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  • Marci Hilt

Elizabeth Haines

Not many Capitol Hill women have a building named after them, but Elizabeth Morrison Haines does. She built the large grey building that still stands at the corner of 8th and Pennsylvania SE in 1892. The building featured 15,000 square feet of trading space on two floors for 50 different departments, plus a third floor that was rented out to local vendors – an impressive achievement.

Haines was a highly successful entrepreneur and business woman who advertised her building as “The largest store in the world built, owned and controlled by a woman.”

Born Elizabeth Morrison in the1840’s in Ohio, she married Mahlon Haines. They had three children; the last just a few weeks before Mahlon was killed in an accident.

In 1882, she moved to Washington, DC, so her children could be educated in DC schools. At first, the family lived above a small store on 11th Street SE. Elizabeth Haines's first successful business was a shop in Anacostia; her second was a larger shop in the 1200 block of 11th Street SE.

In 1892, she oversaw construction of the Haines Building, which now overlooks the Eastern Market Metro plaza. Total construction time for the building was six months, from ground breaking to store opening. An article published four years later described it as “a store with all the modern conveniences, where trading becomes a pleasure instead of a vexation.

In early 1893, a series of bankruptcies and bank runs caused a severe depression, whose effects were felt all over the United States. The economy did not recover until 1897. In spite of this, Haines persevered, and her store survived, even when a fire burned much of the store in 1905. Haines also gave money to causes she believed in, including posting bail for several of the leaders of Coxey’s Army, who held the first organized protest on the Capitol grounds.

In 1910, Haines sold her store. It was bought by Milton Ney and Joseph Goldenberg, who sold off most of the stock in a major “reorganization sale,” and then, having renamed it the “Haines’ Department Store,” continued to run it for many more years.

After she sold the store, she moved to Florida where she bought a large of property. She then took a trip around the world to research the types of fruit and crops she might grow there. Eventually, she reached the Philippines where she met the governor of Luzon Province. After about two years, she made it back to DC and then married the Luzon Province governor, who had resigned and followed her home. They entertained, traveled, and lived in Florida until she died there in 1928.

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