Course of Slash Run
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, June 3, 1906 [p. 10]
It is not beyond the recollection of the oldest inhabitants that what is now known as the leading neighborhood of the northwest section of Washington was once traversed by a small stream of water called Slash run. There was appropriateness in that name because of the boggy ground skirting it, but the title of Zigzag would have suited better.
This run is, however, out of sight, the modern sewer having superseded it to carry off the drainage by more direct route, and the question of a suitable name is no longer of importance. Few if any parts of the city can be said to have undergone such a complete metamorphosis as that portion drained by Slash run in antebellum days. The stream entered the city limits at Florida avenue between 17th and 18th streets, crossed the avenue and coursed southward to a point near L street; thence westward to New Hampshire avenue; thence north and northwestward to Rock creek, entering the latter stream west of the head of 23d street.
Slash run, with a few of its branches drained much of what is now a beauty spot of the metropolis and many of the old men of today feel young when recalling adventures in the tangled growth along its banks. Along the stream, near the city limits, there was a profusion of blackberry bushes which in season attracted large numbers of “pickers;” and though the water was clear, and ran over hard bottom, with firm ground on either side, there was considerable marsh to be found. In more than one stretch the bushes and vines, with other growth, were almost impenetrable. There was small game to be found, and the man with dog and gun often enjoyed a day’s hunting in that portion of the city Boys were wont to spend hours in exploring the mysteries of the section, fishing for suckers and other small fish; catching frogs of “bludnouns,” or hunting birds and snakes.
As the stream coursed southward some little springs added their waters to the general volume. Among these were what in the beginning of the last century was known as Brown’s spring, near Florida avenue and east of 15th street; one of the south side of Rhode Island avenue, east of Connecticut avenue, and one from what are now the grounds of the Louise Home, on Massachusetts avenue between 15th and 16th streets.
South of Florida Avenue
It will readily be understood from this description how difficult it was seventy years ago to obtain a bid at public auction of a mill per foot on ground within a stone’s throw of Dupont Circle, for with the exception of a wagon road or two, and perhaps half a dozen winding footpaths leading to some isolated dwelling, garden or slaughter house, many places were nearly inaccessible. Now within this territory are located the British embassy, the Blaine house and any number of apartment houses, some of which are of towering height. Among these are the Cairo, the Louisiana, the Connecticut, the Wyoming, the Mendota, the Portner the Highlands, the Romaine, the Sheridan, the Grafton, the Portsmouth, the Dupont, the Don Carlos, the Albemarle and the Decatur.
In the early years of the century the market was supplied with home-killed beef and pork, and seldom was it that the consumer was supplied by other than those who killed and dressed their own meat, perhaps within a few hundred yards of their homes. The open runs or streams were often utilized to carry off the offal, as well as to furnish water to the slaughter houses. Slash run was at an early day one such stream, and in the course of time there was a number of slaughter houses built upon it.
One of the earliest butchering establishments on the run was that of George Walker, on Connecticut avenue between L and M streets, before 1820. John and Henry Walker in later years operated here. The first named resided not far away on I street near 18th street. George W. Emerson followed Henry Walker at a more recent time, and John Hoover, William Linkins, John Berry, Frank Linkins and others did their slaughtering on this run.
One of the most prominent objects was the Western burial ground, known also as Holmead’s, at the upper end of 20th street, which was established by the corporation in 1807 “for the interment of all denominations of people.” This square and one near the eastern terminus of H street north had been previously assigned to the public, and in the year noted the councils provided that they be inclosed with a fence of cedar posts and chestnut rails, under the direction of three commissioners, appointed by the mayor.
The Western ground was much used in the course of time, every site being occupied. In and about it were cedar trees, which stood as sentinels over the dead. About 1870, however, the cemetery was condemned as a menace to health, and the bodies were mostly removed to Rock Creek and Glenwood cemeteries, while those of the noted preacher, Lorenzo Dow, and others found a second last resting place at Oak Hill.
In the square south was the country home of William O’Neale the landlord of the Franklin House. This tavern was a large building, about which were orchard and garden, filling the square, which O’Neale called his farm. Here he enjoyed a taste of rural life, and was not stinted in the entertainment of guests. He was most happy when surrounded by his family of children and grandchildren.
West of the burial ground, about the foot of Kalorama, were Douglass’ gardens, in early days mostly devoted to the raising of market stuff, but latterly known as one of the finest flower establishments of this section. In the forties the green houses at the northeast corner of 15th and G streets were established by the Douglasses and conducted in connection with the garden. Near by the Douglass gardens were the market gardens of Richard and Guy Graham, and on 21st street was a garden owned by John Baker nearly a hundred years ago.
Agricole Favier, a noted French confectioner, who had located on 19th street south of Pennsylvania avenue early in the thirties, soon after established the Favier gardens, north of M street between 17th and 18th streets. This was one of the earliest summer gardens in the District and occupied the whole square bounded by Rhode Island and Connecticut avenues, and for years was a favorite resort for select parties and picnics. Mr. Favier won quite a reputation here as a chef through little dinner parties which included many of our public men.
The brick-making business flourished not far north of Dupont Circle from about 1840 to 1870. Capt. Thomas Corcoran, a brother of the millionaire, established brick yards about the first year northwest of Dupont Circle and carried on the business several years. Mr. Wm. Hopkins succeeded to this business late in the fifties, conducting it till the real estate value exceeded the worth of the clay.
On M and 21st streets were some two-story frame buildings, two on the latter street and four on the former. These were known as Paddy Magietown. There was a shop in one and on a Christmas morning a row occurred because some one had watered the whisky. Conneaught, or chronic, row on 23d street north of M was another well-known place.