In Old Washington (Seventh Street)
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, date unknown
On 7th street between D and E streets northwest business commenced to show itself in a limited way anterior to the twenties.
In 1818 Messrs. Gales and Seaton, the editors and proprietors of the National Intelligencer, bought the lot at the northwest corner of 7th and D streets and built a printing office. This paper at the time was one of he leading papers in the country, and in politics of the republican or anti-federal persuasion, and after was the great whig leader.
This was not only political headquarters for national characters, but the early local democrats formed a coterie of which the editors, Joseph Gales, jr., and Col. W.W. Seaton were the centers. Prior to this time the Intelligencer had been published from 1809 on the south side of Pennsylvania avenue between 6th and 7th streets, at which place it was wrecked by British forces under Admiral Dockburn August 23, 1814; before this it had been published in one of the law buildings at the corner of New Jersey avenue and C street southeast, where it had been established by Col. Samuel Harrison Smith in October, 1800.
There was wont to gather here many of the statesmen of the day, including John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, Senator Barbour of Virginia, who lived on E street; John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay. And not a few prominent men were among the employes, some of whom made their mark subsequently in the service of the country or city as legislators, officers of the government, in the city councils and in the newspaper world.
In the composing room in the old times were Simon Cameron, who was Secretary of War under Mr. Lincoln; Col. John S. Gallagher, an officer in the war of 1812, a Virginia editor and subsequently the third auditor of the Treasury; Judah Delano Long, a master printer. In the business department were Maj. Thomas Donohoe, who entered the office in 1812, and a militia officer and a city councilman; Levi Boos of Georgetown, who afterward accepted a commission in the regular army and served in the Indian, Mexican and civil wars, attaining the rank of colonel.
Among the later printers were Luther Severance, afterward an editor of a Maine paper and a representative in Congress; Lambert Tree, who for nearly a lifetime was clerk of the city post office, later chief clerk and the father of the lae Judge Tree of Illinois; John Hart, at one time public printer; Andrew Rothwell, who afterward published a paper, being of the firm of Ustick & Rothwell, and many years collector of taxes of this city; L.A. Gobright, who afterward was connected with the Republic and was agent of the New York Associated Press in antebellum days; Elias Kingman, who under the nom-de-plume of Ion was a brilliant political writer, as was also Nathan Sargent, who afterward was connected with the department, and at one time was register of the Treasury.
In the twenties there were located on the west side of this square the family residence and grocery store of Joseph Harbaugh, and at the southwest corner of 7th and E streets the tavern of Richard Hendley, which was a popular place down to war times. On the east side of 7th street Thomas Levering kept a grocery, and at the corner of E street Mrs. Mary Smith kept a boarding house. About the middle of the square, on the west side, was the residence of Jonathan Seaver, a clerk in one of the departments, and there also resided on this square Bridget Kine and two colored families of the name of Gill and Harrod. The neighborhood was supplied with water from a pump in front of what is now Ballantyne's book store.
Gradually settlers came in, the travel brought in by the 7th street road being an incentive to settlement. In 1840 the Intellligencer was still at the corner, as it was until civil war times. On the corner opposite John Walker, well known butcher, kept a meat store and later a firm was formed by him and Capt. Joseph Peck; over the store, subsequently, was a telegraph office, and later it became the office of the States and Union, a democratic paper. On the east side of the street Richard Tonge located as a tinner and nearby him James H. Smith had a tobacco store, which was then and under subsequent owners a popular place. Henry Thorn carried on a wool yard just south of Odd Fellows' Hall and later erected a building containing halls as well as store, and many dancing parties, fairs and meetings were held in the upper halls. Odd Fellows' Hall was erected in 1845 and has since been the general meeting place of that fraternity.
The main saloon of this hall has been used for balls, the drama and exhibition purposes, and it was well known in the early days of negro minstrelsy, Kunkle's Ethiopian Serenaders and the Washington Ethiopians performed there for weeks. In the days of panoramas many of the most noted were exhibited here, that of the Crimean war, before the sixties, showing here for weeks as the best panorama ever produced. When the political sentiment made it safe for the production of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," that play was put on the boards here with George Kunkle of Ethiopian fame as Uncle Tom, and it was attended by large audiences for weeks.
North of the hall, a few years before, Francis Mattingley, a practical hatter, opened a hat and cap store and conducted a very successful business, which enabled him later to substantially improve the premises, and which is now owned by his son, William F. Mattingley, who has maintained his law office there for forty years or more. John C. McKelden in the thirties moved down from the first ward and opened the McKelden bakery, which existed down to war times. Later Mr. McKelden was prominent in corporation affairs and banking circles, a long time being president of the Second National Bank. W.J. Gumear was also on the east side of the street, as was D.L. Gilchrist, the grocer, and C.S. Fowler, dealer in china. In Odd Fellows' Hall were Davidge & Semmes, attorneys at law, and Charles Schulzer, tinner.
On the west side of the street Mrs. Shryock kept a boarding house, R. Nevitt a saddlery, John H. France a lottery office and cigar store and C. Columbus a confectionery store. About the middle of the square the city post office was temporarily located for a few months after the destruction of the post office building December 15, 1836. In the fifties the National Era, a pioneer abolition or republican paper, was published here, and through its columns the well known novel of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," by Harriet Beecher Stowe, as well as many of the serial novels of Mrs. Emma D.E.N. Southworth, first appeared.
In the fifties Hendley Tavern, at the southwest corner of 7th and E streets, was popularly known as Gibson's, and among those on the east side of the street were Washington O. Berry, who is yet living, then engaged in the stove and sheet-iron business. Directly opposite Odd Fellows' Hall was the well known Fountain Hotel of Charles Klomann, which soon became a great gathering place, he being a very popular man in military and civic circles, and especially did his cookery bring him fame, his manner of serving oysters being known throughout the District; there were many public dinners, in which military and fire companies and the Odd Fellows figured, given here.
Nearby P.G. Sauer conducted a barbershop, carried on leeching and cupping and he was also a German doctor of considerable repute; J. France was still there in the tobacco and lottery business; Elijah Edmonston had established a boot and shoe business, which afterward was conducted by Robert Ball; W.T.D. Eichler, watchmaker and jeweller, on the east side of the street. W.D. Sheppard established a book and stationery store at the corner of 7th and D streets, and over this was subsequently Jefferson Hall, and, as before stated, the States and Union. Northward was Christian Ruppert's fancy toy store; in the Thorne building Kennedy & Pugh had a grocery store, and already the floors above were frequently used as dancing schools, etc.
Mr. Mattingley was still in the business of hatting, and James S. Topham, now of F street, had established a saddle, harness and trunk business. John Markriter, paper hanging; David E. Irving, cigars and tobacco; Levi Barr, at the corner of E street, ready-made clothing; P.J. Steer, merchant tailor; William Ballantyne, books and stationary. Over the latter store about 1855 the Young Men's Christian Association was organized, the store in the meantime having, under the name of Gray & Ballantyne, become known as a religious book depository.