This snowstorm — which actually developed in South Carolina before moving north up the Eastern Seaboard — is known as the Knickerbocker Storm. To this day it holds the record for DC’s largest snowfall — at least 28 inches were recorded in Washington, and as much as 33 inches in the surrounding areas.
A tragic result
This isn’t the coldest nor windiest winter storm DC has known (there have certainly been some doozies in the area since). We also don’t know if it’s the deadliest, nor even the most dangerous — but unfortunately there were casualties. The extremely heavy snowfall from this storm caused the roof of the Knickerbocker Theater to collapse, and — unfortunately — there were people inside, 100 of whom were killed.
Sledding and snowmen
There are snow days and there are snow days. And this was the kind of storm that no one ever forgets. As you can see from the photos, Washingtonians couldn’t even wait until the white stuff stopped falling to get out of the house and frolic in the snow!
Since cars and trolleys were fully blanketed in deep snow cover, the nation’s capital was largely at a standstill until they could shovel out.
Lucky for our nostalgia habit, however, a local photographer was on the beat and captured some amazing shots of our nation’s freezing capital even as the snow was still coming down. We strongly recommend a mug of hot chocolate to accompany your scroll through this super wintry collection.
January 1922: Big blizzard cuts off Washington and South
DC buried under worst snow since 1899
The states comprising the Middle Atlantic section were today buried, and were being further buried under the heaviest snowfall since the long-remembered blizzard of February 1899.
The storm, which began with almost unprecedented falls of snow in the Carolinas and Virginia Thursday, was creeping up the coast, leaving buried cities, stalled trains, disturbed trolley service and a general suspension of business and social activities in its wake.
The blanket of snow was the heaviest today in the District of Columbia, with the fall recorded at 10 o’clock as an even two feet. At that time, it was still snowing and the Weather Bureau prediction was for a continuation of the fall through the day and into the night.
Starting shortly before dusk yesterday evening, the snow fell continuously through the night, and by midnight, railroads and trolley lines began to surrender. From midnight until 9 o’clock this morning, no trains left the capital, and only three from New York and one from the West arrived.
Thoroughfares were strewn with abandoned automobiles. The flakes fell so thick and fast that numerous accidents were reported and the police received several calls for aid to find persons believe to have lost their way in finding their homes.
One boy had gone astray in the blinding storm; many automobile crashes were reported, and eleven persons were injured in accidents.
11 snowy DC street scenes from January 28, 1922
Two cars from the 1920s buried in the snow
Trolley cars in Washington DC at a standstill
A police officer stands on a mound of snow to direct traffic downtown
People gathering downtown in the snowy city
Two vintage pickup trucks and train trolley cars on a major street
Snow day in Washington DC in the 1920s – Colorized
Women in snowy DC in 1922 – Colorized
While it was still snowing, this boy had his sled ready
This guy is pulling his mom or grandma on his little snow sled
A District of Columbia trolley car covered with ice and snow
Another car covered by the blizzard