Early Washington Landowners (Between L, P, 7th & 9th)

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, date unknown

In the eight squares of ground within the tract owned by Lynch and Sands, lying between L and P, 7th and 9th streets northwest, there is little ancient history, for it was half a century after they had been platted into building lots before homes were erected upon them. The lots were better known by the city plat than by actual use, for the squares remained intact and title was unchanged in some for generations; as late as 1865 some lots being held by heirs of the original proprietors. And this was true as to the property fronting 7th street, which early was an important thoroughfare, a link between the heart of the city and the Montgomery county turnpike.

The general lay of the land offered inducement to building, gently sloping north and south, and with little exception there was no need of cutting or filling of lots to reach the grade of streets. There were a few knolls, and in 8th street a gutter had been worn. From he record of transfers of a few single lots prior to 1800 improvement was looked for; but there was none until many years after. Improvement came, however, in after years, and toward the middle of the century, the two lower squares, 401 and 425, were well built up, mostly by mechanics and within a few years the section was noted for the sociable habits of the people. It was a community in which there was enjoyment to be found, seldom anything occurring to mar the happiness of any.

In Square 425 as originally laid out for fourteen lots fronting L, M, 7th and 8th streets a subdivision was made in 1842 into thirty-six parcels. In 1794 the square was in the Greenleaf contract, but two years after it was assigned to the government. Title was unaffected till 1832, when it passed to St. Vincent's Orphan Asylum under the gift of city lots by Congress to the asylums. Ten years later Col. Henry Naylor bought first one lot, and soon after the others, the fourteen for $2,951.15, and the subdivision was made. Early in the forties George W. Utermehle erected a row of frames on 7th street, which were soon rented. John Lockie, long an agent for The Star, bought and built a house in which for several years he carried on the bakery business, and there resided on this street Milton M. Ward, carpenter; J. Walter, who kept a shoe store; G.W. Cecil, Caleb and Samuel Shreve, Reuben Brown, market men; Robert Brooks, grocer; James Lee, bricklayer, and later E.F. Queen & Bro. established a grocery.

Held at Very Low Prices
Square No. 401 of fourteen lots on L, M, 8th and 9th streets, assigned to Lynch & Sands in 1796, were included in the Greenleaf contract with the commissioners. In 1797 Joseph Covachichi had three lots at the corner of 8th and L streets; George Lewis one on M street, F. Atkinson two at 8th and M streets and John Atkinson one on L street and one on 8th street. In 1800 Comfort Sands had three lots, and the lot of Lewis in 1806 passed to James Taylor, afterward to other parties, in 1812 reaching John Eastburn. But an eighth of a cent per foot was the corporation value of the ground then and for twenty years after, lot 1, at 8th and L streets, being then rated at two cents, and other portions at one cent.

In the thirties there was on lot 2, fronting L street, an old frame house listed to John Atkinson at $150, and a Mrs. Hayes then resided in it. Few were the transfers until the forties. Lots 1, 13 and 14, at the southeast corner of the square, in 1818 were owned by James Grear, who, ten years after, sold lot 1 to E. Stephens; and in 1837 Perez Packard owned the others. The year after John Reed owned lot 14. In the forties John Brightwell, Asa Gladman, Z. Jones, Mrs. Ann Martin, William Miles, Mrs. M. Chew and others bought lots on 9th street, erecting comfortable homes. John G. Adams erected a fine brick residence, with storeroom, at the northwest corner of 8th and L streets, where Adams' grocery was long a landmark. James Reeves, a carpenter, lived on L street, as did Gilbert D. Giberson, a lawyer, afterward justice of the peace; Mrs. Miller and N. Robinson. On the west side of 8th street were C.C. Owens, shoemaker; Alfred Taylor, bricklayer; W.T. Collins, carpenter; Isaac Jones, wheelwright; T. Endressel and Daniel Lazenby, carpenters. On 9th street, with those noted above, were Isaac Hill, W.J. Darden of the general post office, Charles I. Canfield, printer, and John Seibly, tailor.

Lynch & Sands, the original proprietors, were assigned the sixteen lots in square 424, fronting M, N, 7th and 8th streets, in 1796, and the history above of square 401 corresponds down to 1820. In 1824 lot 16, on 7th street was owned by John Eastburn. George Cover, in 1834, owned the center lot on the N street front, and in 1835 G.W. Utermehle bought lot 1, corner 7th and N streets, afterward erecting a two-storied brick residence.

Owned by the Government
The government had title to the sixteen lots fronting 8th, 9th, M and N streets, which formed square No. 400 from 1796, and not until 1832 did title pass. The square was then conveyed to the Washington City Orphan Asylum under an act of Congress, and not until 1847, when a subdivision was made, were building sites offered.

The twelve lots, five each on 7th and 8th streets, and one each on N and O streets, of square 423, were vested in the government in 1796, and for thirty years were unproductive. In 1826 lot 12 was owned by Mary Talbott, who in 1830 was assessed for $800 on 7th street. Three years later John Hoover was the owner. In 1833 Columbian College owned eight lots, and five years after William Jones owned the corners of 7th and N streets, 7th and O streets and a lot on 7th street. In 1841 William Ruggles owned three lots on 8th street, and a few years after Joseph Weyrich bought a lot on 7th street, erecting a home and blacksmith shop. Soon after W. Crigley opened a grocery on 7th street.

Lots 1 to 10 in square 399, between N, O, 8th and 9th streets, were assigned to the United States in 1796. Col. George Bomford was the owner in 1831, and two years later they passed to Ulysses Ward. In 1839 Harvey Cruttenden had lots 6 and 7, the north front of the square. These lots were used some years in connection with the brick kilns of Mr. Cruttenden, but not until 1853, when the square was subdivided by Samuel Norment into thirty-two lots, was building thought of.

The square between 7th, 8th, O and P streets, No. 4422, was platted for eight lots, and at the time of the division, 1796, Samuel Blodget was interested, as were Lynch & Sands, and in the apportionment he was assigned lots 2 to 5, the west half. In 1815 William O'Neale owned lots 3 to 5, which ten years later went to R.S. Bickley.

The Hoover House
In 1828 Michael Hoover bought lot 8, one-fourth of the 7th street front, for $90, and ten years later lots 1, 6 and 7, the remainder of the east half of the square, for $80 each, and in 1845 he acquired the remainder of the square. In 1830 the assessed value of the ground was 1-1/2 cents per foot, and the only improvement was Mr. Hoover's house, on lot 8, assessed for $1,200, it being a substantial two-story and attic brick residence, which in after years, when the street was cut to grade, required steps to reach it. About 1845 Mr. Hoover moved elsewhere, and the property was bought by Andrew Rothwell, and for years Rothwell's gardens were well known.

The square west (398), of the same size as the above lots, fronting O, P, 8th and 9th streets, in the division of 1796 went equally to Mr. Blodget and the government. The Blodget lots in 1815 went to William O'Neale, and ten years later to Mr. Bickley. The west half was acquired in 1839 by Harvey Cruttenden, who the next year had the other lots, and he devoted all to brick making. About 1852 building was looked to, and a subdivision provided sites. Later some small buildings were erected, as also the home of the well known master bricklayer Thomas Lewis, who bought the west half of the O street front.