Some Old Time Homes
Well-Known Resident Section of Former Days
West of War Department
Site of One of the First Free School Buildings
Meeting House of Friends
Values of Land and Buildings Fixed by Tax Assessors in the Early Years

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, June 3, 1906 [pt. 4, p. 8]

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The Evening Star, June 3, 1906, pt. 4, p. 8

In that portion of the city west of the present State, War and Navy Department buildings there are to be found today a few buildings whose walls and roofs have stood the beating of the storms for about a century. Though the original occupants have long since passed away, some are represented in that section by descendants There are not a few of the old worthies who laid the foundation of the national capital by developing the interests of what in old corporation days was the old first ward, whose names are revered by those who delight in studying the ancient history of the District. Even some who were residents of Funkstown or Hamburgh, a subdivision made in colonial days of ground in the lower part of the ward, are represented by children's children.

Aside from local interest there attaches to much of the ground a wide significance, for here lived at times some of the leading men of the nation. It is well known that the octagon house at the northeast corner of New York avenue and 18th street, the residence of Col. John Tayloe, housed for a time President Madison, who was burned out of house and home by the British in August, 1814. Nearby on New York avenue, lived an old patriot, John N Lovejoy, who, having served in the Continental army, came to the District and was employed in the Treasury. He died in the forties. Capt. John Woodsue, another old sire, lived in the west end, serving the government he helped into existence for years as a clerk in the Treasury. Capt. James L. Cathcart, who served in the navy of the revolution before reaching his teens and after eleven years' captivity in Algiers, served in the consular service and reached the end of his eventful life as a clerk in the Treasury. He was a resident of the first ward. Washington's secretary, Col. Lear, with his sons, were early residents.

As before stated, prior to 1800 there had been some settlement in the neighborhood of the observatory and some of the owners had exchanged their lots in Hamburg for Washington city lots.

Some Early Land Values
Looking westward from the White House in the first decade of the nineteenth century the fine blocks known as the Six and the Seven buildings could be seen and here and there less pretentious houses of brick and frame, some of the latter little more than cabins. City values had been but recently applied to house and ground. For the land the usual valuation was 8 cents per foot, which increased to double in 1820, but in the net twenty years but a few cents more were added. In the early sales of city lots many near to public buildings sites were withheld from sale, the idea being that later they would bring better prices, but it seems that for lots west of the President's house when the sales were made no fancy prices were obtained.

In the first decade of the century J.E. Swaim owned lots on Pennsylvania avenue west of 17th street, where later J. & J. Williams opened a cabinetmaking shop as also an undertaking establishment, in which they were succeeded by their younger brother, Lemuel Williams, and it was the leading establishment of that kind for well-nigh a century. That the early improvements of this property were not extensive is seen in the fact that the two buildings on the lot in the twenties were taxes for but $550. The west end of the square was owned by Mrs. Sarah Radcliffe, and through the hands of Somerset R. Water it went, in 1821, into the hands of N.B. Van Zandt, a treasury clerk, when there were three frame houses upon it. About 1830 this property passed to S. Gresham and subsequently, about 1840, to the Schneiders, who, commencing with a small blacksmith shop and grocery, extended their business to a general foundry and ironwork business, with hardware. The eastern portion of this square on 17th street and the avenue in 1816 went to Satterlee Clarke, and a few years after, with other property, to Thomas Munroe.

At the corner was erected a three-story building, yet standing, which as office and dwelling has played an important part. At one time it was occupied by a family, probably the first here, of spiritualistic tendencies, and for a long series of years before the erection of the Interior Department the office of commissioner of Indian affairs was there. During the civil war it was used by the War Department, and subsequently Thomas B. Florence published the Constitutional Union there. During the days of the transition of the old city government to the present form, when the old corporations had been superseded by a governor, board of public works and legislative assembly, the offices of Gov. Cooke were in that building.

By 1825 Richard Rush, Julius Watkins, William Langton and F.R. Wagler were on the square, and in the thirties the valuation of improvements had increased to about $20,000. Five lots on H street, which were improved to the amount of $8,000, were transferred to N.P. Trist of the State Department, and afterward M. Dickinson succeeded to this property. Mr. Wagler was a professor of music on H street, near 17th street, paying on an assessed value of $1,300, and Robert B. Brent, a well-remembered lawyer, had succeeded to the property at H and 17th streets, on which was a two-story residence. Benjamin Harrison owned a home on 17th street valued at $1,800. Mr. Edward Green, long located at Pennsylvania avenue and 11th street, erected in the fifties a building for cabinet shops and salesrooms, with hall, and this for a number of years was used by fraternal and other societies.

