, another empty upper floor spacious
room, with no wiring. It dawned on us that we
had probably wired half the second and third
floor buildings on M or Wisconsin by this time.
Thank goodness for Randy Reed Electric.

While at 1410, Sonya Bernhardt joined the
staff at The Georgetowner. In 1998, Sonya
became the third publisher and owner of The
Georgetowner. Many offices, few publishers:
Ami C. Stewart, David Roffman and Sonya

The Georgetowner moved to its 13th location
in 2001. The building at 1054 Potomac St., NW,
had once been the home of Georgetown’s first
mayor. Now it housed “the newspaper whose
influence far exceeds its size” – as well as the
Georgetown Media Group, which publishes The
Georgetowner and The Downtowner newspapers
and their websites. From late 2001 until this
week, the offices were at this address.

Now, as we near our 60th anniversary, we are
in the process of moving once again, to the northwest
corner of 28th and M, the building which
once housed American Needlework and then
Schrader Sound — not to mention the Bryn Mawr
Bookshop and the office of Captain Peter Belin,
famed president of the Citizens Association of
Georgetown. Lots of history here. We hope to
see you there and all around town when we set
up our business office in February.

Find us at our new address:
Georgetown Media Group, Inc.
2801 M Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20007
202-338-4834 (fax)
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