The first photo shows the family townhouse at 713 4½ St. SW and two adjoining buildings. The next two show the father alone and paired with Al's step-mother. The three are from collections of the Prints and Photos Division of the Library of Congress.
Here are some details from the first of the three photos:
LC's bibliographic details are sparse. They show that the house is where Al Jolson's parents lived. They give the address as 4½ St. NW. They identify the source as the Harris & Ewing firm of photographers (more on H&E here.)
When the photo appeared on the Shorpy blog, commenters identified some components.
One decodes a flyer in the barber shop window: "Washington Post, Mar 25, 1927. Kiatta vs. Taylor on Mat. George Kiatta, Syrian mat expert will meet George Taylor in a wrestling bout at the Mutual theater tonight. Taylor has recently won victories over Dutch Green and other good middle-weight wrestlers."
Another, the blog's author, says the woman in the window might be a cardboard image, not a real person.
A third says the address can't be in northwest DC (as the bib record claims): "Note that address is in the southwest quadrant. I don't think there was a 4½ Street in the northwest." He quotes:
Washington Post, Jun 24, 1923
Native Washingtonians Succeed in
Varied Fields of Endeavor . . .
To the southwest section of Washington as well as America generally the stage is typified by one name, "Al Jolson," for he is the pride of that neighborhood where he lived from the time he was a child of eight after coming to America from Europe until the dawn of fame drew his steps away from the Capital.
Down in the substantial home at 713 Four-and-one-half street southwest, his boyhood home and where his father, the Rev. M.R. Yoelson still resides, there is always joy when "Al" is coming to town. For they know that although he is a personal friend of President Harding, who always tries to see his show and appreciates his humor and genius to the full, the "dearest spot on earth to him is Home, Sweet Home" and his big car caries him swiftly away from the uptown theater to his home where a reunion with his dear ones awaits him.
The boys and girls at Jefferson school, just around the corner, treasure every scrap they can learn of Al Jolson, for he is one of their own, "a Jefferson school boy" through all his healthy, happy boyhood, a marble champion, a baseball player and popular among his mates.
Al Jolson, article in wikipedia.
AL JOLSON Biography on notablebiographies.com
One bio says this of Al's parents:
Father: Moshe Reuben Yoelson (a Rabbi) (b. Moshe Reuben Hesselson, 1857, Kurland, Latvia - d. December 23, 1945, Washington, D.C.)Jolson on jewishvirtuallibrary.org. This site says of Al:
Mother: Naomi Etta Cantor (b. 1860 - died in childbirth, February 6, 1895, at 208 4 1/2 Street SW, Washington, D.C.)
He was the youngest of four children of Rabbi Moses Reuben Yoelson and his wife, Naomi (Cantor). Anti-Jewish pogroms were common and the family immigrated to Washington, D.C., in 1880, where Rabbi Yoelson obtained a job as a cantor in a synagogue.Jolson Biography on musicals101.com. This site says:
Jolson's mother died when he was 10. His formal education wasn't much but he learned much more from the streets, where he would sing and dance on the corner to earn spending money. In constant conflict with his father, who wanted him to follow a religious life, Al ran away to New York to join his older brother, Harry, who had left home and changed his name to Jolson. Al also changed his family name to Jolson and in 1899, he appeared as an extra in a Jewish play called Children of the Ghetto. At 15, he joined his brother in a three-man comedy act that toured the vaudeville circuits. They were known as Jolson, Palmer and Jolson. It was during this tour that he used burnt cork to darken his face, which became his trademark in show business.
Asa Yoelson was born in Seredzius (a.k.a. Srednike), a Jewish village ("schtetle") in the Lithuanian region of Imperial Russia. Although he would claim Mar. 26, 1886 as his birth date, no documentation exists to verify it – it may have been anytime from 1884 onwards. The openly anti-Semitic authorities were not interested in recording the arrival of another Jew. Asa was the fourth surviving child of cantor Moshe Yoelson and his wife Naomi, after daughters Rose and Etta, and their son Hirsh. The Yoelsons raised their family according to strict orthodox tradition, and Moshe expected his sons would one day become cantors too. He trained both boys to sing, propping open their mouths with matchsticks to encourage them to sing loud and clear.
Moshe Yoelson wanted to get his family away from the ongoing threat of Tsarist oppression. Soon after Moshe's studies brought him the title of rabbi in 1890, he traveled to America, promising to send for his wife and children at the earliest opportunity. The emotionally strong but physically ailing Naomi held the family together, becoming the center of young Asa's world. When Moshe became head of a Washington D.C. congregation in 1894, Naomi and the children made the long journey to join him there. Any hopes the Yoelson's had of resuming a normal family life were dashed when Naomi's died in 1895. Eight year old Asa was in the next room, his world shattered.