A Time for Everything…

Ecclesiastes 3:1-9:  A Time for Everything

1There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

4a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

6a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.


As the biblical verse says there is a time for everything and a season for every activity…This pretty much sums up my take on what used to be our family’s secure place to go when it was our time to weep and mourn the loss of our loved ones with friends and neighbors, to say our final goodbyes, and to wish them peace.  And often and awkwardly, this was the place where extended family embraced, reunited after long absences, and spoke of times past that sometimes even turned into times when we laughed.

Just south of Pennsylvania Avenue at 517-519 11th Street Southeast was a unique – at least for the Capitol Hill area – Art Deco building. Older maps show that, at the turn of the century, a couple of old wood-frame houses occupied the lot. They were used by a confectioner and as a milk store. In the early 1930s, the two buildings were bought by W. W. Chambers, who had been in the funeral business in Washington, D.C. for the past 20 years and he converted them into a funeral home.

Apparently, the Chambers’ business boomed and expanded. The place on 11th St, SE was perfect, just off of Pennsylvania Avenue, and close to Congressional Cemetery, where they were responsible for many funerals. In November 1932 Chambers built a new structure with a remarkably modern design, with elaborate stonework over the windows, glass and metal decorations flanking the central section – and a clock on top to finish it off.

For the next 60 or so years, W. W. Chambers Co. flourished, even after Chambers himself died unexpectedly in 1954 at age 60. His wife and children continued the operation and expanded out into Maryland. In the early 1990s, however, the Chambers family sold the S.E. property and the Ralph Williams Funeral Home operated out of it for only a few years.  The buildings were then turned into the apartments that stand today, though the façade, and particularly the clock perched on top, show that it was not always used for this purpose.

But, most importantly, Chambers Funeral Home coördinated the arrangements for many of our loved ones funerals.  This site during the 1940’s and through the 1960’s is where many of our family members and friends gathered before official church services and interments began. This is the funeral home that my dad at age 15 sneaked into to say goodbye to his estranged mother of 10 years.  This is the funeral home where I arrived before others to have some solitude and special quiet time with my dearly beloved maternal grandmother, Loretta Lathrop Ford before others gathered to begin the services. This is also where we said goodbye to my maternal great-grandfather, John Carpenter Ford, my maternal grandfather, Robert Gideon “Roy” Ford, my paternal great-grandmother Lottie Taylor Chambers and my favorite maternal uncle John Austin Ford.

And, I guess my dear readers, you may have asked yourselves; “Is there a connection to my paternal family tree’s Chambers’ branches and W.W. Chambers, the renowned undertaker from Washington, DC?”  The answer today has to be from the genealogist:  “The Chambers family of the District of Columbia more than likely emigrated to the nation’s capital from Pennsylvania where the first Scots-Irish, Benjamin Chambers was a passenger aboard “The Welcome” ship that embarked from Ireland and landed in Philadelphia, PA, in 1632.  It was this Chambers family that founded Chambersburg, PA, that is less than one hundred miles from the District of Columbia.”  Perhaps another post to further clarify and more fully answer the question of relationships will be in our future.


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