"The Milton S. Kronheim, Sr. Collection: Celebrity and Friendship"
By Margery Elsberg
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in JHSGW's journal, The Record, in 1999 in celebration of the donation of more than 400 photographs from Milton S. Kronheim, Sr.’s famed lunchroom walls to our archival collections, through the generosity of the Kronheim Family. We are sharing it today on the occassion of the anniversary of the end of Prohibition.
For more than a half-century, Milton S. Kronheim’s treasured photographs lined the walls of his company lunchroom, a testimony to his longevity and success. Row after row of famous likenesses ensured an air of celebrity and friendship, power and triumph. They made the room inviting and exciting, easy to fill with laughter and conversation.
And filled it was, day after day, week after week, decade after decade. From around 1928, when Mr. Kronheim was about 40, until a few years before he died in 1986 at the age of 97, this Washington legend hosted lunches for an extraordinary array of friends: presidents and diplomats, justices and judges, senators and congressmen, lawyers, doctors, businessmen and boxers—surrounded always by those fabulous photos.
President Harry Truman was there, on the wall and in the flesh. So was Chief Justice Earl Warren and Associate Justices Thurgood Marshall, William J. Brennan, Jr., William O. Douglas and Sandra Day O’Connor. U.S. District Court Judge John J. Sirica, who presided over the Watergate trials, was one of Mr. Kronheim’s oldest cronies. The two men had met during Prohibition, when Mr. Kronheim was a bail bondsman and John Sirica was a young lawyer. That was before Mr. Kronheim returned to his first career, selling wine and spirits to a capital city where social calendars are filled with diplomatic and lobbyists’ receptions.
Mr. Kronheim was born in his parents’ home at K and 4½ Streets, SW, in the midst of Washington’s Jewish community. Arena Stage and Waterside Mall help fill that neighborhood now. In 1903, when he was just 14, young Milton dropped out of Business High and opened his first liquor store at 3218 M Street, NW. Married to the former Meryl Goldsmith (the marriage ended in divorce), Mr. Kronheim had two children, Judge Milton Kronheim, Jr. and Judith Stahl. For the last third of his life, he lived at the Mayflower Hotel.
Except for the Prohibition years, Mr. Kronheim stayed in the liquor business—and remained a teetotaler—building the largest wholesale distributorship in the Washington-Baltimore area and amassing a fortune in money, friendships and influence.
Every Sunday, Milton Kronheim pitched for his baseball team, the Kronheim A.C. Bearcats, until his arm gave out when he was in his mid-eighties. He played handball well after that. He loved his city, was loyal to his friends, fought against racial and religious prejudice and shared his wealth with the poor.
Mr. Kronheim was a major supporter of the Democratic Party (he gave more than $100,000 to the Democrats the year Truman won the White House) as well as to the State of Israel, Georgetown University, St. John’s College High School and the Little Sisters of the Poor. As his photographs document, he was honored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews (now the National Conference for Community and Justice), Washington Hebrew Congregation, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Washington Knights of Columbus. For years, he served on the advisory council of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.
The Kronheim photographs are both a pictorial biography and a who’s who of Washington throughout most of the 20th century. The following pages contain a few of the thousands of photographs that lined the walls of the Milton S. Kronheim Company dining room on V Street in Northeast for so many years. That’s where the plastic chairs were stackable, the food was delicious but plain, and the host was Washington’s best.
In the spring of 2015, I started to volunteer with the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington (JHSGW) to learn more about DC’s Jewish history and to receive hands-on experience in a Jewish historical institution that provides museum education. I helped with educational programs that included curriculum-based education in the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum for students, as well as walking tours and educational programming for the public at large.
Now, in the spring of 2016, I’m nearing the official end of my internship with JHSGW. During my 20-hour-per-week internship, from January 2016 through May 31, 2016, my responsibilities in educational and public programming have expanded and I have received substantive work experiences in other facets of JHSGW's work. All of these experiences have prepared me for a future career in the history and museum world, and the internship combined well with my program in Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts (EE/JCA) at The George Washington University.
One important facet of an educational walking tour is to connect participants with the environment and topography that is under study. My internship allowed me to utilize what I was learning in the EE/JCA program, receive guidance and mentorship from the JHSGW staff, and enhance my role as a public-facing educator. Some settings where I facilitated learning experiences for participants included the downtown walking tour in 7th Street, NW, area of Washington, DC, as well as tours of H Street, NE, and Arlington National Cemetery. The mentorship and classwork allowed me to deliver the best walking tour possible, as well as learn how to situate Jewish history in the broader context of DC history and related historical events.
