The Hill is Home | Lost Capitol Hill: Elizabeth Haines’ Department Store

Elizabeth A. Haines

Last year, during a Labor Day rerun, I ran an article about Coxey’s army and how he and his workers were welcomed here on Capitol Hill. Today, I turn to someone who seems to have been the natural enemy of working people: a department store owner. Still, it seems she tried to help workers at the time, including members of Coxey’s army.

Elizabeth A. Morrison was born in 1849 in St. Clairsville, Ohio. She attended Ohio Wesleyan College, then married Mahlon Haines and they had three children together. The last was born just weeks before Mahlon, on a buying trip to Philadelphia, accidentally died.

Haines continued her husband’s business, but after two years she decided she would rather have her children educated in DC. She fell ill herself after closing her store and spent two years recovering. At this point, she was persuaded to open her own store, and acting quickly, she opened a new store in Anacostia.

Although it started slowly, her business quickly grew to the point where she was able to move to a larger building, this time on Capitol Hill. Her new store, in the 1200 block of SE 11th Street, grew so large that it forced her to expand. His first expansion was simply in the house next door. However, in 1891 it needed a purpose-built building. She found land on the corner of 8th and Pennsylvania Avenue SE, and work began there in early 1892. Six months later, “Haines’ Washington Store” opened. It was an impressive achievement, with 15,000 square feet of commercial space on two floors, plus a third floor that was rented by the day. Under one roof were 50 different departments carrying a wide range of goods. An article published four years later describes it as “a store with all modern conveniences, where commerce becomes a pleasure instead of an vexation”.

Detail from an advertisement for Haines department store, showing what it looked like in 1896 (LOC)

Vexatious was only the economy. In early 1893, a series of bankruptcies and bank runs caused a severe depression, the effects of which were felt across the United States, and the economy did not recover until 1897. Despite this, Haines persevered and his store survived, even when a fire burned down much of the store in 1905. Haines also donated money to causes she believed in, including posting bail for several of Coxey’s army leaders. She also lived her convictions by instituting a profit-sharing plan within her store. Once she had received a “moderate amount of benefits”, the rest was divided among the heads of departments. The Washington Evening Star who reported on this progressive policy did not indicate whether these excess profits were then passed on to the workers themselves.

Haines and her family moved from 11th Street to Seward Square, living just under a block east of J. Edgar Hoover, who lived there with his family.

In 1910, Haines decided to sell his store. It was purchased by Milton Ney and Joseph Goldenberg, who sold most of the shares in a major “reorganization sale” and then, after renaming it “Haines’ Department Store”, continued to operate it for many years. many years.