Some Early Owners
Immediately north of this square the early lot owners were Satterlee Clarke, J. Strange, W. Barksdale, Robert Never, Henry Gaither and S.A. Smith. As late as 1840 the assessed value of the ground was from 8 to 12 cents, as it was twenty years before. About 1800 Nathan Gore owned a house and lot on the northwest corner of 17th and H streets. About 1812 Charles Vinson of the Treasury Department owned property on the I street front of the square and there had a residence for several years. He also owned some of the 17th street front of the square, as did a few years after Joel Crittenden and Gen. Philip Stewart. The latter, in the twenties, sold some of this property to Elinor Gardner. A.S. Payne, about this time, owned a residence on H street west of 17th street. Later Joseph Peck was on 17th street. When the corporation put in operation the public school system in the early part of the century a school building was erected on the south side of I street, near the corner of 17th. This was known as the Western Academy and was used for public school purposes till 1821, when the building at the southeast corner of 14th and G streets was donated by the President of the United States. For many years the I street building was used as a private school, Mr. George I. Abbott at its head, and "Abbott's School" became noted for many of its pupils who became prominent in after life.

Assessments for improvements were made in the twenties to J.A. Wilson, lot 17, corner 18th and I streets, $500; Charles Vinson, 18, $2,200; Robert Bowling, 22, $3,000; J.D. Barclay, 23, $2,600; Elinor Gardner, part 24, $2,600; B.A. Crittenden, part 24, $2,000; A. McIntire, part 24, $2,000, all on I street; Thomas Munroe, lots 28 and 29, corner 17th and I streets, $1,400 each, and J.H. Handy, part 31, on 17th street, $3,500 The latter was for a long time a treasury clerk and lived on 17th street for many years.

Square 105, west of 18th street, was one of the first in that locality where improvement was made. As early as 1792 the lot at the northwest corner of 18th and H streets went into the hands of C.A. Gore and for many years the improvements were valued at $350. The most of the square was held by the large landowners, Greenleaf, Forrest, Deakins and others Before 1800, however, Colonel Lear, N. Sluby, Robert Harrison, J Hedrick and W.S. Chandler owned lots on the H or avenue front and Jacob Steiner on 19th street. An H street lot passing through several hands to John P. Maul in a few years had improvements valued at $600., and the ground was rated at 15 cents on the front, but fell to 10 cents by 820. In that year the assessments for improvements were: Henry Hines, $1,450; J.B. Cook, $700; C.B. Davis, $2,900; Kedgeby's heirs, $1,400, all on H street; J. Hedrick's corner, $50; J.A. Wilson, $600 on 19th street; T. De Silver, $200 on I street; H. Hines, $120; John Hines, $1,700, corner 18th street; Philip Hines, $1,800, and John Hines, $800 on 18th street IN 1800 the corner of 19th street, popularly known after as Redfern's corner, was owned by J. Hedrick, who soon after paid on $750 improvements. F. King and J. Thorpe in 1822 bought this property and continued the grocery established by Mr. Hedrick. Samuel Redfern followed in 1827 and, succeeded by his son, Joseph Redfern, the business has been continued there. Mr. Samuel Redfern also owned in the thirties the lot on which he built a residence, the corner of 18th street, and some other lots. In 1827 a lot on 19th street was purchased by Thomas Smith, who established the livery stables yet conducted there. Over these a hall was provided, which for a long time was used by societies. In the twenties the Walkers, well-known butchers, located on the I street front, and Mrs. Dorcas Walker was at the corner of 18th street, while Mr. Charles Siousa owned and resided in property south of the corner. Later Mr. Frederick Schneider built a fine residence on H street near the corner of 19th street.