In addition to presenting history, my internship also allowed me to help preserve history. One snowy January afternoon, I traveled to Arlington, Virginia, to meet Dr. Sholom Friedman and his daughter, Karen. While sitting in Dr. Friedman’s Public Shoe Store, which has recently closed, his answers to my questions covered his family’s arrival in the United States from Tsarist Russia, the beginning of Etz Hayim Congregation, and how consumer trends in the latter half of the 20th century affected what was bought and sold at Public Shoe Store. This oral history is now saved in the JHSGW collection.
I also added Washington Jewish Week articles about DC’s Jewish community to the archivists’ reference files, and I like to think of these articles and the oral history I conducted like the stops on the walking tours -- many sites on the walking tours were forgotten by the community for a long time. Today, however, hundreds of Hebrew school students, as well as visitors from all over the world of all different faiths and affiliations, come to JHSGW to learn and to retrace the steps of D.C.’s Jewish history.
And like the walking tour locations, perhaps one day, the articles or Dr. Friedman’s oral history will be used in an exhibit in JHSGW’s upcoming museum or used as part of a mosaic of sources in a groundbreaking study of the Washington, DC, area. Only time will tell how these sources will be used, but one thing has been clear from the first day that I volunteered -- JHSGW is an integral part of a network of academic, cultural and historical institutions in Washington, DC, that provide sophisticated programming that allows our community to be more historically and culturally literate. I’m proud to have been a part of it.
As an added bonus, JHSGW underwrote a pizza party for my last day!
Michael A. Morris is a Master’s student in Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts at The George Washington University.
Accession No.: 2011.22 Donor: Frank H. Rich, Sr. Description: In 1974, Frank H. Rich (1921–2015) ran for D.C. City Council. His involvement in politics began after the 1968 riots following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
A Washington Institution
Frank Rich’s family had deep roots in Washington. His maternal great grandfather, Abraham Hart, was a volunteer in the Union Army in the Civil War and was on the Board of Education in Washington, D.C. Frank’s paternal ancestors belonged to Washington Hebrew Congregation in the 19th century, and his great-grandfather Bernard Rich, was a founder of Adas Israel Congregation in 1869. That same year, Bernard founded a men's clothing store, B. Rich & Sons, at 7th and O Streets, NW. Bernard’s sons, Max and Louis, later took over the store and decided to specialize in shoes. In 1919, they moved the business into a four-story building at 10th and F Streets, NW.
Max had three sons, Edwin, Herbert, and Melvin, and two daughters, Ernestine and Fanny. Herbert took over the family business and married Rosa Hart Frank, the granddaughter of Abraham Hart. (A scrapbook in JHSGW’s collection chronicles the Hart and Rich families from the 1860s-1960s).
Frank Hart Rich
Herbert and Rosa’s son, Frank, grew up on Buchanan Street, off 16th Street, NW. In 1942, after earning a degree in business administration at Lehigh University, he enlisted in the army and worked in administration for the Army Air Corps (precursor to the Air Force) in Assam, India. He supported flights over “The Hump,” the dangerous air crossing over the Himalayas to resupply U.S. air bases and aid the Chinese war effort against Japan. He distinguished himself and quickly rose to become a major.
Frank returned to the U.S. in 1946. In a 2011 interview, he told the Society that he was desperate for a new pair of shoes: “My shoes were in such terrible shape from the monsoons and everything. They were terrible.” But he could not simply pick up a new pair from his family’s business. Because of wartime rationing of materials like rubber and leather, Frank had to first go to Wilmington, Delaware, to get a document from the army allowing him to obtain the shoes.
After his return to Washington, Frank found a job as an assistant buyer at the Hecht Company’s shoe department. Soon thereafter, Frank’s father Herbert invited him to work for Rich’s Shoes. Frank agreed.
Frank set to work expanding the business to serve postwar Washington’s growing population in the 1940s and 1950s. He renovated Rich’s Shoes’ iconic 10th and F Street, NW, location. He also focused on cutting-edge trends that appealed to young shoppers and opened a new store at 1516 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, in Georgetown in 1953, followed more than a decade later by the Gaminerie, a boutique modeled after a shop with the same name he had visited in Paris. In 1955, he opened a spacious location in a new shopping center in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The business continued to expand. In 1961, Frank sold the family’s building on 10th and F and moved the business to 1319-21 F Street, NW. Every new location was a hit.
Frank translated his business success into a variety of civic activities. As president of the National Shoe Retailers Association, he testified and wrote op-eds for The Washington Post against low-cost and low-quality shoe imports from abroad. He was a board member of several local organizations, including the Washington Performing Arts Society and a founding board member of Temple Sinai.
Perhaps his greatest civic activism came in the aftermath of the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968. Looting caused $50,000 (in 1960s dollars) in damage to Rich’s Shoes downtown location. In his interview with the Society, Frank recalled, “I came downtown and, of course, all of the windows were out. The store was full of tear-gas [canisters]. Everything was upside down.” Within a few days, the business was up and running, but Frank felt the need to help the greater downtown business community. He started Project Progress, an employment organization focused on helping unemployed African-American residents of D.C.
