Maxwell Woodhull and the Choice of G Street

From GW Encyclopedia


General Maxwell van Zandt Woodhull was "largely responsible for bringing the University to its present location." Woodhull was devoted to the university and played several important roles in its development. This colorful character was wisely known for his astute business sense, and worked diligently to stabilize the University's financial base. After his election as a trustee in 1911, he quickly established a position of considerable power on the University's Board influencing the school to move its operations to a rented building at 2023 G Street. Jessie Fant Evans, writing in the Washington Post in 1935, stated: “It was undoubtedly Gen. Woodhull's influence that was responsible for the University's removal to its present site in the G Street area.” In 1912, the University took up the option to purchase that building, and began renting other houses in the immediate area.

For the last ten years of Woodhull's life, the campus bordered on the edge of his property, placing him into the daily university activities. He was known n as a man of unusual appearance and strict military etiquette. Evans described him:

Nearly six feet tall, the general was exceedingly erect, with a very florid complexion. He wore the Burnside style of whiskers. During his later years he always carried a gold-headed black ebony cane upon which he was accustomed to rest his clasped hands as he sat expounding his convictions or giving forth instructions. His gray, square-topped derby with its broad black band was a familiar sight in the neighborhood. Utterly unconcerned with changing fashions, the general at periodic intervals supplanted the old derby with a new one made precisely like its predecessors from a hat form which had been fashioned exclusively for him by his hatter.

Legends of Woodhull's interaction with University students abounded. Evans related stories of errant scholars "being summarily 'brought to time' by the General for some infraction of university regulations which he had witnessed in his progress up G Street. The General invariably handled these situations himself, cane in hand, without resort to university officials...." Beyond this personal interest in the school, his continuing financial support, and his participation in the direction of the University's policies, Woodhull played a critical role in 1915, organizing a student artillery corps that kept the University's enrollment intact during the war.

Document Information

Images: 0
Photographic Credit: n/a
Author or Source: Application for Historic Buildings Registry/RG0031; Kayser, Bricks Without Straw
Document Location: University Archives
Date Added to Encyclopedia: December 21, 2006
Prepared by: G. David Anderson

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