A Down-Town Square
Names of Property Owners in Early Days of City
Valuation of the Ground
Pennsylvania Avenue Possessed. No Attractions
Foot Pavement on North Side
Supply of Water Mainly From Springs-
Trend of Improvements-Regarding "Rum Row"

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, July 15, 1906 [pt. 4, p. 1]

An idea of the appearance of that portion of the city skirting Pennsylvania avenue between 13th and 14th streets, as to its ancient topography, may be obtained from a glance up the present steep ascent of 13th street. When taken in connection with the fact that in the early days the avenue possessed little attraction for travel, the popularity of F street as a thoroughfare is explained. Little or no work had been done by the nation or city beyond the curb line, and the laying of foot pavements being at the cost of the owners of abutting property, facilities for pedestrians largely depended on them. The north side of the avenue early had a foot pavement, but it was not until 1824 that the south side was provided with a walk by Congress. The government reservations then extending from the Capitol to 6th street, with the smaller areas, more than half the cost was chargeable to the government.

The supply of water was mainly from the springs in the neighborhood of 13h and K streets, from which wooden logs conveyed the fluid from about 1810 until about 1825, when the corporation substituted to some extent iron pipes. While the President's house and the public offices received their supply by way of New York avenue, the city pipes were laid in 13th street, and in 1824 a pipe was laid westward in F street to 15th street.

That the trend of improvement was northward is clearly shown by record, but before 1830 the two triangular spaces north and south of the avenue had come into use. In that at 13th street a circular frame building housed a museum of natural history and quaint and curious objects, and before 1830 a circus performed there for several weeks. The area figured often in political campaigns as the scene of outdoor meetings of the democracy. On the corner of 13th and E streets a fire engine was located for a time prior to the location of the Franklin Fire Company on the corresponding space at 14th and E streets in 1828. The house of the Franklin company was noted as the headquarters of the Freemen's Vigilant Total Abstinence Society, which was a result of the efforts of Rev. Father Matthews and in which the leading spirits were 'Squire Clark, George Savage and others. It was long the meeting room of the Union Debating Society, the leading organization of its kind sixty years ago. Built in 1828, it was used till 1857, when the reservations on the avenue were cleared.

Eight Cents Per Foot
In the square north of E street between 13th and 14th streets in 1802 the valuation was 8 cents per foot, and then on the E street or avenue front there were only two improvements. C. McDermott Roe, who bought at the sale of 1792, was assessed $200 on lot 1, at the corner of 13th street and Cornelius McLean for $150 on lot 8, near the corner of 14th street. On the east side of 14th street were the houses of Thomas Tuptil, valued at $300, and Robert Ellis at $600, while at the corner was the $1,000 residence of Richard Forest, now included in the site of the Ebbitt House. A vacant lot adjoined on the east and then appeared the house of Clotworthy Stephenson, valued at $1,000, and another house assessed at $2,500. With this property the right to the use of the smokehouse and dairy on an adjoining lot is carried by the deed, and is good evidence that raising of swine and cows was in vogue. Colin Williamson had the adjoining half lot with a $500 house, but in a few years it stood in the name of Sally Wheaton with $3,000 worth of improvements. Two vacant lots were eastward, and then was noted the property of James Dougherty, a tavern, first assessed at $350, then for $500. George Betz, with a $750 improvement, which passed to J. Davidson. On part of lot 21 Morris Lambert had an $800 house. The frame shop of C. McDermott Roe, worth $100, intervened, and on the lot at the corner of 13th street was the house of Thomas Thorpe, valued at $300, and those of Michael Dulin and George Miller of the value of $800 each. Mr. Thorpe's valuation five years later was $1,900. John Wilson in 1808 bought the corner, and Mr. Roe a brick house on 13th street south of the corner.

An Avenue Corner
In the 20's the corner of 14th street and Pennsylvania avenue, which had been bought by Col. Richard Cutts, was assessed at 25 cents per square foot and other portions down to 20 cents. Mr. Cutts was then assessed for $9,000 of improvements. The Avenue was "looking up," having a $2,000 improvement belonging to William O'Neale, one of $450 to A. Harper, on the corner of 13th street; one to Noah Stinchcomb, next west of Mr. O'Neale. Then three vacant lots appeared and then was seen the $1,600 house of F. Reitz and Cornelius McLean's property, valued at $5,300. On 14th street, midway of the square, was $5,000 improvements belonging to Mr. McLean, and a smaller house, the property of William Blanchard, valued at $550. The latter also owned a two-story brick built by Mr. McLean. Mr. Forrest was at the corner. Thomas Triplet was on F street with a $350 improvement, Christopher Cummins next with $900, Mrs. Wheaton with $2,300 and J.A. Wilson with $650. On the Dougherty lot was W. Dowling, assessed $1,100 for a tavern; A. Joncharez's heirs, $200, and Mrs. Dougherty, $400 for a tavern. I.G. Hutton was assessed on $2,500 on lot 21; H. Johnston, $450 on lot 20; G. Miller was assessed $1,500; F. Delaney, $1,800; J.A. Wilson, $2,700. On this street Joseph Walker paid on $5,400, Thomas Williams on $3,000 and Mrs. Dougherty on $800.