He soon joined the Metropolitan Washington Urban Coalition, a group of business owners and city officials who sought to rebuild D.C.’s decimated downtown. He was the organization’s president from 1969-1971. John W. Hechinger, a former City Council Chairman and owner of a regional chain of hardware stores, said that Frank used his relationship with business leaders across the city “to get to know the leaders of the black community, as well as the frustrations of the rank and file of the black community. His earnestness advanced interracial harmony.”
Frank saw home rule as the key to improving the city, particularly for African Americans, which represented the majority of D.C.’s residents. In 1970, he testified before the Senate District Committee in favor of home rule for the nation’s capital. He later noted that the committee was hostile and “generally [was] against what I was there for.” In 1974, Frank ran as an at-large candidate for the D.C. City Council. He ran, he said at the time, because “this is the first city government and, if home rule is to survive, we need responsible people [who can manage].” He narrowly lost the election.
Frank Rich’s dedication to revitalizing D.C. led to his involvement in a range of civic activities. He was an outspoken advocate for redevelopment of F Street, NW (where his store was located), preservation of the Willard Hotel, and expansion of the Metro system – the construction of which paradoxically hurt his business, turning F Street into a perennial construction site that deterred most shoppers.
Rich’s Shoes was the longest-operating family business in D.C. when Frank and his youngest son Ned closed it in 1987. The course toward the 1990s revitalization of downtown Washington came too late to save Rich’s Shoes.
Frank remained a steadfast and outspoken advocate for his hometown, and especially for home rule. In 2012, a D.C. City Council proclamation recognizing Frank’s contributions as a business and civic leader quoted him: “I always tried, wherever I was or whatever I was doing, to give my empathy to people who deserve more out of life than what they are getting – whether voting rights or job opportunities.” When he passed away earlier this year, DC Vote, an organization for which Frank volunteered weekly for more than a decade, described him as “a symbol of what D.C. had contributed to the nation.”
 Melvin Rich was a civil engineer who worked on numerous D.C.-area structures, including the British Embassy, the Kennedy-Warren apartments, and the refurbishment of the Washington Monument in 1934.
Earlier this week, our friends at The Forward published a list of 10 facts about Jewish Washington, D.C. called "Of Goldie Hawn, Theater J and 8 Other Things About (Jewish) Washington D.C." We’re adding our hometown voice with ten things you might not know about Washington’s Jewish history.
1. Home to the Only Congressionally-Chartered Shul
1856: Washington Hebrew—the city’s first Jewish congregation—successfully petitioned Congress (then constitutionally responsible for D.C. law) for legislation ensuring its right to purchase property.
2. The Civil War Couldn’t Keep the Jewish Community Apart
1862: Because Civil War travel restrictions prevented Washingtonian Henry Baum from traveling to his bride, Virginian Bettie Dreifus’s home in Alexandria, the marriage took place in D.C.
20th Century: From hundreds of Jewish immigrant-owned "mom and pop" liquor stores to producer-distributor-powerbroker Milton Kronheim, Jewish Washingtonians have helped quench the thirsts of Washington’s denizens for over a century.
6. First Israeli Flag-Raising on Embassy Row
1948: President Harry Truman’s recognition of Israel’s independence on May 14, 1948, spurred hundreds to stream to Embassy Row to cheer and dance as the new state’s flag was first raised.
7. Ferris Bueller Actor Bar-Mitzvahed in Maryland Suburbs
1957: Years before Ben Stein became a speechwriter for President Nixon, an actor, and game show host, his family sent this invitation to celebrate his bar mitzvah at the Montgomery County Jewish Community Center (today’s Ohr Kodesh Congregation) in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
8. The Beatles’ First U.S. Concert
1964: Washington Coliseum owner Harry Lynn hosted the "Fab Four" for their first U.S. concert on February 11, 1964, the day after the band's roaring introduction on the Ed Sullivan Show.
9. Eruv Encloses All Three Branches of the Federal Government
Today: Built in 1876, the historic Adas Israel synagogue was saved from demolition in 1969 by moving it three city blocks, where it now stands as the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum. The synagogue will move again: once to a temporary location, and finally to the corner of 3rd and F Streets, NW, where it will be the focal point for the Society’s new Jewish museum;
Object No.: 2014.32.1 Donor: Sarah Cohen Description: Artwork film for Tabard Farm Yukon Gold Potato Chips bag featuring the Tabard Inn as a farmhouse, 2014.
Connoisseurs of potato chips are likely familiar with Route 11 potato chips. Route 11 was founded in 1992, and is based in Mount Jackson, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. Yet the company has its roots in downtown D.C., and the Tabard Inn — the venerable Dupont Circle brunch spot that was among the area’s first farm-to-table restaurants.
