Known As The Ridge
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, May 5, 1906 [p. 11]
The "Ridge" was the name given by the early residents of Washington to what is now F street from about 14th street to 5th street. It was used possibly more than was Pennsylvania avenue in passing from the neighborhood of the old West Market to the Capitol and other places down town. This was not a "ridge" the whole of that distance, for a small stream at 11th street and a larger one near 9th street crossed the thoroughfare, and at those points small bridges were erected prior to 1804.
From the fact that appropriations were made in the early days of the century for the opening and repairing of cross streets from Pennsylvania avenue to F street, it would appear that the "Ridge" was regarded by the city fathers for some twenty years as a boundary, few improvements being made north of it. These improvements were merely what was necessary to make the street passable for vehicles. Holes in the roadway were filled, gravel footwalks were laid and, in some instances, brick pavements.
That the "Ridge" was an important thoroughfare and appreciated may clearly be seen from the fact that in the first quarter of a century of the city's history two banks, two churches and three seminaries were located upon it. Besides, some men whose names were high on the annals of the nation, to say nothing of those prominent locally, had their residences there. John Quincy Adams, who was prominent in the diplomatic service and finally reached the presidency, spent his last years in a residence on F street near 14th street, the Adams building today marking the spot. Commodore Isaac Chauncey [ ] lived on the south side of F street between 14th and 15th streets, while James Hoban, the architect of the White House and of other public buildings, lived opposite. Dr. James Lovell, surgeon general of the United States army resided at the southwest corner of 12th street; Col. James Kearney of the United States engineers , at the southwest corner of 14th street; Richard Forrest of the State Department and Joseph Wheaton of the land office, resided between 11th and 12th streets; David Shoemaker of the post office, southeast corner of 12th street; John McLaughlin of the land office, between 12th and 13th streets; Robert Newell of the treasury between 12th and 13th streets; C.B. King, the portrait painter, east of 12th street; Dr. Wilbach, a druggist, at the northeast corner of 12th and F streets; Richard Smith, east of 13th street. T.W. Pairo kept a dry goods store between 12th and 13th streets, and Joseph Arny a confectionery west of 14th street. Enoch Reynolds of the treasury between 12th and 13th, and Robert Fenwick of the patent office between 10th and 11th streets.
At the southeast corner of 11th street was the row of three-story brick buildings erected by Henry Smith and known by his name. In remodeled form the most of these buildings are standing today.
Ignatius Mudd, afterward commissioner of public buildings, was on F street, opposite St. Patrick's Church. He was a carpenter and builder prominent in his day. Other carpenters located on F street were William Archer, at the corner of 12th street, and John Giraud, between 13th and 14th streets; Jacob Hilbus lived on F street, between 12th and 13th streets, and was the pioneer organ builder of this section having his establishment at the southwest corner of Pennsylvania avenue and 11th street, later the site of The Evening Star office. "Thady" Hogan, a bricklayer and contractor for corporation work, resided opposite St. Patrick's Church, as did also Richard Burch, a bricklayer. There were taverns kept by Kennedy, near 15th street on the south side of F street; John Dumbleton's north side, near 14th street, afterward kept by Abraham Butler, later of the Union Hotel, near 13th street and Dowlings on the same square.
Dr. Laurie's Church, the Old School Presbyterian, stood on the south side of F street, west of 14th street, and St. Patrick's, at 10th street, flanked the Ridge, while ground in the rear of the latter was used partly as a graveyard, with public vault. What has become Gonzaga College, then bearing the name of the Washington Seminary and regarded as one of the leading institutions of the District, was eastward. The seminary was a large three-story building, east of which was a yard ending over Sluice run, at the property on the corner of 9th street.
The streets had been somewhat improved by the corporate authorities in 1840. The bridges at 11th street and between 9th and 10th streets had been frequently repaired, but in the decade named culverts were constructed over the streams, enabling some improvement of the grade. There had been "kerb set and footways paved" and some graveling of the street. Cobblestone paving came into vogue twenty years after, and there were a number of new settlers on the Ridge, but the travel had been diverted to a large extent by the improvement of the avenue. Taking the line of F street from 7th street to 15th street, there is possibly no house standing today in its original form, if it was erected prior to the forties.
