Price Of District Land One Hundred Years Ago

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, July 15, 1906 [pt. 4, p. 7]


It appears in some people as incredible that building ground in Washington ever had as low valuation as was placed by the city government on lots in the neighborhood of Pennsylvania avenue, F, 12th and 13th street a hundred years ago, and there is much evidence at hand that the parties interested thought the rate too high. Many actually became tired of paying taxes and sold at less than half the corporation value. Notwithstanding these conditions there has been, as is manifest everywhere, rapid progress made from the start of the municipality.

From Massachusetts avenue southward, where in 1802 the assessment was one cent per foot, the avenue property rate was 12 cents and the F street rate 10 cents. On Massachusetts avenue in 1820 it was 2 cents and on Pennsylvania avenue 25 cents, and ten years later the rate had not materially changed.

No taxable improvements were shown north of I street for some years, but about 1810 John Sioussa, who spent a long life in the service of the Bank of the Metropolis, erected a dwelling on the north side of New York avenue, erecting a building taxed in the 30's for $700, in which year W.W. Billing and C.I. Coltman had each a $200 and S. Elliott a $150 improvement on I street. On the square south George Cover had a house and tannery valued at $800, and T. and J. Harry buildings on 12th street and New York avenue taxed $900 and $1,000.

About the year 1800 Samuel Clokey and William Herron each had a $500 house on lot 7, 13th and G streets, and the last named in a few years was sold to Jane Eastburn. David Jones was assessed $120 on 13th street and Betty Fletcher $60 on H street. Thirty-five years after Robert Tweedy was assessed $1,000 at the corner of 12th street. J. Taylor's heir $600 and $350. A Kerr $300 and Mr. Clokey $400 at 13th, all on G street. B.G. Father, $150; D. Jones, $150; James Calder, $250 on H street. Mr. Calon, $1,300; J. and I. Stott, $1,000 and J.P. VanNess, $1,000, on 12th street.

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On F street were J.H. Blake, assessed $750; W. Bond, $500; L. Clephane, $3,500, and Bank of the United States, $10,000, assessed for improvements. On 13th street William Rogers, $600 and $200, and on G street Mr. Clephane $800, and C. McNantz, $1,000. In the 30's, J.M. Kraft on $4,000; Blake's heirs, $400; Bond's heirs, $250; L. Clephane, $2,500; Harriet Burt, $800, and J. Tayloe's, $7,300, on F street. W. Dewees $1,000 and $2,900 on 13th street. Clark's heirs, $900; W.A. Bradley, $200; W.P. and S. Stewart on G street and G. Berkley, $900, and S. Harkness $1,000 were taxed.

Between E and F streets, T. Thorp, assessed $400, and W.H. Dorsey, $200, were on 13th street; G. Sweeny, $800, R. Tolney $400, and Joseph Calvert $800 on F street, in 1802.

In 1830 there were Hannah Hand $500, C. Lhyons, $100, and Ann Blagden, $1.00, on E street; Ann Brodeau $300, J. Bosworth $1,800, D. Jones $600, and Davidsonís heirs $800 on 13th street; G.C. Grammer $1,500, Bank U.S. $4,200, S. Holtzman, $3,500, G. Sweeny $400, Julia Thompson $400, T.W. Pairo, $2,500, R. Barry's heirs $3,800, on F street and A. Dyson and A. Gardner, $1,200 each. D. Munro $2,200, and William Duncan $2,500, on 12th street.

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On the avenue in 1800 were Wm. Thompson and John Kennedy, each $1,200, E. and N. Travers $300, D. Williamson $5,000, and on E street the Travers, $900. Thirty years after there were the following valuations; R. King $2,000; W.J. Stone $2,000 and $3,000, G.W. Dashiel $2,800, W. Ruby's heirs, $3.200, N. Travers, $800, $1,500, $3,500, $900, $3,200 and $1,200, and D. Williamson $4,000. On 13th, E and 12th streets, William A. Woodward $900, G. King $800, $800, D. Appler $3,200; J.H. Reily $2,500 and H. Langley $2,200.

