Mary Z. Gray in childhood and at the time of the lecture

301 East Capitol: Tales from the Heart of the Hill

March 18, 2012
What was it like to live on Capitol Hill nine decades ago? On March 18, 2012, Mary Z. Gray brought that era back to life in her Overbeck History Lecture based on readings from her new book "301 East Capitol: Tales From the Heart of the Hill".

The 93-year-old author recalled a neighborhood served by lamplighter, iceman and horse-drawn produce wagon, where a child could wander at will around the Capitol grounds and within the Capitol itself. She recounted being taken to the White House in1925 to meet President Coolidge and described her colorful family, who had lived on the Hill for five generations.

Gray grew up above her family's inherited funeral parlor at 301 East Capitol Street, a building owned today by the Folger Shakespeare Library. A writer all her adult life, she got her first byline in The Washington Post in 1940, served as a speechwriter in the Kennedy-Johnson White House, and contributed witty articles to The Post, The New York Times and other publications for over half a century.

In 2007 she was contacted by Overbeck Project volunteers who were seeking an oral history interview. The encounter led instead to her writing 301 East Capitol, which was published in 2011 by a newly launched Overbeck History Press.

Past Lectures