Thursday, August 2, 2007

Classic Classism- Kathryn Schneider Smith

Useful traffic tunnel decried by elites over temporary construction disturbance

Kathryn Schneider Smith, wife of Washington, D.C. journalist Sam Smith, wrote the following in her 1983 book Washington at home: an illustrated history of neighborhoods in the Nation’s Capital, about the DuPont Circle underpass project:

There were other things for the residents of the neighborhood to worry about, including the proposed DuPont Circle streetcar underpass, which local officials believed was necessary to relieve the congestion on the Circle itself. From before the turn of the century, both northbound and southbound tracks of the Cabin John line had run side by side around the western rim of the Circle between Connecticut Avenue and P Street. In the mid-1930s the city considered decongesting the western side of the Circle by moving the northbound tracks to the east side. The change was not made, and thus one of Washington’s most durable legends was born.

The story was that highway officials had not moved the tracks because of the objections from Eleanor “Cissy” Patterson, the editor and published of the powerful Washington Times Herald. Legend has it that Patterson did not want the noisy street cars running in front of her mansion, which faced the Circle at P Street. Later she was to tell a reported that she was flattered at the suggestion that she could wield so much influence, but she denied the story, as did highway officials.

When the underpass was first proposed in the early 1940s, little opposition was expressed by neighborhood residents. The projected cost was $500,000. But by 1947 when the digging began, the cost was projected as more then $3 million. A citizens’ group protested the project, citing the cost and anticipated disruption of their neighborhood. Their fears were confirmed when a construction left the park “a morass of mud and clay, surrounded by detours and dotted with concrete mixers, steam shovels, scaffolding and piles of assorted unattractive materials” for more then three years. It also meant the destruction of numerous trees and the temporary relocation of the DuPont fountain.

Patterson, who at one time had supported the underpass in her editorial pages of her newspaper, changed her mind and called the project a “blunderpass” and commented, “If it is ever finished, it will be the worst white elephant of them all.”[*]

She was right. In 1961, 11 years after it was completed, the streetcars were phased out in favor of buses. The semicircular trolley tracks were closed, leaving the underpass as just another road for cars.

What about the folly of closing the semi-circular trolley underpass rather then maintain it for bus service?

Or the failure to cover the traffic underpass for the one block segment to the Circle’s north?

“…the worst white elephant of all.” [?!?!]

Schneider-Smith presents an outlook that generations of use and benefits to society are less important then the temporary disturbances to some of the city’s wealthiest and most influential people.

Accordingly, it's better to place all of the Connecticut Avenue traffic on the Circle in perpetuity, rather then have a newspaper editor look at a construction project directly across the street from her mansion for three years a half century ago.

Are we really supposed to think that a $3 million underpass that serves thousands of vehicles and the people served daily, is the “worst” “of all” denying the multiples of that spent on the military budget- namely that of the cigarette-petrochemical pharma-alcohol protectionist "war on drugs"?

This passage by Schneider-Smith is heavily borrowed (without attribution) by Joseph Passonneau in his book Washington through Two Centuries.

The parties that would battle over the future of DuPont Circle neighborhood the older mansion dwellers, what would be described as the counter culture and the city’s highway department converged at the circle itself. L ‘Enfant had not designed his neighborhood centers as future automobile traffic circles, and by the beginning of World War II, traffic congestion around DuPont Circle had become a problem. The congestion worsened after the war, and an underpass was proposed, projected at a cost of $500,000. At first there was little citizen opposition, but by 1947 when work began, residents protested, citing the price tag (which had escalated to $3 million) and neighborhood disruption. There fears were confirmed.

Construction left the park in the center of the circle a sea of mud, filled with construction equipment and littered with building materials, for more then three years.

Eleanor “Cissy” Patterson, owner and editor of the Washington Times Herald and owner of one of the mansions on the circle, at first supported the tunnel, then called it a “blunder pass”, writing that , “If it is ever finished, it will be the worst white elephant of them all.” She was right. In 1961, the streetcars were replaced by buses, and the semicircular trolley tunnel was closed. The automobile and truck underpass remained and the surface travelways widened at the expense of the park.