The Friends' Meeting House
Northward the ground was on a 6-cent valuation and it was m owned before 1800 by General Lingan and the Davidsons. In that year Colonel Michael Nourse owned three lots on I and 18th streets and George Mason the four lots at the 19th street end of the square. Wm.. Knowles owned on 19th street as did Wm. Woodward and S. Smith on K and 18th streets, and Tappan Webster soon after the corner of 18th and I streets. In 1808 lot 14 on 19th street was deeded to W Morgan, J Briggs, G. Brooke and S. Lukens, trustees for the Society of Friends. This society twenty years after, through Daniel Kurtz and George Shoemaker, as trustees, came in possession of the present site of the church on I street. There were some buildings on the square ninety years ago, the principal one, a $4,000 house fronting on I street west of 18th street, assessed to Absalom Joy. This was a brick house, which, with two frames, went into the possession of Mr. Corcoran. Colonel Nourse was assessed on $400 and S. Davidson, $600 on I street and Wm. Knowles $500 and $240 on 10th street. Over sixty years ago Charles Calvert, well known for his long service in the War Department, bought on 19th street above I street, subsequently adding the corner lot.

South of Pennsylvania avenue west of 17th street, lots on G street were in the hands of Joseph Nourse and C. Powell, prior to 1800, and soon after the 17th street corner was in the hands of J.D. Ransburg, but in a few years it was under lease from James King to Benjamin Perkins and then to John Bullus, from whom it went to Jonathan Appler in 1813. Daniel Bussard, Colonel Bomford, Colonel F. Wharton, J.R. Bussard and Wm. Hayman were interested in this corner, which, in the forties, through C. Rittenhouse, was in the possession of John Coburn, who had a store on the corner and also a boarding house. This was destroyed by fire and Mr. Coburn sold his interests to B. Jost. About 1850 H. Aylmer located on the corner, conducting a grocery many years and later the Krafft's bakery was on the west end of the square.

In 1807 assessments were made for improvements in this square to C. Fox Lovering, $150; C.W. Pairo, $800; Joseph Nourse, $1,400, on G street; A. King, $750; W. Holmes, $200; Caleb Swann, $1,400; Bishop Clagett, $1,000; C. Wadsworth, $1,000, on the avenue and S.H. Smith, $500; D. Bussard, $800, and D.B. Perkins, about the corner of 17th street.

In the twenties the ground was rated at 10 to 25 cents and the assessments were Thomas Nutt, $900, and Mr. Nourse, $1,600, on G street; Mary A. King, $850, at the corner of 18th street; G.C. Grammar, $100, and P. Hagner, $450, on 18th street; A. Rogers, $450; C. Swann's heirs, $2,000; B.L. Lear, $1,500; L. Vivans, $1,500; J. Lutz, $850;SH. Smith, $1,150; J.K. Bussard, $1,100; T. Munroe, $700, and D. Bussard, $750. In the thirties Mr. Nourse's assessment had been raised $100, Mrs. King, $2,000, L. Vivans paid on two houses $2,800, and others were below $800. The French Hotel, famed in its day, was established by Mr. Demonet on the site now occupied by Gawler, the undertaker.

The square south of G street had a valuation of 10 cents per foot on the ground, and the following on improvements over a hundred years ago; Wm. Coltman, $500; Wm. Calder, $5,000; N. King, $1,000; John D. Barclay, $1,000, and Isaac Dawes, $100, all on G street. Wm. Wirt, attorney general, in 1818 owned Mr. Calder's house and lots 11 to 15 inclusive, the northwest corner of the square, and was assessed in the twenties for $5,000 improvements. Other assessments then were Thos. Munroe, $1,400; John Adams, jr., $1,945; James Carrico, $1,600, and Thomas Nelson, $550.

In the thirties the assessment was 12 cents per foot, and the improvements were as above, with te exception N. Handy paid on $1,000, Colonel Bomford on $1,000 and M. Adler, $3,500.

Colonel B.L. Lear owned a house adjoining Mr. Wirt on G street, Colonel T.P. Andrews in 1824 succeeded to the Wirt property and Howes Goldsborough bought the Carrico property about the same time. In 1847 W.H. Winder bought lots in the southeast part of the square, where now iis the Winder building used by the government. Several of the buildings adjoining this have been used by the War Department for years, and at times the headquarters of the army was located there. Columbus Alexander in the forties had his printing office in a yellow frame on the present site of Winder's building.