The land on the square north was of the value of 5 or 6 cents per foot originally, but in twenty years was rated at from 20 to 35 cents per foot. Before the year 1800 the lots on the F street front were taken up, J. Ardry getting the corner of 13th street and Thomas Webb that on 14th street. Walter Hellen was next to Mr. Ardry, J.R. Dermott owned lots 3 and 5, Thomas Johnson, jr., lot 4, John Templeman lot 6, S. Blodgett lot 7, Mr. Templeman lot 6, S. Blodgett lot 7, Mr. Templeman lot 8 and Mr. Webb lot 9. By 1802 John Burchan and William James, who were of the register's office, had settled on the 14th street side of the square. In that year the improvements on the F street front, commencing at 13th street, were as follows: A. and W. Andry, $500; Walter Hellen, $800; J.R. Dermotts' heirs, $100; S. Blodgett, $3,500; N. Voss, $4,000, and Thomas Webb, $2,400. On the 14th street front Joseph Saul, J. Burchan, Mr. James, William Lovell and James Dougherty, $800 each. The President's stable, at G street, was unassessed. The latter became the Western Public School in 1821 and was so used for about forty years.

Number of Changes Noted
Before the twenties a number of changes had taken place in the ownership; Joshua Dawson, one of the original clerks, joined his fellow-clerks, Burchan and James, in an adjoining house in 14th street. Andrew Way had bought the N. Voss property and sold it to John Quincy Adams. N. Cochran had bought part of the McDermott lot building a brick house thereon in which a dry goods store was conducted and later a boarding house.

In the twenties the improvements were assessed as follows: Walter Hellenshuss, lots 1 and 2, $1,400; J.J. McDermott, lot 3, $700; T. Sutherland, $200, and R. Miller on lot 5; D. Cochran, $3,000, and B.N. Roe, $1,000 on lot 6; Dr. Thornton, $2,700 on lot 7; John Quincy Adams $6,000 on lot 8; T. Webb, $600 and R. Miller, $1,600 on lot 3, all on F street; J. and I. Cope, $200 on lot 10; John Poor and James Dawson, $1,000 each on lot 12; Wm. James, $950 and James Larned, $1,300, Robert Brown, $950 on part of lot 14, all on 14th street; J.M. arned, $1,250 on lot 15; Mr. Adams, $600, Wm. Thornton, $200 on lot 16, and Isaac Randolph, $1,300 on lot 22, on G street; Henry Miller, $2,700, lease on part of lot 24, the house long being the home of Allison Nailor. Mr. John J. Joyce owned and conducted a grocery on the Ardrary lot, 13th and F streets, and on the latter streets resided H.R. Schoolcraft of the State Department, Judge Ridgate of the Treasury; W.W. King of the land office, James Buchanan, N.P. Trist and R. Goodnow of the State Department; Elexius Simms' grocery, and the Misses Cochran's boarding house, now on F street; Arnold's High School was at the corner of 14th street where the stone residence was afterward erected and north on 14th street, Jefferson Davis resided during the Pierce administration.

G Street in the Twenties
From 7 to 9 cents per foot was the ground value of G street in the '20's, when few of he lots were improved. At the corner of 14th street was the modest Foundry M.E. Chapel. Near the center of the square was an improvement of $50, charged to James Stephens, $350 to G.P. Brownell and $600 to David Jones. On 14th street was the residence of Lloyd M. Lowe, occupied afterward by Columbus Alexander for many years. About 1810 John McClelland, father of John, David and George McClelland, settled on New York avenue, where he erected three brick houses, one valued at $1,900 and two at $1,700 each, the family living there for fifty years or more. Near the corner of 13th and H streets was a house valued at $2,000, owned by Henry Forrest, and on 13th street north of G a $1,400 house, owned by the F. Clarke estate.

In later years Mrs. Burr's school on H street near 13th, the stables of Joseph Abbott, the Epiphany and Foundry churches were the most prominent objects to the community. Mammy Jones, a colored woman, was known far and wide for the generous penny sticks of taffy she dispensed in that locality.

What in recent years became known as "Rum Row" was about 1850 possessed of characteristics which made that name appropriate, for there were on the square, in addition to a theater and a printing office, three emporiums where thirst for liquor could be quenched, in hotels, restaurants and gambling houses. At the corner of 13th and E streets in the 50's was Billy Grayson's hotel, a modest brick building with a one-story structure adjoining; then three three-story bricks belonging to Allison Nailor, in one of which William Jones lived for a long time. Olive's lottery and exchange office adjoined on the west; then was Michael Talty's restaurant and that of Doug West. A stoneyard was next to the theater, which, in turn was carried on by Rutherford, Kirkpatrick, Kelly and Tom Berry.

West of the Theater
West of the theater stood the Union printing office once occupied by the Globe and adjoining was the residence of John C. Rives. The latter was then a hotel conducted by C.W. Flint, and it was generally spoken of as Hall's faro bank, a sportsman of that name occupying rooms in the second story. Though he lived in style, his horses and equipage being fine, and was reputed to be very wealthy, it is said that he died poor. John Usher kept the saloon adjoining and west of him was the hotel and summer garden of Snell. Near the corner of 14th street a wine store was kept by Campbell. Messrs. Kidwell and Lawrence, druggists, occupied the ground floor of the house adjoining the corner and Dr. Hoffa had dental parlors in the upper part of the building. A telegraph office was on the corner and the New York Associated Press had offices in the second story.

Early in the last century Wm. Eisenback, who long was a treasury messenger, lived on 14th street below D street in a $400 house. Wm. Yeats, pump maker, on the west side of 13th street between C and D streets, and Grafton Powell on 14th street near Ohio avenue. Wm. Coumbe, a broker, was on 13th street near C street.