City Paper is not for tourists
Offers on the Capitol Hill row house where D.C.’s most infamous bootlegger once lived are due next week. George Cassidy, nicknamed “The Man with the Green Hat,” wet the whistles of congressmen throughout prohibition.
Cory Bythrow has lived in the 855-square-foot house at at 303 17th Street SE for three years, but is moving to a bigger place to accommodate his growing family. A Boston native, he knows there are enough history buffs who like to drink in this town to merit mentioning Cassidy in the real estate listing. The two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom property is priced at $649,900.
“We all sort of come here looking to be part of history, make a little history of our own or at least witness it,” Bythrow says. “Most of that happens outside of your home … but our own home where we lived is part of that history.” He believes Cassidy’s story encapsulates D.C. and how outsiders perceive the city. “It has elements of political backroom deals, ‘do-as-I-say’ not ‘do-as-I-do’ sentiments.”
Cassidy first peddled booze to congressmen from basement office space in the House of Representatives from 1920 to 1925. He brought alcohol down from New York and Philadelphia, often carrying a suitcase containing up to 40 quarts. He wrote in a series first published by The Washington Post in 1930 that there was so much demand he would work from 9 a.m. to late in the evening.
After Capitol Police busted him in 1925—he was wearing his signature green hat at the time—Cassidy pled guilty to possession of alcohol and was banned from House premises. No problem. He restarted his career as a bootlegger on the Senate side, where he sold alcohol from what is now the Russell building from 1925 to 1930. In his multi-story exposé, Cassidy wrote that one senator referred to him as a “librarian” and his tipples as “new reading matter.”
A more recent Post article mentions the house because authorities occasionally raided it looking to confiscate Cassidy’s stash.
Though Bythrow doesn’t think anything in the house is original, he did crack a smile when he moved in and found a bottle of Green Hat Gin. The local spirit is named after the bootlegger.
Bythrow is confident the property will sell, not only because of the market, but but because of the extra allure Cassidy’s story brings. “You’re not buying some flip on Capitol Hill. You’re getting a piece of the city’s history,” he says. “That’s something that helps set us apart.”