The Hamburgh Locality
Westward the old Hamburgh lines were encountered, one crossing, 19th street south of H street, and the names of some of the burghers appear as early as 1792 as city lot holders. Greenleaf, Forrest, Stoddert and Templeman were lot holders before 1800, and shortly after Joseph Nourse, Simon Meade, Thos. Gillis and Peter Hagner also. In 1803 R. Sutton bought part lot 16 on 18th street, Catherine Williamson the corner and August Frick a lot on H street, and from Josiah Melvin, Peter Hagner purchased lot on 18th street. The latter in a few years bought lots on H street an din other parts of the square. John D Barclay in 1814 owned a lot on H street. There were a number of these lots improved by small tenements in 1820. Smith Collins was assessed on $900; S. Brooke, $250 and $350, and Joseph Nourse $1,700, $800 and $1,800, on G street; Mr. Barclay, $250; S. Brooke, $350 and $250; Hannah Little, $700; Mr. Hagner, $2,800, and John Stritch, $1,500, on H and 18th streets. The corner of 18th street went to George Kraft in the thirties, as did property to H.K Randall, lot 11 at the corner of 19th street and the latter on April 4, 1837, conveyed it to the commissioner of public buildings as a site for the Union engine house. This house is yet standing, after a long use by the volunteer firemen, for school purposes, as an armory and now is occupied by the Veteran Volunteer Firemen' Association and its old-time fire apparatus.

In the forties the Union Guards, of which Edward Handley and James L. Cathcart were the successive commanders, were organized and had their armory there. The hall was also used at times for other than meetings in the interests of military and fire companies, not infrequently political club meetings, and when about 1849 additional public schools were authorized, one of them was located there, as the pupils of Mrs. Rodier will remember.

In the twenties there were on Pennsylvania avenue and H street the following: John Grigg, porter, house corner 18th; G. Gillis of the treasury; H. Drain, tavern; Thomas Wilson, carpenter; J. and J. Williams, cabinet makers; Baron Stackelberg, Swedish minister; Mrs. Eliza Smoot, William Reynolds, Mrs. E. Randolph, R. Payne, tavern; John McCarty of the War Department; W. Harkins, plasterer; Smith Thompson, Secretary of the Navy. In the forties there were Commodore Lewis Warrington, Mrs. Eliza Fleury John Robinson, tobacconist; A. Schneider, grocer, and F. and A. Schneider, ironworkers at 18th street; A.G. Southall, Navy Department; Misses Thorpe, milliners; Mrs. Turton, boarding house; Paine & McBlair, grocers; Mrs. Prettyman; Samuel Redfern, grocer; Henry Hines; B Jost, tavern; A. Julien; J. Kavanaugh of the State Department; James Kelley, tinner; J.M Edwards carpenter; Mrs. Gatton; Joseph Glenn, carpenter; A. Haman, tinner; Hugh Henney clothing store; John Coburn, grocer, who was burned out in 1841 at the corner of 17th street; Peter Hagner, third auditor; C. Calvert, cabinetmaker; B.G. Clements, painter; J.S. Crown, turner; F.H. Darnall, painter; F.A. Davidige, Dr. A. McD. Davis, Rev. C.A. Davis; W.H. Degges, carpenter; R.W. Bates, tailor; W.G. Bitner, gun and locksmith; J. Broadbick, confectioner; W. Whiting, shoemaker; Miss Whitaker, milliner; Lemuel Williams, cabinetmaker and undertaker; Miss Wood, dressmaker; George Bancroft, Secretary of the Navy; A. Aylmer, grocer; L. Vivan, caterer; Rev. William Hawley, rector of St. John's Church; W.T. Dove, wood and coal dealer; George Baur, confectioner; T.F. Harkness, letter carrier; William and Ham. Degges, carpenters; McBlair, grocer; W.G. Bettner, locksmith; Jacob Norbeck, confectioner; R.W. Bates, tailor, and the Schneiders, ironworkers.

In 1820 there were on 17th street between Pennsylvania avenue and I street James L. Edwards of the pension bureau; Benjamin Harrison, S.M. McKean and James A. Handy of the treasury. Twenty years after: John Wilson, carpenter; Mrs. Tidball, James M. Smith of the Treasury Department; C.K. King of the Navy Department; Isaac Holland, doorkeeper of the Senate, and W.H. Parker, shoemaker; Capt. JS. Cathcart of the treasury and E. Arnold were on that street.