In the late 1970s, Edward and Fritzi Cohen, the inn’s owners, started Tabard Farm Potato Chips as a side business. They sold tubs of organic chips to boutique and high-end shops like Williams-Sonoma. In the early 1980s, Tabard Farm began offering seasonal Yukon Gold potato chips. Their expertise went international in 1989 when Tabard Farm began supplying machinery and training to agricultural cooperatives in the Soviet Union.
In 1992, the Cohen’s daughter Sarah spun off the chip-making business and founded Route 11 Potato Chips. Route 11 offers a glimpse (and a taste) of this origin story with their Tabard Farm Yukon Gold Potato Chips. The Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington (JHSGW) interviewed Sarah Cohen, Route 11’s proprietor, about her family history and what makes Yukon Gold potatoes so special.
JHSGW: Tabard Farm Yukon Gold chips have their origins with the Tabard Inn, before the founding of Route 11. What’s the story?
Cohen: The prequel to Route 11 starts at the Tabard Inn. Edward and with his wife Fritzi [Cohen], my parents, bought the Tabard Inn in 1975. The purchased the hotel in part to save it from being demolished to make way for a high-rise office building. The restaurant opened a few years later, and Nora Poullion was the first Tabard Chef. She and my father shared the same interest in where food comes from, and how it’s grown. My dad was also an avid gardener, who spent much of his free time in the dirt.
Soon after the Tabard Inn’s kitchen started serving meals, my dad found a piece of property near Front Royal, Virginia, and also found a genius, bio-dynamic farmer named Susan [Peterson] to run the farm, which grew food for the Inn. This was the beginning of Tabard Farm. Tabard Farm grew vegetables for the Tabard Inn and also delivered to about 20 restaurants in D.C.
One day, a neighboring organic farmer told my dad a story about how he’d planted all these potatoes for two brothers, and that the brothers just got arrested for dealing cocaine and put in prison. He had just planted all these potatoes and didn’t know what he was going to do. My dad got a big smile and a sparkle in his eye, and knew that he wanted to do. MAKE POTATO CHIPS!
My dad was also potato-obsessed in general, and [a few years later] when the Yukon Gold potato began to appear in seed catalogs, he thought it would be great to try those as chips. And, they were INCREDIBLE!!
JHSGW: The image on the bag presents the iconic Inn near Dupont Circle as a farm house. Where did the idea for that image come from, and who created it?
Cohen: The image on the bag of the Tabard in a potato field, was the original artwork for the Yukon Gold bag done [for Tabard Farm Potato Chips] in the early 1980s. It was done by the sister of a sous chef in the Tabard Kitchen.
JHSGW: Many Washington-area Jews have a mom-and-pop grocery or some other shop as part of their family history. I often hear wonderful stories about the fun and warmth of growing up living over, and in many ways, in the store. What was it like growing up with/in the Tabard Inn?
Cohen: My two brothers and I worked at the Tabard as we grew up... me from the age of 12, and then my brothers into adulthood, and up until very recently. My parents never really related to the idea of a mom-and-pop business. They were very political and cerebral, and from the get-go hired great people, who helped grow the Tabard into the icon that it is today.
My parents definitely set the tone for the place. It was never your typical corporate, cookie-cutter hotel. Neither of them ever worked the front lines of the business. But, the Tabard is what it is because of their original vision [to offer organic, farm-to-table food] and the great staff that it attracted over the years. It was an awesome and fun business to grow up in.
JHSGW: These chips are more than just a nod to Route 11’s roots in your parents’ business. How do you characterize your contribution to your family’s culinary and entrepreneurial history? Are there certain values or a spirit that flows through it all?
Cohen: Route 11 very much reflects the values and spirit of my family’s relationship with food and hospitality. My dad loved to grow vegetables, and my mom is a great cook. Tabard has an authenticity that is hard to find these days. I would say the same for Route 11.
There are so many smoke and mirrors in the world of food, and we’re producing this product ourselves, working closely with several growers, forging relationships with our fans, and inviting people to come see how the chips are made. It’s the real deal. The true inspiration for Route 11 was to try and make a really, really good potato chip without cutting the corners on ingredients or methods that happen so often with most snack foods.
JHSGW: So, what makes Yukon Gold potatoes so special?
Cohen: The Yukon Golds are a yellow flesh potato with a buttery flavor built in. Who doesn’t love butter? When we’re cooking them, our factory smells like buttered popcorn.
JHSGW: I’m not asking you to give up any secrets, but is there a trick to making the perfect Yukon Gold chip?
Cohen: The Yukon Golds are seasonal, August-October. They can’t be stored year round and still make a GREAT potato chip. They’re best made from fresh-dug Yukons.
JHSGW: What burning question have I missed?
Cohen: Tabard Farm Yukon Gold Potato Chips were the first Yukon Gold Potato Chip ever marketed. That’s pretty cool. I don’t think many people know that.