“She was right.” [?!]

It’s an attitude that Mr. Passonneau has bowed down to regarding Washington, D.C.’s un-built highways – taking a bizarre stance against anything underground – as he did to a question that I asked him at the National Building Museum. All traffic must remain on the surface because some exceptionally influential person does not want to even look at a construction project that’s say across a street- there need not be a direct conflict, such as that between the U.S. National Capital Planning Commission's proposed Extending the Legacy South Capitol Mall and the St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church.

Note the name of the individual who help her write this book, elitist road transport hater: Jane Freundel Levy.

Accordingly, inconveniencing the super influential for a short period of time is a no, no- damn the public interest.

She comes to that conclusion even as she died only a few months after the construction started, and while she lived in another mansion in suburban Maryland- facts unmentioned by Schneider-Smith.

About 'Cissy' Patterson:


Eleanor Josephine Medill "Cissy" Patterson (November 7, 1884 - July 24, 1948) was an American journalist and newspaper editor, publisher and owner. Patterson was one of the first women to head a major daily newspaper, the Washington Times-Herald in Washington, D.C.

Her grandfather Joseph Medill was Mayor of Chicago and owned the Chicago Tribune, which later passed into the hands of her first cousin Colonel Robert R. McCormick, Joseph Medill's grandson. Her older brother Joseph Medill Patterson was the founder of the New York Daily News.

She was educated at Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut. When her uncle Robert S. McCormick was named ambassador to Austria-Hungary, she accompanied him and his wife, Cissy's maternal aunt Kate, to Vienna. There she met Count Josef Gizycki and fell in love with him, a romance not interrupted even by her return to America, where she lived in Washington, D.C.. In Washington, she was a leading light in society, where the press labeled Alice Roosevelt (daughter of Theodore), Marguerite Cassini (daughter of the Russian ambassador), and Cissy the "Three Graces." Count Gizycki came to America and they were married in Washington on April 14, 1904 despite the objections of her family, which later proved well-founded. A daughter was born to them September 3, 1905, and was named Leonora Felicia (1905-1999). Cissy went with the Count to his home, a huge feudal manor in Russia. Their family life did not go well, but when Cissy wanted to leave, he tried to keep her there. She fled with their child, hiding her in a house near London, but the Count pursued her and kidnapped the little Countess, hiding her in an Austrian convent while demanding a million dollars in ransom. Cissy filed for divorce, which took thirteen years to obtain, and in which William Howard Taft and Czar Nicholas II were personally involved. The Czar ordered the Count to return the child to her mother.

After her experience abroad, she moved to Lake Forest, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, but she returned to Washington in 1913. In 1920, her brother Joseph finally succumbed to his sister's entreaties and allowed her to write for his New York Daily News, founded the previous year. She also worked for William Randolph Hearst. She published two novels, romans a clef, Glass Houses (1926) and Fall Flight (1928), part of her feud with former friend Alice Roosevelt Longworth. The friendship with Alice Longworth ended when at a dinner party hosted by the Longworths, Patterson was caught sleeping with Mrs. Longworth's husband. During the party, Mrs. Longworth caught Eleanor and Nicholas on the floor of a bathroom in the home, with the light on and the door unlocked. Alice then retaliated by having a lasting affair with Senator William Edgar Borah, which at its height, produced a child Paulina Longworth. Patterson also had an affair with Borah, but Alice won out reportedly because Patterson frequently gloated about their experiences unlike Alice.

Patterson tried to buy the Washington Herald and the Washington Times, then separate papers, from Hearst, who hated to sell anything, even when he needed the money. Although he had never made money from his Washington papers, he refused. However, at the urging of his editor Arthur Brisbane, Hearst agreed to make Patterson editor of the Herald. She began work on August 1, 1930. Patterson was a hands-on editor who insisted on the best of everything--writing, layout, typographic, graphics, comics, everything. She encouraged society reporting and the women's page and hired many women as reporters. In 1936, she was invited to join the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Patterson made her paper popular with all strata of Washington society and doubled its circulation.

