A couple of months ago, I went for a walk here in Washington, D.C. My destination was 1228 N Street NW, just two blocks south of Logan Circle. My mission was to stand before the building described in a Washington Post article as a "plain three-story brick house ... with a lawn of velvety grass [and] the words 'School of Cookery'" lettered on the western facade. But when I arrived at my destination and saw instead a hulking apartment building and no lawn, I realized that wishful thinking -- or, rather, the relentless passage of time and perhaps even demolition cranes -- had gotten the better of me.
In fact, the aforementioned Post article is dated May 3, 1896. The quaint house at 1228 N Street and the School of Cookery no longer exist. In 1906, the school's founder Anna Woodbury (née Lowell) died in her home several blocks from the school at 1319 Massachusetts Avenue -- another house that I later confirmed on the same walk is no more.
I've been drawn to Anna Lowell and inspired to take walks like this in search of her story after encountering an artifact from her life that, unlike the School of Cookery, still exists. At the National Library of Medicine one can view a photographic album presented to Lowell in 1864 by a group of attendants in D.C.'s Armory Square Hospital. In 1862, having recently been trained as a nurse, Lowell had traveled from Cambridge to D.C. and immediately gotten to work. Lowell -- niece of the famous poet and critic James Russell Lowell -- initially served as a nurse on a hospital ship, the Daniel Webster, and, for the remainder of the Civil War, volunteered in Ward K of the Armory Square Hospital.