South of the avenue L. Morin owned the corner of 12th street and was taxed on $600 and Burns' heirs $600 and $3,000 on avenue property. In 1830 'L. Lepreux's heirs were at the corner of 12th street assessed for $2,300, and on the same lot W.J. Stone, $500; Varnumís heirs, $2,300; Eckloff and Wagler, $1,800. Next were W.C. Coltman, $1,400; B.M. Belt, $300; P. Lenox, $500; Ann Blanchard, $3,000; H. Ault, $2,000; J.P. Davis, $2,200; G.C. Grammar, $150.

On the square south the corner of 12th and D streets was improved early in the century, the buildings yet standing having been the home of Gen. Van Ness and his bride for many years, and it was here he did much of his office business as mayor of the city, 1830-34, and private citizen, etc. In 1830 his assessed valuations were Joseph Dove, $1,500; H. Langley, $1,700; M. Hamilton, $400, on C street; N. Plant, $500; Eliza Mockabee, $900; S. Edmonson, $1,000, and O. McCann's heirs, $300, on 12th street; Ann Blanchard, $300; W. Cockings' heirs, $300; J.P. VanNess, $1,400; C.L. Coltman, $1,200; J.P. VanNess, $1,000 on D street; and R.C. Weightman, $800 and $240; J. Sessford, $1,200; Varnum's heirs, $250, and Mooreís heirs, $200.

In the twenties this section had reached some importance, and Pennsylvania avenue had on it a few business places as well as residences. At the northwest corner of the avenue and 12th street was Lewis Johnson's tobacco and fancy store, and west were Gibson's grocery, E. and J. Travers' bakery, N. Millerís shoe shop, W. Connix's confectionery, C. Alexander's paper-hanging establishment. J.S. Gunnel's dentistry, and homes of Samuel Handy, a clerk; George Bede, a steward; Fleet Smith, a lawyer, and Thomas Green, huckster.

On the south side of the avenue were the grocery of John Hughes, the boarding house of Joseph Hodges, the residences of William Coltman, Joshua Tennison, J.L. Drean and J.P. Davis; the law office of H.M. Moffitt, the cooper shop of George Killenberger and the chair factory of Pope & Thompson, the latter located at the corner of 13th street.

In about twenty five years there was almost an entirely new set of people on the avenue. On the north side Mrs. C. Alexander engaged in the paper-hanging business; the Traverses, now in the grocery trade, were also there. On the corner of 12th street were F.W. Fuller's drug store, W.B. Malcomb's writing academy, Joseph Frances exchange office, William Harper's dry goods store, Harry Kuhl's refectory, W. Voss' watch and jewelry store, W.H. Green's barber shop. Mrs. Landas' boarding house, J. Montandon's watch and jewelry store, W.M. McCauly's lottery office, Madam Delario's fancy goods store, F.E. Myer, a broker, and James OíBryon, painter. On the south side the former set had been entirely displaced. At the corner of 12th street Augustus and Lewis Lepreux had their grocery, and west were the Star coffee house of Andrew Hancock. Conrad Filkman's tavern, J. McColgan's grocery, J.M. Kuehling, gun and locksmith; V. Blanchard and Martin Buel, printers; John Walters, cabinet maker; M. Dubant, barber; C. Turnburke, painter; C. Eckloff, tailor; D. O'Hare, engraver; John Reese, watch maker; Varden & Shields, cabinet makers; C.I. Fisher, harness maker; T. Lamb, cutler; D. Miller, silver plater; Mrs. C. May, dressmaker, John D. Clark, justice of the peace, and The Hermit, as a quaint clock repairer called himself.

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On the north side of F street in the 20's were William Archer, carpenter, at 12th street; Jacob Hilbus, organ builder; G. Bushey, carpenter; W. Knight, shoemaker; S. Spalding, bricklayer; Richard Smith, bank cashier, and the branch of the United States Bank at the corner of 13th street.

