Tuesday would have been Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday. As your social feeds fill with famous quotes and cute drawings of the British author, you might be surprised to learn his literary career began in DC. Here are some places that were important to his time here:
1610 34th Street, NW
The 26-year-old World War II pilot came to Washington in 1942 as an assistant air attaché for the British Embassy. He lived at this address in Georgetown. Writing tips? For Dahl, it was a glass of whiskey and some music after he watered the small garden outside his rowhouse.
1127 Connecticut Avenue, NW
That’s the address for the Mayflower Hotel. Not long after Dahl arrived in Washington, he chatted with Horatio Hornblower series author C.S. Forester near the famous hotel. Dahl struggled to tell his story aloud for the writer, so he offered to write down basic facts. “You mustn’t expect it to be any good,” he said to Forester. Later, Dahl remembered it as the moment that changed his life. In two weeks, Forester pushed for Dahl’s story to be published anonymously titled “Shot Down Over Libya” in the Saturday Evening Post. You can read it here.
3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
While working publicly at the British Embassy (address above), Dahl was a spy recruited by the British Security Coordination. Like James Bond, he was a handsome ladies man. Unlike James Bond, he was quite a blabbermouth. His daughter Lucy Dahl once said, “Dad never could keep his mouth shut.”
2136 R Street, NW
Dahl worked his way into DC’s high society and he partied hard at this address, home of wealthy Texan Charles Edward Marsh. He was a regular, for both spy work and leisure.
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
His work even brought him to the White House. Dahl wrote his first novel, The Gremlins, while in DC. It got him an invitation from Eleanor Roosevelt.