Cornice of 301 East Capitol Street. Photo: John Franzén

301 East Capitol: Growing Up on the Hill in the 1920s

November 8, 2009
On the afternoon of November 8, 2009, writer Mary Z. Gray read excerpts from her forthcoming memoirs and answered questioned about growing up on Capitol Hill in the 1920s.

Born Mary Zurhorst in 1919, Ms. Gray spent her childhood living above the Zurhorst funeral parlor at 301 East Capitol Street (which now houses offices of the Folger Shakespeare Library) among a quirky and memorable extended family, which had inhabited the Hill for four generations. Her book vividly recalls a neighborhood served by gas lamps and trolley cars, iceman and ragman, produce peddler and the “Lavender Lady,” and explores a family mystery that took five decades to unravel.

Gray’s long career as a reporter, writer and editor included service as a White House speech writer in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and the frequent contribution of droll personal essays to the Washington Post and the New York Times, some of which appear in her 1984 book Ah, Bewilderness!: Muddling Through Life With Mary Z. Gray.

The Overbeck History Project actively encouraged Ms. Gray in the writing of her memoirs and served as the book's publisher.

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