Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fitzgerald in Washington

Ever since we inaugurated the DC Writers website in 2011, we've received regular queries about including the iconic American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The "Lost Generation" author of Tender Is the Night, The Beautiful and the Damned, and The Great Gatsby certainly had some great connections to the Washington, DC area, but falls outside of our requirements for inclusion.  He never lived in the area.

But with the forthcoming release of the fifth The Great Gatsby film (the novel was previously adapted in 1926, 1949, 1974 and 2000), we thought it a good excuse to highlight a few of Fitzgerald's connections to the capital area.

The famed golfer and socialite Edith Cummings was a longtime DC resident who was lauded for her philanthropic contributions.  The first woman athlete to appear on the cover of Time Magazine, Cummings met Fitzgerald at Princeton when he was dating her friend Ginevra King.

Fitzgerald later immortalized King as Daisy Buchanan and Cummings as the character Jordan Baker.  In the upcoming Baz Luhrman-directed blockbuster, the Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki portrays the Cummings-inspired character.  Cummings's beautiful residence at 1808 New Hampshire Avenue, where she lived with the wealthy businessman Curtis Munson, now serves as a bed and breakfast in Dupont Circle.

While visiting DC, Fitzgerald was known to lodge at The Cairo Hotel at 1615 Q Street NW.  The city's first "residential skyscraper" is about four blocks south of the Cummings house.  We don't know what room he lodged in.  In any case, The Cairo is now a residential condominium and sadly was stripped of all its interior architectural details in a previous (lamentable) renovation.  The exterior is still pretty stunning and would certainly make a spectacular backdrop for any cinematic Jazz-age movie.  

Our hard and fast rule on the site is that authors had to have lived in a place long enough to receive mail -- usually we require a year in one place.  So The Cairo doesn't qualify Fitzgerald for inclusion.

Fitzgerald's wife Zelda Fitzgerald is known to have been a patient at Johns Hopkins in nearby Baltimore, and wrote her autobiographical novel Save Me the Waltz while a patient at the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital (Sanitarium) in nearby Towson, Maryland.

The Washington-area site with the strongest connection to Fitzgerald was also his final one.  Fitzgerald is buried here.  Although originally buried in Rockville's Union Cemetery, Fitzgerald's body was moved, (along with his wife Zelda's) to Saint Mary's Cemetery in Rockvile in 1975.


  1. Other Fitzgerald links to DC include these three:
    Fitzgerald was named for his famous second cousin three times removed, Francis Scott Key. Key lived in DC, and one of his houses still stands. There's also a park and bridge named for him.
    Fitzgerald's grandparents lived in a house at 1815 N St. NW (now razed), and that's where Fitzgerald's parents were married--in the living room of that home.
    Another prominent relative on Fitzgerald's father's side was Mary Surratt, a second cousin to Fitzgerald. Her boarding house at 604 H St. NW in Chinatown still stands. Surratt was hanged as a conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
    Fitzgerald's daughter lived for many years in DC, and worked for the Washington Post. Scottie authored Don't Quote Me, about women of the Washington press, and The Romantic Egotists, a biography of her parents.

  2. Frances Scott "Scottie" Fitzgerald, F. Scott and Zelda's daughter, lived at 1224 30th St NW in Georgetown when she and Jack Lanahan were first married in the 1950s. That house is still there. Then they moved to Wesley Heights when their four kids were born.