Sold For A Trifle
Early Owners of Land Around Dupont Circle
Section of Slow Growth
Until the Fifties Only Half a Dozen Settlers
Long Site of Burial Ground
Graveyard Held the Remains of One of the Lincoln Conspirators --
Now Location of Palatial Homes
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, date unknown
The northwest quarter of a circle centering at the Dupont statue with Florida avenue inclosing it, now contains but few vacant building sites and is worth as many dollars a square foot as the few tenths of a cent for which it was assessed in the early part of the last century. Above P street and west of 19th street, Connecticut and Massachusetts avenues and neighboring streets have become the location of palatial homes and the neighborhood is second to none in the character of improvements or in the standing of its residents. The land belonged to David Peter, A. Holmead and Gen. James M. Lingan when the transfer was made for laying out the seat of government. For a long time the major part was unimproved, and so slowly did residents appear until about the fifties that they could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
At Foot of Kalorama Heights
Lying at the foot o fKalorama Heights, the estate of Judge Baldwin, on which was the family vault where Commodore Decature was laid to rest in 1820, more generally known as Col. Bomford's. Rock Hill, owned by the Pairos, and the Cedars where lived John Little, the space in the lines of 19th and P streets was mostly waste land for years. A graveyard known as Holmead's burial ground was the principal feature, and a house or two, half a dozen gardens, and now and then a brick yard, were to be seen. All else was slashes in which were some of the old native trees. The avenue and street lines were difficult to define, but could be approximated from the well marked roads to the graveyard, Kalorama, Rock Hill and the Cedars. These places figured largely in the old days of Washington. The Bomfords, Pairos and Littles were prominent families. The groves were much used for school picnics and the residences were scenes of hospitality. Though little was done by the corporation to improve the streets, the roads were well worn. Not till 1856 was 20th street graded and graveled and then it was the result of a pledge made by a candidate in a municipal campaign.
The First Settler
As near as can be ascertained Guy Graham was the first actual settler in this space. Mr. Graham was a pioneer of the District and was one of those who cut the road from the Capitol to the Treasury, which was designated Pennsylvania avenue. Some of his descendants, now living, remember his description of how the trees were cut so as to fall across the road and stone and gravel were filled in for making the roadbed. He had come to this country after his marriage in Scotland, and with his family settled near 21st and S streets about 1808, when ground was sold at .001 per foot. For some time he was in charge of Holmead's burial ground. The family lived here for many years, and a son, Guy Stone Graham, was also superintendent o fthe graveyard and the manager of the Kalorama grounds.
When the municipal government assumed control "Holmead's graveyard" had been laid out and some families had placed their dead there. It was a plot of about one-third of an acre at the southwest corner of 19th street and Florida avenue, in square 109. Two squares were assigned by the commissioners of the city for burial purposes, "For the interment of all denominations of people," in this square and No. 1026, between 13th and 14th streets north of H street northeast. Under the act of March 14, 1807, they were placed under the management of commissioners. The squares were platted into burial sites, with a section for the colored.
The elder Graham was the first superintendent of the former, and in the twenties Philip Williams filled this office as well as that of the West market. After him G.S. Graham had charge.
Soldiers Buried There
There were buried here a number of the soldiers of the war of 1812 and prominent people, including, in 1834, Lorenzo Dow, that successful Methodist minister known throughout the land for his oratorical powers, piety and zeal. One of the last to be buried here was Lewis A. Payne, who was hanged as one of the Lincoln assassination conspirators, in July, 1865. His body was removed from the arsenal in 1869, but this did not prove a last resting place. Early in the seventies the grounds were condemned as a menace to health. The remains of Lorenzo Dow were removed at the instance of W.W. Corcoran to Oak Hill and interred. Numbers of others were removed to other cemeteries by relatives and friends and unclaimed bodies were placed in a lot at Rock Creek, that of Payne among them. It is related that owing to the fear of resurrectionists, about 1830, a dying man determined to thwart them. As death approached he selected those whom he wanted for pallbearers. They were called in, and he requested that lime should be placed around the body in the coffin and when they had lowered him in the grave to pour in sufficient water to destroy the usefulness of he body as a subject. These gruesome directions were carried out to the letter.
Fall in Land Values
The square west, No. 90, between 20th street, Connecticut avenue, S and Boundary streets, three lots, was in 1797 vested in the government. John Douglass in 1826 bought lot 3, and the next year bought the others. In 1802 the ground was assessed at one cent and quickly after reduced to half a cent. Mr. Douglass established here a flower garden, with greenhouses, in which an extensive business was established, represented for years at 15th and G streets. That the commencement was in a modest way is shown by the appraisement of $250 only in 1830.
