The Land Becomes Available
With vacant land prices affordable it was not surprising that some firms purchased or rented a lot or two along or near the W&OD rail lines that ran through Del Ray. These were simply set up as delivery sites for materials and, with the exception of the local coal company, had no permanent facilities. One such was a lot had been purchased by the Armstrong Lumber Company in 1926, probably the height of the building boom that created demand for their products. When the depression hit construction fell off and the company decided to sell off its lot.
Meanwhile, across the river DC grocery store owner Pietro Luciano and his wife Fioridea, were having trouble. They had emigrated from Italy in 1912, when both were around 30, and were doing well. That is until American-born daughter Edith found herself pregnant and at age 15 gave birth to daughter Margaret.
Now we get into murky territory. In April 1933, three years later, Edith marries Dominick DiGuiseppantonio, himself an Italian immigrant, at which point she had reached 18 and him 42. Several explanations for the wide age disparity are possible, but the most likely is simply that Dom was a poor shlub recruited by the conservative, old-world family to provide a respectable cover for their daughter. Dom himself appears to have been a man of few skills and little ambition. He started as a general "helper" in Potomac Yard and worked himself up to "bunk house attendant" by 1940, a title he held with some variations for the rest of his working life.
Nevertheless, in May 1933 Dominick and Edith bought the Armstrong Lumber plot in the Emma Hume subdivision of the Del Ray neighborhood. That same year they took out a building permit for a new house, listing Vito Innamorato, a DC brick mason, as the builder, although presumably he hired local help in the form of Italian brick masons and other skilled trades then living in Del Ray.
It seems almost certain that Edith's father Pietro actually funded the purchase of the lot and construction of the house. Dom himself could not have done it; by 1939 his income had risen to only $1,100 for the year, while the house was assessed at $9,000 and probably worth more. On the other hand, Pietro had been far-sighted, the house was built as a two-family structure, providing a steady, if small, income that would have been much needed for his daughter and son-in-law.
The Strange House
There is a strong possibility that the front portion of the house is slightly a later add-on. It shows up in the 1941 Sanborn map, so would date from the mid- to late-1930s, only shortly after the house was built. The original impetus for this belief, posited in the 1990 historic survey, is that the front portion lacks the crenulated battlements along the roof line that characterize the main part of the house.