Lower First Ward
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, date unknown
Near the center of the town of Hamburgh, which was laid out in 1771 by Jacob Funk, in the lower part of the first ward, fronting on the river east of University square--the reservation afterward being known as the old Observatory grounds--were seventeen lots platted as square 104. In the two decades preceeding the taking possession by the commissioners for the government, Funk, it is shown, disposed of a number of lots by lottery, and others were sold direct, the consideration in one case being thirty-five pounds--about $94. There were 288 lots in the town, the average size embracing about 24,000 square feet, and some of them fell in this square. In this division, however, for some of the city lots, other lots in Hamburgh were exchanged. There was some activity in the transfers of los in the early days in which some prominent men took part, and soon after the year 1800 improvements were made in the square.
In May, 1792, two years before the division was made with the proprietors, Conrad Grosh and others conveyed lots 14 and 15, over 18,000 square feet, and fronting 90 feet on 20th street, to Philip Thomas of Frederick county. Lot 4, or over 8,000 feet, was conveyed the same year to B. Stoddert and William Deakins by Rudolf Kneller, the deed reciting that Kneller had bought lot 221 of Funk for thirty-five pounds.
In 1793 John Beall owned lot 71, of over 9,000 feet, on 21st street; William King, lot 13, of the same size, on 20th street, and J.W. Chiswell, lot 17, fronting over 83 feet on 20th street, containing over 9,000 feet.
Owners in 1794
In 1796 Capt. W. Mayne Duncanson and others owned the ground undisposed of, and the next year conveyed lots 1 and 11, at the southeast and northwest corners of the square, respectively, to Dunlop & Carlton, the builders, with many other lots conveyed by Morris & Nicholson as security for $32,000 in notes, with power to sell in default of payment. J. Baptist Neale, in January, 1797, bought of James Garlick lot 6, containing over 9,000 feet, on 21st street, for $800. Two years afterward Duncanson's holding went to Forrest and Deakins, and in 1801 to John Templeman and Benjamin Stoddert, being included in the latter's thirty-five-thousand-dollar purchase of city lots.
In September, 1800, Maj. H. Gaither bought for $1,920 lots 2 and 3, with two others in square 127, on I street between 17th and 18th streets, over 23,000 feet in all. John Alexander in 1801 leased of Stoddert and Templeman part of lot 1 for $20 per year, and soon after had a two-hundred-dollar building upon it. William Harrison the same year owned in lot 6, on 21st street, and was listed for improvements amounting in value to $120.
Assessments for Improvements
Mr. McCreery in 1805 had a deed to part of lot 13 on 20th street, south of F street, and in 1806 he bought at marshal's sale another portion of the same lot, with house, for $7,719. John Knapp bought part of lot 4, on E street, and R. Johns part of lot 1, the latter going to Henry Suttle the year following. In 1806 Mr. Kerr conveyed to Joseph Knapp part of lot 4, 4,900 square feet, for $274.11.
In March, 1807, Charles W. Goldsborough bought of W.B. Smallwood for $1,500 parts of lots 10 and 11, 1,800 feet of ground, and was assessed for $1,600 in improvements. At the same time Mr. Knapp was listed for $1,000 on E street, as was Joseph Forrest $1,000 for the McCreery house on 20th street. In 1809 John Abbott sold 4,516-1/2 square feet to Mr. Goldsborough for $200. In 1811 a deed for parts of lots 10 and 11 to Mr. Forrest was recorded. In 1815 William Whann bought lot 7 on 21st street.
Col. Constant Freeman in 1816 bought parts of lots 10 and 11 at the corner of 21st and F streets, with 13,888 feet of ground for $4,250, and long made his residence here.
In 1817 Maj. Gaither's lot 2 was sold to Robert King for $460.87, and afterward King added the adjoining lot. Ebenezer Stott bought part of lot 11 and E. Haldreth lot 17 on 20th street. In 1818 T. Gillam leased Farrell lot 16 at $50 per year, the lot embracing over 9,000 feet, fronting on 20th street.
In 1827 Margaret Freeman owned in the northwest corner of the square, as did John Nicholson and B.B. Beall. The next year George Graham owned parts of lots 10 and 11, and E. Handley part of lot 1, and John Peters sold a small building to B. Ogle Tayloe. In 1829 James Auld owned in lot 1, 20th and E streets.
Richard Smith in 1831, as trustee, conveyed parts of lot 10 and 11--13,888 square feet--to W.W. Ramsey for $3,815. In the thirties the corporation listed the ground at 5 cents per foot and improvements as follows: B.B. Beall, $1,300; Ed Handley, $900, and Mr. Forrest, $100, on lot 1, corner of 20th and E street; George Graham, $3,000, lot 11, 21st and F streets, and Joseph Forrest, $1,500, lot 13, on 20th street.
Owned by Government Officials
John Abbott, who in 1801 bought on F street, was a clerk in the War Department. The Farrells were located in early years on 20th street; Robert King, who invested on E street, was for years a draughtsman of the land office. John Knapp was in the auditing office of the Treasury; George Graham, in the twenties, was chief clerk of he War Department, sometimes acting as Secretary of War.
B.B. Beall, who resided near the corner of 20th and E streets, was one of the few clerks then in the United States treasurer's office; Ebenezer Stott was connected with the War Department; W.W. Ramsey was early a third auditor's clerk and was the progenitor of sons who attained high rank in both army and navy.
With one exception all the ante-bellum buildings have given way to modern houses. No. 2027 E street, erected by John Knapp of the Treasury about 1806, was occupied by the Townley family in the fifties. Anumber of two-story tenements in the interior of the square have been since erected.