On the south side at the corner of 12th street was James Lovell, surgeon general, U.S.A., and West A. Woodward, pumpmaker; Mary Sweeny, fancy store; T.W. Pairo, dry goods store; D. Palmer, clerk; S. Holtzman, painter, and G.C. Grammer, grocer, at 13th street.

Twenty-five years afterward Thomas Adams was in the Lovell house, J.M. Kraft & Bro. had established a bakery on the opposite corner and on the north side of the street were Dr. Samuel E. Tyson and the Misses Tyson, who conducted a seminary; the residences of Gregory Ennis, contractor; W.H. Dietz, clerk; Asbury Dickens, secretary of the Senate; J.J. Dickens, lawyer; I. Huggins, watchmaker, and Mrs. Fletcher's boarding house at 13th street. On the south side was the residence of Mrs. Hawley and the school of her daughter; John Ferguson, clerk; James Parker's slate yard, which gave the name to the alley in the rear; the residence of McClintock Young, long chief clerk of the treasury; Z.K. Offutt's paint shop, the frame dwelling and shoe shop of B. Ostermayer; the home of Gen. Thomas J. Jesup, quartermaster general, and the grocery of Elixius Simms, at the corner of 13th street.

On E street in the twenties Mrs. Scott kept a boarding house at 12th street, and there were --- Dove, a bricklayer; William Duncan, printer; Charles Lyons, carpenter, and George Smoot, clerk, with H. Ashton, lawyer, and Thomas Williams, blacksmith at the 13th street corner. In the forties Joel Downer, carpenter, had a shop at 13th street, and on E street lived Mrs. Susan Jackson, who kept a fruit and fancy store; Joseph P. Stallings, a paint shop at 12th street; R.H. Stephens, a blacksmith shop; W. Wilson, a wheelwright shop; Mrs. E. Brooks, boarding house; C.W. Utermehle, a tailor, lived on the south side near 12th street, and Mrs. S. Moore at the corner.

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On G street in the same period, Walter Steward was at the southwest corner of 12th street and Mrs. Margaret Tweedy on the northwest corner. On the latter street were Lewis Clephane, portrait painter, and James Clephane, printer, on the south side; and on the north side were Samuel Clokey, a carpenter, and Walter McFarlan, a grocer, at the corner of 13th street. In the forties Mrs. Tweedy and James Clephane were in their old homes. Samuel Clokey's house was occupied by his son, Robert H. Clokey. Isaac Goddard was occupying the southwest corner of 12th and G streets as a grocery, and there lived on the latter street Mrs. Gassaway, Henry Harvey, George Hunt, O.H. Bestor, John White, Richard Wroe, P. Plummer, Dr. J.F. Munding, and at 13th street a fruit and fancy store was kept by Charles Lehman on one corner, and Capt. C.S. McCauley, U.S.N., lived at the other.

The line which the boys thought divided city from country was being moved northward, and in 1840, of the many mechanics who came here to work on the patent office, treasury and other buildings, a number located in this section. M and N streets were looked on as city streets, albeit little better than beaten wagon tracks in the grass.

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In the early days in the square north of K street, between 12th and 13th streets, was the residence of John Davidson, the original proprietor of a neat frame in the northwest portion, and about 1810 it was leased to Thomas G. Slye. To the north was set out an orchard and for years "Slye's orchard" was familiar to our forbears, as also "Jenkins'í Old Place," from the fact that one of that name was there for some years.

The first natural building improvement was made about 1828, on K street front of the square by the erection of what was regarded at that time as fine brick structures, seven in number. Messrs. Joseph Bryon and C.F. Wood being the builders. The land was then owned by Margaret Davidson, Thomas Snowden and Count de Menou, the French charge d'affaires. There lived here from time to time some of our leading people, among them Capt. Richard France, Samuel Smoot, Mrs. Commodore Rodgers, Daniel Radcliffe, Samuel Carusi, Commodore Kenyon, R.H. Gillett, and in 1846 there were here Commodore A.A. Wadsworth, Mrs. Capt. Henley, Rev. J.W. French, Thomas Corcoran, Thomas H. Quincy and Henry Johnson.