Between K street and Pennsylvania avenue on 18th street there were in the twenties: Peter Gigot, grocer, and Francis Wright of the War Department, ad in the forties the Brazilian minister was on K street, Joseph Schwartze, Mrs. EH. Travers, Henry Walker, Robert Moore, R. Joyce, Miss Davis, teaher; W.B. Waugh, J.C. Romelee, grocer; Thomas Quantrill and A.B. Quantrill, Theo. Barnard were on 18th street.

There lived on 19th street between K street and Pennsylvania avenue in the forties: Charles Calvert of the War Department; G.W. Kimberly, John Potts, Sam Potts, J.D. Wilson, clerks, and Thomas Smith, in the livery business.

Austrian Minister's House
On I street between 17th and 19th streets there were Charles Vinson, Mrs. E.A. Smith, Thomas Smith and Jacob Hines in the twenties. The Austrian minister, the Chevalier Hulseman, in the forties lived at the corner of 16th and I streets, and on the latter street there were living Prof. G.I. Abbott, near his school; N. Vouvet, Mrs. Macomb, John Brown, cabinetmaker; E.A. Cabell, Dr. S.C. Smoot, G.G. Reid and W. Rich, on I street.

On H street between 17th and 18th streets there were in the twenties Prof. Wagler and H. Hines; and later R.O. Knowles, G.T. McGlue, W.A. Evans, clerk; J.H. Hilton painter, and C. Barnard, printer.

South of Pennsylvania avenue and west of 17th street in the good old times was a favorite part of the city for army and navy people and others in official life. In the first quarter of the last century there were to be fund there William Wirt, Attorney General, living on G street between 17th and 18th streets; F.D. Tscheffely, Thomas Barclay, Walter B. Beall, J.A. Brereton, U.S.A.; Constant Freeman, Thomas Fillebrown, Joseph Forrest, Henry Forrest, T.H. Gillis, HM. Steiner, C.W. Goldsborough, W. Gordon, E.A. Vail, Joseph Stretch, S. Brook, Robert King, James Hutton, T. Kane, A. McAran, H. McKenney, James Eveleth, J. Featherstonaugh, H.A. Goldsborough, Lieut. J.P. Gillis, U.S.N.; Col. T. Andrews paymaster U.S.A.; Andrew Balmain, J.D. Barclay, on 18th street; William Brown, J. Davidson, A.W. Watson, purser, U.S.N.; W.H.C. Williams, S.M. McKean, Gen. Nathan Townson, P.M. General, U.S.A.; W.B. Beall, N. Berryman, S.H. Brook, S. Harrison, S. Lewis, W. Ramsay, D.D. Davidson, E. Coolidge, Tench Ringgold, United States marshal; Lieut. T. Hunt, U.S.A.; James Hutton, Lieut. T. Johnson, U.S.A.; S.D. King, James Lovell, Ezekiel King, Robert King, J.N. Lovejoy, J.C. Steiner, Andrew Ramsay, Stephen Pleasonton, fifth auditor; Gen. Daniel Parker, J.N. Moulder, John Morton, J.P. McCorkle.

Secretary of War W.L. Marcy resided on G street, near 17th, in the Polk administration W.T. Carroll, clerk of the Supreme Court, resided at 18th and F streets. Peter Hagner had before this moved to his H street property, where his son, Judge A.B. Hagner had before this moved to his H street property, where his son, Judge A.B. Hagner lives today. Judge T.H. Crawford commissioner of Indian affairs, resided on G street, near 19th, and after, as judge of the District Criminal Court, lived on F street east of 17th street. Richard Meade, father of the general and the admiral, lived for a time on G street.

The naval branch of the service was well represented in this section by Commodores Cram, Warrington, Morris and others.

When the naval observatory, then occupying the site where now the Naval Museum of Hygiene is, was established under Lieut. M.F. Maury, afterward a confederate admiral, the naval contingent was augmented, for the most of the officers took up residences or quarters here. Lieut. Maury was at G and 22d streets; Lieut. Herndon was at 20th and G streets. There were then at the observatory also Lieuts. T.J. Page, B.F. Sands, D.D. Porter, J.J. Almy, W.B. Whiting and L. Maynard; Passed Midshipmen J.l. Worden, W. Shields, J.S. Kennard, I.C. Briceland and G.M. Ransom, and Profs. S.C. Walker, J.H.S. Coffin, J.S. Hubbard and R. Keith. A number of these named will be recognized as having taken prominent places in the history of their country.