In The Early Days
Improvement of Two Squares In Western Part of City
Buildings Still Standing in the Walls of Which Are Bricks Manufactured at Their Front Doors

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, May 19, 1906 [pt. 3, p. 5]

There attaches to the two squares between 19th and 20th streets, made by Pennsylvania avenue intersecting those streets between H and I streets, much of a general as well as local interest. There are yet standing those buildings in which the walls are of brick manufactured at the front door of the houses when the wild woods had to be cleared for the making of a city; and these squares in the dim past have figured in the annals of the nation as a department of the general government, the residence of a President and the homes of some of the leading men of the nation when it was making heroic struggles for existence.

That square north of the avenue between 19th and 20th streets was one of the many in which James Greenleaf, Morris & Nicholson, Uriah Forrest, Francis Deakins, Wm. Deakins, Benjamin Stoddert, W.M. Duncanson and J.R. Plater figured in the early conveyances. It was platted for thirteen lots and some of these became the site for the Seven Buildings, which figured in some of the important events in the infancy of the republic.

Prior to 1800 the erection of the row of six commodious buildings was projected for James Greenleaf. Gen. Walter Stewart and Maj. F.S. Moore commenced their erection. Messrs. Morris and Nicholson, before the structures were completed, came into possession of them and Messrs. William Deakins and Uriah Forrest finished them. The ground was in the name of J.R. Plater before their completion and deeds were subsequently made, conveying them to Deakins and Forrest. That at least one and perhaps all were completed in 1800 is shown in the fact that on the arrival of the State Department offices when the seat of government was removed to this city in that year John Marshall located with his little retinue of clerks in the east building and for a few months, until the executive buildings were ready for occupancy, the foreign relations business of our government was conducted there.

Completed the "Seven Buildings"
In 1801 the corner of 19th street was sold to Peter Ham with the first building in the row and he erected a structure in such keeping with the other houses that the name "Seven Buildings" was appropriate. Among the owners about this time were Gen. Lingan, a gallant officer, who subsequently lost his life in repelling an attack on the Baltimore jail; Leonard Harbaugh, John McElwee, Gen. Walter Smith, John Hoye and Timothy Caldwell. After the war of 1812 there were W.P. Gardner, Benjamin S. Forrest, John Threlkeld, Commodore Decatur, Robert Ellis, Capt. J.K. Paulding, Joel Wright, Thomas Munroe and Commodore French Forrest among the owners.

Col. Monroe, the city postmaster, Capt. Paulding of the navy board, Gen. George Gibson, Capt. Hook, Mrs. M. Freeman, Rev. Dr. Hawley, rector of St. John's; William Lee, second auditor; Commodore C.W. Morris, Count Von Schroskerken, the Russian minister; Maj. C.H. Nourse, Mrs. Coolidge, Mrs. C.W. Goldsborough, R.J. Walker, Secretary of the Treasury; Maj. W.B. Scott, James Eakin, Dr. Craven, Mr. Kervand, Col. Sharman, Brooke Mackall, Commodore B laden Dulany, Dr. Smoot, H.L. Cross, John Little, Thomas P. Morgan and Dr. T.B.J. Frye were among the residents.

In 1802 the pioneer Baptists of the city purchased part of lot 11, the northeast corner of the square, and erected their first place of worship, the deed being to C.P. Polk and others. For some years this was the principal church of that faith in the District. When the congregation moved down town to 10th street the old building was turned over to the colored members, who have maintained a congregation there.

Square North of I Street
Dr. Craven, in the twenties, lived on 19th street, but his family afterward moved into the Seven Buildings. The west end of the square was purchased by Mr. Mechlin about 1806, and he created a fine residence, in which he lived for years. The avenue corner was bought about 1840 by David Hines. Near this corner, on which the improvements were valued at $3,000 in 1820, when the ground valuation had fallen from 25 to 20 cents per foot, was other improved property. John Little was taxed on $1,050, as was Robert Leckie; L. Kervand, on $3,000; Joseph Thaw, $1,100; W. Waters, on $800; M. Nourse, $500; Joseph Druett, $800. The Seven Buildings were then assessed $6,000 to Peter Ham; Margaret Freeman, $8,500; J.B. Forrest, branch bank, U.S. and J.K. Paulding, $2,700 each, and Thomas Monroe, $8,800.

Lorenzo Kervand conducted a wine store in the lower story of his dwelling, and also a banking house in the forties. Here several prominent people stopped, among them John Randolph of Virginia.

It was after the destruction of the White House by the British in 1814 that the corner house erected by Mr. Ham became the temporary home of President Madison.

Mr. Joseph Mechlin lived at the corner of 20th street for some years, and Joseph Thaw, Robert Leckie, Wm. Waters and others lived above the row.

The square north of I between 19th and 20th streets about 1800 had a valuation of sixteen cents, and its early history is similar to the preceding. Lots on I street had been sold by that year to John Shute, J.F. Mercer, John Roe, and Vinton Bayne took the three lots adjoining the corner of 20th street, in the following year selling a portion of Daniel Buzzard. The improvement was slow, and the valuation was sixteen cents per foot on the south front.

In the early part of the century, in a large frame building at the corner of 20th and I streets, was the store of Samuel Hutchinson. The old-fashioned building remained empty some years when it was reopened by a man named Duvall. Lot 5, adjoining on the east, was occupied by C.W. Patterson, a baker, prior to 1820, and afterward by John McKelden & Co. George Walker, a butcher, resided on I street in the twenties.

Before 1830 a tavern was established on 20th street north of the grocery by J.B. Frere, and this became a great resort, particularly for the English people, the countrymen of the host. In 1820 a house at the corner of 19th and I streets was assessed to L. Brongle, $2,500, and houses on I street were assessed to J. Kedghis' heirs, $1,000; J.C. McKelden, $1,500; S. Hutchinson, at the corner of 20th and I streets, $3,000; J. Hodgson heirs on 20th street, $600; E. Moxley, $150, and A. Kedglie, $400 on 19th street.

South of the avenue, square 119, now quite a business locality, in the early part of the century progressed slowly. Dr. Frederick May was a purchaser of a lot on 19th street at an early date, as also was John Brackenridge and Mary E. Patterson. By 1820, however, there were some improvements on the square. John Achman on H street taxed for $900, Joseph Bromley on the avenue, $250; William Waters, $375; Richard Parrott, 4375; James Hoban, $1,00; John Brackenridge, $5,200 on the avenue and 19th street, and B.B. Beck, $1,500. There was also on this square afterward S.M. McIntire, O.M. Linthicum, Stephen Pleasanton, A. Hines, Andrew Hoover and others.

On the square south J. and S. Stott were located, paying on $2,550 improvements and 20 cents per foot in 1820.

On the avenue was the machine shop of John Achman, whose specialty was the building of fire engines and apparatus. His residence was on H near 20th street. P. Leyne carried on the drug business under the sign of the mortar and pestle and the old designation of apothecary. Later Dr. Flodoardo Howard conducted the drug business there with Thomas P. Morgan as his clerk. Dr. Howard was succeeded in the business by Maj. Morgan and a Mr. Farquhar. A dry goods store was conducted by John Telfair, Squire Waters dispensed justice in the neighborhood, John Campbell had a tailor ship and Lewis Lepreux, grocer, had his store above the Seven Buildings. There were other stores in the neighborhood, Mrs. Ann Kedgley, on I street, conducting one of them.