On New York avenue in the forties there was a grocery stand at 12th street on the north side, formerly conducted by J.E. Ager & Bros., but then by Michael Talty and after by Mr. Stoops, and at 13th street, on the south side, the tan yard of George Cover. On this square there was a row of small bricks known as Plant's row, on the north side, near 12th, and some small bricks near the tan yard known as Cover's row. There was on this square Maj. Henry Hungerford, a clerk; Maj. C.S. Jones, Jesse E. Dow and Henry Ferris, printers; John Gaither, painter; John Van Sant, tailor; Mrs. Thaw, W. Curran, W. Kidd, I. Cooper, B.B. Curran, carpenters, and John Plant, bricklayer.

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George W. Stewart's grocery and feed store, with wagon yard attached, at 12th and H streets, became the center of a growing neighborhood, and the school of Weatherbee & Pough, in the building south of H, once known as the Tabernacle M.P. Church, was attended by a number who lived northward. As far out as N street King's pump supplied families with water. At M street Giles Dyer of the Post Office Department had erected two fine dwellings. Wilkins' pump, at Massachusetts avenue, accommodated a dozen or more families. The residences of Thomas Robbins, James Scrivener, H.B. Croggon, Charles Baker and C.A. Colt were designated "Back of Franklin row," that being the most conspicuous object in the section, located well above the grade of K street.

About 1820 there lived on 12th street, west side, Jonathan Dix, coachmaker; David Young, butcher; Mary Gardiner, and William Duncan's printing office was between E and F streets; W.H.B. Sewall and H. Ashton's law offices and residences of W. Reilly and John H. Reilly between the Avenue and E street.

In the 40's on the square between F and G streets were the residences of Thomas Feran, Mrs. A.E. Brook and Enoch White, printer; John T.C. Clark, a printer, then clerk and afterward a justice of the peace; James O. Carter, a clerk; William Stewart, contractor; and Mrs. James live d between F and G streets, the latter keeping a boarding house. Lambert Tree, long in the city post office; Elias Kingman, a correspondent; Mrs. Dyson, a teacher; Robert Barr, carpenter; J. Crampton, grate setter, and Mrs. S. Gardner were between E and F streets.

Maj. J.H. Ruby of the Bank of Washington and Mrs. Topping lived between E street and the avenue, the latter keeping a boarding house.

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Thirteenth street was not built up so rapidly as was 12th street north of the avenue. W. Moreland, a dyer, and Dyvernois, a cap-maker; White, a ladies' shoemaker, and F. Burch were here, as was Mrs. Wise, who kept a boarding house well patronized by members of Congress and others. On the square north Mrs. Watts and Mrs. Padgett each kept a boarding house, and Mrs. Stafford and David Jones, a shoemaker, resided. Nathan Leake, a claim agent, lived on 13th south of G street. Above I lived J.C. Haviland of the treasury.

In the twenties Samuel Killmon, M. Hamilton, Mrs. S. Edmonston, Rufus Elliot and Mrs. Catherine Lewis lived south of the avenue, the latter near 13th and D streets, where he taught a private school for years.

There were the taverns of John Hughes and Thomas Ticer on 12th street in the forties, as were the grocery stores of Alex. Rutherford and W.W. Walling, at 13th and D streets, and the woodyard of W. Warder, to say nothing of the canal trade a few hundred yards south. Miss Wilburn, dressmaker; James Baxter, blacksmith; Dennis McCurdy, school teacher; J.H. O'Bryon, painter; Capt. William O'Bryon. C.A. Sengstack, painter, were all on D street; Charles Gautier, confectioner, and J.L. Dufeif, tailor, on 13th street south of D street; John L. Smith, printer and magistrate, and J. Cheezum, carpenter, on C street; and J.G. Smith's tailor shop on 12th street near C street.