The Solomon Scandals
The D.C. newspaper novel, the media,the Washington area, tech and other surrealism: David Rothman at large

The Charles E. Smith family built the giant Crystal City complex near Ronald Reagan National Airport and donated hundreds of millions to good causes, most of them probably in and near Washington. Names from the family went on the Charles E. Smith Athletic Center at George Washington University, the Robert H. Smith School of Business […]

The Schmidoffs’ windmill burned down in 1908 in Lipnick, Russia. An upshot was a real estate empire half a planet away, including Crystal City, the huge office and residential complex across the highway from Reagan National Airport. How did it happen? A rabbi saw the fire and other events as signs for the Schmidoffs to […]

The review of Conversations with Papa Charlie is still set for this week—most likely Thursday or Friday—along with some related observations on charity, one of the topics of the book. I wanted to run it earlier but was unavoidably delayed. Memo to self: Remember the Jefferson quote. At least from afar, it would appear to […]

Housekeeping: The review of Conversations with Papa Charlie, the David Bruce Smith book, about his grandfather, Charles E. Smith, may come Monday rather than today. Stay tuned for a write-up on a new Georgetown newspaper. – D.R. Newest update, Jan. 11, 2010: Perhaps as late as Thursday. Simply a matter of my schedule. I’d rather […]

“The commonest axiom of history is that every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers.” So wrote Lewis Mumford, a deity in fields ranging from urban studies to architectural and art criticism. And that’s the epigraph at the front of Conversations with Papa Charlie: A Memory of Charles E. Smith, by […]

“Google neighbors”—is there such a thing? Perhaps. The Solomon Scandals Web site uses the words “David Bruce Smith” only once. He’s simply the son of the late Robert H. Smith and the grandson of Charles E. Smith, the builder whose life partly inspired my novel. A rather tenuous connection in many respects. But some Googlers […]

Robert H. Smith, philanthropist and Crystal City developer, gets another paean today from the Washington Post—this time an editorial, which follows an obituary of more than 1,100 words. The Post appropriately notes Smith’s donations of “hundreds of millions of dollars to universities, the arts, historic sites and civic activities.” Given his significance, then, perhaps the […]

How did the sprawling Crystal City complex, near Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, get its name? In the 1960s, developer Robert H. Smith dressed up his first apartment building there with a chandelier in the lobby, and soon the name spread to other Smith properties. It was, as I see it, a perfect example of […]

Update, 2:05 p.m., Dec. 31, 2009: Just-posted commentary on the Washington Post’s less-than-complete obit of Robert Smith. – D.R. Robert H. Smith, a Washington philanthropist and developer, died yesterday, and the Washington Business Journal already has run his obituary, with another coming shortly from the Washington Post. He will be most remembered for the Crystal […]

The Solomon Scandals mentions the Sans Souci, where so many members of the D.C. elite plotted and dined. In real life JFK almost surely ate there on occasion, and aides such as his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, most definitely came. So did dealmakers and celebrities like the late Art Buchwald, seen in the right photo. A […]

Sy Solomon, the real estate millionaire in The Solomon Scandals, never existed. Like many of the characters in my novel, he is a composite. The late Charles E. Smith, however, the founder of the construction company of the same name, would have been the most like Solomon. He and associates controlled at least $150 million […]