The Literary Hill

Architectural historian Kim Prothro Williams uncovers DC’s rural past in a new book on our lost agrarian landscape.

Of the Farm
When Kim Prothro Williams stumbled upon a stone springhouse on the grounds of the Lowell School in Northwest, she sensed it had a story to tell. In fact, she discovered that the 1801 structure was part of a pre-Civil War farm that grew oats, wheat, and rye—and in 1850, produced 312 pounds of butter which found a cool home within its stone walls.

Inspired by her find, Williams encouraged the Historic Preservation Office, where she works as an architectural historian, to undertake a survey of surviving rural buildings in the District of Columbia. The result is her new book, “Lost Farms and Estates of Washington, D.C.,” which tells the story of the springhouse as well as scores of other structures that, together, piece together the history of DC’s rural past.

Existing alongside—and sometimes in contention with—the federal government, these farms provided a livelihood for planters, yeoman freeholders, and gentlemen farmers. They extended from Georgetown to Brookland, and ranged from humble log cabins to elegant mansions. One of the latter, Daniel Carroll’s Duddington Manor II, was located here on Capitol Hill at what is now Duddington Place SE. “A stately, two-story brick house,” it was demolished by Pierre L’Enfant when it got in the way of his plans for New Jersey Avenue and rebuilt in 1797.

A victim of changing land use, Carroll’s house was eventually razed in 1886 to make way for rowhouses. Many other original farm buildings were also lost—destroyed by the Civil War or torn down in the name of “progress”—until, by 1946, only 40 working farms still existed in DC. Today even these are gone.

Thanks to Williams, we can still see what has been lost in the numerous historical photographs that illustrate “Lost Farms and Estates”—and catch glimpses of what still exists by following her invaluable guide to the remnants of the farms that were once such a vital part of the nation’s capital.

Kim Prothro Williams has been researching historic buildings for twenty-five years. Two of her previous books, “Chevy Chase: A Home Suburb for the Nation’s Capital” and “Pride of Place: Rural Residences of Fauquier County, Virginia,” also address the transformation of the agricultural landscape.

Brett Abrams profiles the career of the former NFL quarterback and his transition to media celebrity.

A Quarterback for All Seasons
Terry Bradshaw seemed born to throw a football. The Shreveport, Louisiana, native was a starting quarterback by the eighth grade, set records in high school, led LA Tech to a championship season, and entered the NFL draft as a top pick. Under his leadership, the Pittsburgh Steelers became the “Team of the 70s,” winning four Super Bowls.

But Bradshaw’s athletic career is only part of the story told in a new book by Brett L. Abrams. “Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality” follows the gridiron champion’s life both on and off the field.

Abrams notes that the NFL did not offer million-dollar contracts in the 1970s—Bradshaw’s first-year salary with the Steelers was just $25,000 plus a signing bonus—so players had to earn a living after football. By the time he retired due to a debilitating elbow injury in 1984, Bradshaw had already launched a career as an actor and country music singer, and had created an easy-going persona that allowed him to segue readily into the role of color commentator and host of pre-game shows.

Despite the “Li’l Abner” stereotype that dogged him due to his Southern drawl, Bradshaw earned the respect of colleagues and fans alike. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, is the only former NFL player to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has won several Sports Emmys for his work in television. As Abrams writes, “Terry Bradshaw enjoyed successful careers in two rough-and-tumble businesses: playing professional football and being a celebrity.”

Brett Abrams is archivist of electronic records in Washington, DC, and a cultural and urban historian. His previous books include “Capital Sporting Grounds: A History of Stadium and Ballpark Construction in Washington, D.C.” and “The Bullets, the Wizards, and Washington, DC Basketball.” Connect with him on Facebook at brett.l.abrams.

A pair of modern-day teens finds uncanny parallels with a couple from 1969 in Liz Costanzo’s young-adult novel “Flashback.”

Back to the Future
When Ivy and her mother move to her grandparents’ home in Iowa, things seem oddly familiar. There’s even a picture of a girl in the trophy case at the high school who looks an awful lot like her. Then she’s knocked off her feet, literally and figuratively, by a handsome young football player named Jack, and discovers that he, too, has been having weird flashbacks—about a guy named Johnny, who died in Vietnam in 1970, and his girlfriend Christine, who disappeared shortly afterwards. “Why were we having similar dreams,” Jack wonders. “Is it possible we are reincarnated from two kids who died?”

In “Flashback,” Liz Costanzo’s novel of contemporary/historical young-adult fiction, what Ivy and Jack experience is nothing less than “phantasmagorical” (they both also like big words). It almost seems as if they’re fated to live out the romance that was denied to their star-crossed predecessors.

Alternating between the two teens’ points of view, and between present and past, the story is as old as time and as fresh as first love (complete with LOTS of kissing). There are even a couple of mysteries to solve: who is leaving those warnings on Jack’s truck—and what happened to Christine all those years ago? Readers of all ages will be captivated and touched by these dual couples and their parallel narratives.

“Flashback” is the second in Liz Costanzo’s “Until Next Time” series that features what she calls “R and R—romance and reincarnation.” The first, “The Second Chance,” dealt with the Holocaust, and she is also the author of “Soul Mates,” written as Liz Morrison, about World War I. Learn more at            

On the Hill in May
East City Bookshop features Cynthia Kane (“Talk To Yourself Like a Buddhist”), May 8, 6:30 p.m.; “The Future Is Still Queer,” co-hosted by OutWrite with authors Kellan Szpara, Na’amen Tilahun, Ruthanna Emrys, and Rashid Darden, moderated by Marianne Kirby, May 10, 6:30 p.m.; a featured storytime with children’s author Brian Wray (“Unraveling Rose”), May 12, 11:00 a.m.; anthology editors Danielle Barnhart and Iris Mahan (“Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism”) and contributing poets Lauren K. Alleyne and Sandra Beasley, May 15, 6:30 p.m.; Sarah Winman (“Tin Man”) with Louis Bayard (“The Pale Blue Eye”), May 16, 6:30 p.m.; Sergio de la Pava (“Lost Empress”), May 20, 4:00 p.m.; Molly Crabapple (“Brothers of the Gun”) with Latoya Peterson of ESPN, May 25, 6:30 p.m.; and YZ Chin (“Though I Get Home”) with Jeannie Vanasco (“The Glass Eye: A Memoir”), May 31, 6:30 p.m. RSVP on Facebook @eastcitybookshop or at

Folger Shakespeare Library presents “Silence and Breath,” an O.B. Hardison reading by poets Kaveh Akbar and Kazim Ali moderated by Gowri Koneswaran, May 21, 7:30 p.m. Tickets and information at 202-544-7077 or