The Location: Investigating Cairo Builder's Chilling Connection (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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The Location: Investigating Cairo Builder's Chilling Connection

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:08
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and today we are Walking the Line and exploring Borders and Boundaries. Recently in D.C., there's been talk of relaxing a certain kind of boundary, a vertical one, namely the restriction that limits most buildings to a height of 130 feet. It's called the Heights of Buildings Act.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:28
Congress passed it in 1899 in response to community uproar against a pretty well-known building at 1615 Q Street Northwest, the 12 story Cairo, designed by a pretty well-known D.C. architect, Thomas Franklin Schneider. But what we're exploring today is something for which Schneider is not so well-known, connection to a cold-blooded murder that led to the biggest trial Washington D.C. had ever seen. Want to hear more? Then stick around for our monthly segment, "The Location."

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:01:01
In which Kim Bender, author of the blog, "The Location," brings us the little-known scoop on people and places across the Washington region. This time around Kim takes us to a location near DuPont Circle.

MS. KIM BENDER

00:01:12
Q Street between 17th and 18th Streets Northwest.

SHEIR

00:01:15
Just one block west of the Cairo Building actually. The stately row house we're looking at.

BENDER

00:01:20
1733 Q Street, Northwest.

SHEIR

00:01:22
Looks like the other stately row houses on the tree-lined block. All of them designed and built on spec by...

BENDER

00:01:29
Thomas Franklin Schneider, T.F. Schneider we'll call him.

SHEIR

00:01:32
T.F. actually lived on the block in a 50 room mansion on the corner of Q and 18th. T.F.'s parents lived at 1739 Q Street and here in front of 1733 Q on the evening of Sunday, Jan. 31, 1892...

BENDER

00:01:47
His brother, Howard J. Schneider, murdered his own wife and brother-in-law. That's Howard Schneider's wife and brother-in-law and we can go talk about that story right now.

SHEIR

00:01:58
I'd love to hear it.

BENDER

00:01:59
So Howard met Amanda Hamlink, the daughter of Colonel Hamlink who lived at 1733, and courted her in the spring and summer of 1892. In June of 1892, they took a ride out to Hyattsville and on that ride, Mr. Schneider pulled out a revolver and threatened to kill himself if Amanda, we'll call her Amy, that's what her family called her, if Amy didn't marry him.

SHEIR

00:02:26
That's quite a proposal. It's really not even a proposal.

BENDER

00:02:28
It is, very romantic.

SHEIR

00:02:30
Yes.

BENDER

00:02:31
So she being young, the poor girl, how could she not. So they went and got married. They found some minister in Hyattsville and got married was the story. Colonel Hamlink made Howard to move into the house with them so he could keep an eye on him.

SHEIR

00:02:45
What was their marriage like? Was it all, you know, wine and roses?

BENDER

00:02:49
Not really. He had an erratic personality. He started staying out really late at night. He would get angry if his wife confronted him about where he was. He would threaten to shoot her. You know, it was not the most pleasant situation. So one night about three weeks before this tragedy occurs that we'll be talking about in a second, he came home late and she locked him out of the house. The next day he writes her a letter and says, I couldn't get in last night. I'm going to go away. Do you want to come with me?

BENDER

00:03:19
She writes back, no, I want you to take your stuff and leave.

SHEIR

00:03:21
So if this marriage is really not going well, why does he send her a letter saying, come away with me?

BENDER

00:03:27
No one really knows this at the time, but it turns out he has actually been courting this other woman who's staying with her sister in another Q Street row house.

SHEIR

00:03:36
On this block?

BENDER

00:03:37
It's all on this block. The sister's not really loving how this is going. Thinks it's too much, too fast and so she sends her young sister back to Culpepper, Va., which is where she's from. So when he asks Amy to come away with him, he's been advised that he could get a quick divorce in Chicago.

BENDER

00:03:59
So we get to January 30th, he sends her another note saying, come away with me. She says no. On the 31st, he sends her note, which she doesn't receive in the evening. Instead goes out with her brother, Frank, and her sister, Jenny, and they walked up the north side of Q Street toward 18th Street because there's a church that they go to right around there.

BENDER

00:04:26
They thought that there had been services that night, but the lights were off. So they turn around and they walk back, and as they're approaching their home at 1733 Q, a man crosses the south side to the north side of the street and they notice that it is Howard J. Schneider. So he calls out to Amy and Jenny, the sister, nervously walks ahead. And the brother, Frank, stays with his little sister, Amy.

BENDER

00:04:51
Frank says, leave her alone. And Howard grabs Amy by the wrist and says, she is my wife. I can do whatever I want. And then the next we know, shots are fired. Howard shoots five bullets. One goes into Frank's neck. Three go into Amy's abdomen. He’s still holding onto her wrist when he shoots her in the abdomen, so really close range. And one, which probably was aiming at Frank, goes into the bay window in the front parlor of 1733 Q Street and embeds itself into the wall.

BENDER

00:05:20
So then, of course, Howard throws the gun, runs off down the street toward 17th Street. Frank tries to chase after him...

SHEIR

00:05:28
Frank's been shot, though.

BENDER

00:05:29
Frank's been shot in the neck. He takes one step, falls flat on his face into the street dead. People start coming out of the homes, all the neighbors have heard these shots, you know. And when someone says, what happened? Amy says, Schneider shot my brother Frank and he shot me, too. And she survived for six more days and then she died. Howard turned himself in to the police that evening.

SHEIR

00:05:52
Meanwhile, though, what about T.F., the guy who built all these houses? His crazy brother just committed this crazy act on the street where T.F.'s got a reputation to uphold.

BENDER

00:06:03
This is where I start to think T.F. was a little off, too. T.F. is actually quoted in the newspaper article of the next day after this murder saying, that girl only married my brother for his money. She's not to be trusted, that whole family, it's like they're gold diggers, basically. And also during the murder trial, he was accused of intimidating witnesses, which is a really interesting twist to this story because most of the witnesses were not just neighbors of T.F. Schneider and his family, but he sold their property to them.

SHEIR

00:06:36
They're living in his houses.

BENDER

00:06:38
So some of them still owed him money, so he was specifically asked on the stand about this one man, Mr. Bean, who lived in one of the Q Street row houses who, before this incident, had asked T.F. Schneider if he could extend a $2,000 note that he owed Schneider. And Schneider said, sure, no problem. And then after Mr. Bean's wife testified, T.F. Schneider said, no, you can't extend that note anymore.

BENDER

00:07:03
So, you know, he had a lot of power over these people. They all still testified against his brother, and his brother was still convicted of murdering both Amy and Frank.

SHEIR

00:07:15
That was Kim Bender, who writes the blog, "The Location." And in case you're wondering what became of Howard and T.F. Schneider, well, the former was hanged in 1893. The latter finished up the Cairo in 1894 and is now, of course, remembered more for sparking the debate surrounding D.C.'s Building heights than for his family's personal scandals.

SHEIR

00:07:37
For more on the Schneider brothers or to hear other additions of "The Location," visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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