In 1937, Hearst's finances had gotten worse and he agreed to lease the Herald and the Times to Patterson with an option to buy. Eugene Meyer, the man who had outbid Hearst and Patterson for The Washington Post in 1933, tried to buy the Herald out from under Patterson, but failed. Instead, she bought both papers from Hearst on January 28, 1939, and merged them as the Times-Herald.

Along with her brother at the New York Daily News and her cousin at the Chicago Tribune, Patterson was an ardent isolationist and opponent of the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1942, after the Battle of Midway, the Times-Herald ran a Tribune story that revealed American intelligence was reading the Japanese naval code. Roosevelt, furious, had the Tribune and the Times-Herald indicted for espionage but backed down because of the publicity, charges he was persecuting his enemies, and the likelihood of an acquittal (since the Navy's own censors had twice cleared the story before it was published). During World War II, she and her brother were accused by their enemies of being Nazi sympathizers. Representative Elmer Holland of Pennsylvania on the floor of the United States House of Representatives said Cissy and Joseph Patterson "would welcome the victory of Hitler"

She feuded with her daughter, who publicly "divorced" her in 1945, and with her former son-in-law, Drew Pearson. Alienated from her family and friends, she turned to alcohol, and died alone at her home Dower House [Mt. Airy Mansion] near Marlboro, Maryland. She left the paper to seven of her editors who within the year sold the paper to her cousin Colonel McCormick. He held onto the paper for five years, and although for several years he seemed close to returning it to profitability, it eventually proved to be too much of a financial drain. After quietly sounding out several other publishers, McCormick opted to sell the paper to the rival Post, which promptly closed it.

About Drew Pearson:


Drew Pearson (December 13, 1897September 1, 1969), born "Andrew Russell Pearson" in Evanston, Illinois [1] was one of the most prominent American newspaper and radio journalists of his day. He was best known for his muckraking syndicated newspaper column "Washington Merry-Go-Round".

The Washington Merry-Go-Round column started as a result of the anonymous publication in 1931 of the book, Washington Merry-Go-Round (New York: Horace Liveright and Co.), co-written with Robert S. Allen. The book comprised a collection of muckraking news items concerning key figures in public life that challenged the journalistic code of the day. In 1932, it was followed by a second book, More Merry-Go-Round. Pearson and Allen were successful enough in their books to become co-authors of the syndicated column, the Washington Merry-Go-Round, that same year. Allen would later be succeeded by Jack Anderson as Pearson's junior partner.

It has been said that disclosures in Pearson's column sent four Congressmen to jail and led to the resignation of President Eisenhower's chief of staff, Sherman Adams. Pearson was the first to report the incident of General George S. Patton's slapping of a soldier. General Douglas MacArthur sued Pearson, unsuccessfully, after Pearson accused MacArthur of lobbying for a promotion. [2]

Drew Pearson had one daughter, Ellen, in a short marriage (1925-28) to Felicia Gizycka, daughter of the newspaper scion Cissy Patterson and Count Joseph Gizycky of Poland. Thereafter, Pearson maintained a strained relationship with his former mother-in-law, and they frequently exchanged barbed comments in print. His second wife was Luvie Moore Abell, whom he married in 1936; they had no children together.

In May of 1948, Pearson leaked news in the Washington Post that the SEC and Justice Department were talking to Preston Thomas Tucker of the Tucker Corporation, an automobile company in Detroit. Pearson stated - erroneously, as it would later turn out - that the agencies would uncover financial crimes at the company. Tucker stock dropped from $5 to $2 based on Pearson's charges. The SEC and Justice later found Tucker and his company innocent of any wrongdoing, but the damage was done. The Tucker Corporation was never able to recover and went out of business. It is widely believed that Pearson's claims cost Tucker investors and 2,000 car dealers millions of dollars, and that, as a result, America lost what was perhaps the most innovative automobile of its time.

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