South of the graveyard square 110 was platted for sixteen lots, facing R, S, 19th and 20th streets, and in 1797 it was apportioned to Gen. James M. Lingan. In the early days of the lst century Mr. Greenleaf was interested, and in 1819 William O'Neale of the Franklin House owned the square. Two years after it was owned by Mary Brown, and in 1832 it was again in Mr. O'Neale's name. The square south, 111, between 19th, Q and R streets and Connecticut avenue, twelve lots, has the same history of title.
After the death of Mr. O'Neale both squares were in the name of Mrs. Margaret Eaton, otherwise Peggy O'Neale.
The O'Neale Farm
Both were cultivated as orchard and garden and called "O'Neale's farm." The family home was on lot 5, in square 111, fronting on Connecticut avenue, south of Q street, which in 1830 was assessed at $1,400. In 1856 John and George W. Hopkins bought these squares, paying one cent a foot. For several years they were in the brick business. Square 112, the point north of Dupont Circle formed by 10th street and Connecticut avenue, south of P street, ahs the same ancient history as the above. After the death of Mr. O'Neale in 1834 it became the property of the widow, Rhoda O'Neale, and it in the fifties passed to R.H. Gillett, once register of he Treasury.
Square 91, in the lines of Connecticut avenue, 20th and S streets, three lots owned by Holmead and Gen. Lingan, was vested in the Untied States and long remained idle. In 1845 it was bought by
To the seven lots of square 92, between Connecticut avenue, R, S and 21st streets, Mr. Greenleaf's name was attached in 1794, but in 1797 they were assigned to the United States. In 1818 James Baker, in 1821 William Godfrey, in 1823 Thomas Carberry, in 1825 George Bomford and in 1834 Guy Graham owned in lot 7, the north part of the square. In 1830 a two-hundred-and-fifteen-dollar improvement was made by Col. Bomford.
Square 93, between Q, R, 20th and 21st streets and Connecticut avenue, seventeen lots, went to the United States and Greenleaf was the first owner. In 1830 J. Davidson and H. Upperman owned the square. The two squares south, 94 and 95, have the same history down to 1839, when Col. Corcoran bought them. In 1843 Thomas Lewis and I.T. Ellwood bought them and two years later he reconveyed them.
The Small Triangle
The small triangular square of two lots in the lines of Florida avenue, 21st and R streets, number 65, was in 1794 owned by Greenleaf, two years later conveyed to the commissioners, and in 1807, John Newton bought it of John Holmead. Jacob Holtzman owned it in 1814 and W. Holtzman in 1825, and it was in the name of Holtzman ten years later. A cent a foot was the original assessment of the ground, but for fifty years from two to five mills or tenths was the figure. In 1830 $150 was assessed for improvements.
In the square south, No. 66, in the lines of Massachusetts and Florida avenues, Q, R and 21st streets, eight lots were laid out, when Anthony Holmead and Morris & Nicholson owned it. In the division with the United States the lots were vested in Holmead. Soon after Forrest, Deakins and Duncanson's names were associated, and in 1808 one Speake had a lease upon it, and a four-hundred-dollar improvement was made. In 1837 J. Roberts owned the square. The corporate values commenced at a cent per foot and .003 expressed the assessed value for a long period.
Nineteen Lots in One Square
Square 67, between P, Q, Massachusetts avenue, 21st and 22d streets, was laid out into nineteen lots, which in the division was apportioned between Morris J. Nicholson and the United States. The lots of the former in 1801 passed to John Templeman and Benjamin Stoddert, and six years after to the Bank of Columbia, which held title until 1823, when they passed to Col. Joseph Nourse. John Palmer bought one lot on 21st street. Later the Bank of the United States and Mary P. Nourse were owners, and in 1843 Charles E. Mix held title. The valuation for taxing purposes was the same as in square 66.
The square known as 47, between P, 23d, and "the street which bounds the city," now Florida avenue, was marked for two lots on the original plan of Washington. In 1796 the square was in the names of Morris & Nicholson and Anthony Holmead. The former took the P street lot. In 1794 it was included in the Greenleaf contract for lots, and in 1801 Templeman and Stodart owned the lots. Carl M. Nourse was the owner in 1829 and many years after. The corporation value was the fourth of a cent per foot for forty years.
In the fifties the square between 19th, 20th, Q and R streets, No. 93, was owned by William Linkins, a butcher who had his home there. The ground then was worth a few cents a square foot. A son, now in business in this city, was reared there, and can tell of the wonderful growth of the section, as can Mrs. C. Heurich, whose father, Augustus Weller, owned the square west and cultivated a fine truck garden.