Today, Washingtonians will gather along the National Mall and at other nearby vantage points to celebrate Independence Day by watching the annual Fourth of July fireworks display.
Over 100 year ago, one of the places to be for the Fourth of July fireworks was Frank Hume’s Warwick. Hume (1843-1905) built his two-story home in 1879. A grocer in Washington who also sold whiskey, he picked the crest of a hill north of Alexandria, a leafy subdivision we call “North Ridge.” His summer home overlooked the shores of the Potomac and the city of Washington.
Hume attended Episcopal School in Alexandria and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. After the Civil War, Hume started a wholesale grocery business on Pennsylvania Avenue. In 1870, he joined hands in marriage with Emma Phillips Norris.
For the rest of his 25 years, Hume and Emma hosted and entertained friends, family, captains of industry and politicians at Warwick. At times, the guest list swelled to as many as 150.
On special occasions such as the Fourth of July, the Humes laid out a spread of Virginia food and Southern hospitality. The evening capped off with a display of fireworks. On some occasions, Hume fired his cannon.
In 1891, Hume donated land for a school near his home. In return the school was named for him. Hume Elementary School, operated for 67 years, closing in 1958. The building was renovated in the early 1960s and reopened as the Arlington History Museum. The museum, located on another high point overlooking Washington on Arlington Ridge Road, features several display items for Hume, including a portrait and bottles of whiskey.
Frank Hume passed away in 1906 and was laid to rest at Ivy Hill cemetery, located on another steep ridge not too far from Warwick. When you’re standing or sitting at your favorite spot around Washington tonight, perhaps you’ll think of him when the rockets red glare.