On the northeast corner of 15th street, in the building formerly known as the "Bank of the Metropolis," were located Quantrell & Clark, general agents; Christopher Commack, tailor; Hugh Hanney, clothing store; James McClery, long a clerk in the treasury; Daniel Parker of the War Department, and Richard Cruit, a merchant, all on one side, and at the east end of the square were two small frame buildings-in one the lottery office of F.R. May, and the other the shop of Mrs. Davy, the latter being popular with the children.
On Site of Corcoran Building
At the northeast corner of 14th and F streets was the frame school house of Dr. Henry Arnold and this property was after that of William J. Stone. On this square eastward Mr. Adams, ex-President, was still living, as also Mr. Buchanan, afterward President, and Jefferson Davis, the confederate chieftain. The latter in the fifties lived on the east side of 14th street above F street. Among others who lived after on this square were W. Cost Johnson, Postmaster General; Gen. James Shields, Secretary of the Treasury; James Guthrie and Robert Toombs of Georgia and Senator McDougall.
Miss Cochran kept a boarding house near the house of Mr. W.W. King, long a clerk in the general land office. Mr. Elexius Simms lived eastward, and the corner of 13th street was occupied by Mr. John J. Joyce, a grocer. Near the corner of 14th street on the south side were three two-story brick buildings, then occupied by William Smith as a boarding house, and this at one time was conducted by a Mrs. Ebbitt,, who gave the name to the present popular hotel.
From the first it was the stopping place for army officers, and at times to such an extent that rooms were procured for many of the guests outside. On this square east was the residence of Samuel D. King, a justice of the peace, and the boarding houses of Mrs. Cummins, an old resident, and Mrs. Briscoe, the residence of James E.W. Thompson, a cabinet maker, known as a zealous temperance advocate; the tavern of Mr. Dowling, the residence and bakery of Christian Hagar; the Union Hotel, conducted by Abram Butler, and the grocery and general store of H.W. Reed.
Old Branch Bank
On the northeast corner of 12th was the boarding house of Mrs. Kirkwood, and east that of Mrs. Belt, the mother of Fire Chief Belt; two or three frame buildings, one a three-story frame of Jillson Dove, erected in the thirties, on a lot running to an open stream which crossed the square diagonally and ran down 11th street. The grocery of Mr. A.G. Caruthers was on the corner. At the corner of 12th street the drug store of Dr. Welbach was conducted by Wallace Elliot.
Dr. F. Howard lived at the northeast corner of 11th street, and adjoining was the shoe shop of C. Klopfer and the frame shop of Mrs. Williams. The latter made a business of furnishing hot bread for her neighbors. Opposite the corner of Smith's row was Fowler's Philadelphia Shoe Store; next the frame house of William D. Crampsey, who died a few years since; the home of James Grigsbuy and some vacant ground adjoining the brick residence of Darius Claggett, a leading dry goods merchant. The residence had an entrance on 10th street as well as on F street.
The north side of the square was mostly occupied by St. Patrick's Church and the Catholic Seminary, the only residence being a three-story brick at 9th street, occupied by John Miller, confectioner, who was succeeded by the Eckharts. On the south side of the street was a frame grocery store at the corner of 10th street, and eastward the brick houses of James Hudson and Richard Burch; the carpenter shop of Samuel Clokey and his frame residence in the rear; the frame residence of David Kurtz, Mrs. Burns' frame grocery, Mrs. Bell's similar establishment, the carpenter shop of T.M. Harvey; the brick residence of Mr. Gardner and that of Mrs. Fitzgerald, who conducted possibly the oldest seed store in the District at that period. It was known as Landreth's from the fact that the stock of that house was dealt in. On the corner a Mr. Ellis A. Chandler lived.