Near Old Post Office
Development Anterior to Teens of Last Century
Great Hotel of Blodgett
Little Building Done Until After the War of 1812
Large Influx of Mechanics
Unobstructed View of Alexandria from the Intersection of 7th and E Streets

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, November 24, 1906 [pt. 3, p. 1]

In the square of ground east of the old post office building, now occupied by the general land office, there was little development anterior to the teens of the last century. The location of the Great Hotel of Blodgett, which in 1811 was taken by the government and fitted up for the post office, with the general store of Kidd, Elliott & Co. directly opposite the main entrance on E street, about 1800, should have induced early settlement of adjacent squares. Though the corner stone of the hotel building was laid July 4, 1793, it was not finished till the government bought it in 1811, and the square did not show material progress for several years thereafter. Some of the prominent real estate operators had prior to 1800 become interested, but if they planned buildings on the square under discussion there is no evidence of the fact obtainable. Indeed, little or nothing was done in the building line until after the war of 1812.

There is record that the lot at the southeast corner of the square passed to Alexander Kerr, as also lot 5 on E street between 6th and 7th streets in 1799, $150 worth of improvements being charged for on lot 1 and $250 on lot 5 in the initial assessment of 1803. The ground in the twenty-four lots of this square was then rated at 5 cents per foot, but reduced to below 3 cents. In 1812 the four lots on E street and on 6th street gave the east half of the south frontage and the south half of the east frontage to Noah Fletcher of the clerk's office of the House of Representatives. This property was improved by him, a three-storied double brick house being standing yet. While in the occupancy of Mr. Fletcher, a number of members of Congress made their homes with him during the sessions. About the thirties Mr. A. Pease bought the property, which, being vacant at the beginning of the civil war, was used for several months by the military. In 1817 Edward De Krafft, in business as a printer and bookbinder at the northwest corner of Louisiana avenue and 7th street, bought a lot on 7th street, on which he erected a residence valued at $3,450, and he had his home there for a long time.

About 1817 here was an influx of mechanics from different parts of the country, work then being plentiful and labor in demand, for the government had provided for rebuilding the Capitol and the erection of government offices. An idea of the extent of the migration to the capital may be formed from the fact that no less than six carpenters came from the shop of one Van Horn with the intention of getting work and settling here, and all six became residents, making the capital their home. The six had served seven years' apprenticeship with Mr. Van Horn and after working for the government found plenty of private work, in which most of them embarked as master builders. They were Nathan Smith, who bought the lot adjoining that of Mr. De Krafft on 7th street, where he built a $1,500 home, and on E street, where was a $300 shop; Aaron Van Coble, who resided on 9th street, having his shop on the 6th street near D street; Charles Pettit who settled on E street between 5th and 6th streets and later became a messenger of the treasury, serving for a long series of years; Thomas Barcroft, John Reynolds, and John Smith, each of whom were master builders. Jacob Gideon of Way and Gideon, printers long located on 9th street, bought on 7th street the same year, having a residence valued at $550, which he replaced with a fine dwelling.

Corner of 7th and E Streets
In 1818 David Bates was on lot 8, the northeast corner of 7th and E streets, and later William Robinson was on it with a tinner's shop valued $300. In 1819 John P. Ingle and Aaron Van Coble were on F street on lot 14, each building a $1,000 dwelling, and near the corner of 6th street Francis Kingston had a $650 improvement. In 1821 parts of lots on F street were leased and afterwards purchased. Edward Murphy, a carpenter, L.A. Poole, boot and shoemaker, and J. Getchel, a tailor, each of whom resided there for years, Mr. Poole being charged with a $850 improvement and the house of the others were valued at $900; near them a $850 house being charged to Van Ness. Robert Trumbull, a stonecutter, lived on adjoining property, where Mrs. Trumbull had a day school. In 1823 Charles Timms leased part of the lot corner of 7th and E streets, and later John Wolfenden bought the lot and established the drug business which was carried on by him through the thirties. Eastward Mr. William Gahan had bought early in the twenties and erected a $1,000 dwelling in which he was residing down to about 1850 and also carried on business there. In addition to those named, there were on 7th street in the twenties Stephen Leland, a bricklayer, and the offices of Squire C.H.W. Wharton and W.W. King, a lawyer; on F street, P. Calnon, baker, Mrs. Welch, Judah Delano, printer and publisher, M.A. Sherlock; Geo. Stirling, billhanger, on F street; John B. Marten, clerk, at the corner of 6th street; and south of him William Kerr, printer.

By the middle of the thirties there had been changes. The assessment of ground increased from 13 to 50 cents per foot, the latter figure applying to 7th street property. Mr. Fletcher's 6th street lot had passed to Joseph Harbaugh, who had an $800 house upon it, and his E street property, with dwelling, to Mr. Pease, the house being valued at $5,000.

Property in E Street
Mr. Gahan's property in E street was assessed for $1,000, and Robinson's tin shop at the corner of 7th and E streets, $300. Mr. De Krafft's property was valued at $5,000 and $3,500; Nathan Smith had houses valued at $3,500 and $1,800 on 7th street, and a $300 carpenter shop on E street; Jacob Gideon's house was valued at $1,700. On F street were Mr. Ingle's house valued at $800; Lambert S. Beck's at $1,000; W. Clark's, $500; J.P. Van Ness' $800; F. Kingston's, $600; Thomas Magnier's, $2,000; and Edward Fitzgerald, U.S.N., $2,200. In addition to those named there resided on F street Mrs. Sarah Sinclair, a school teacher; Joseph F. Polk, long a clerk; John Sharrett; John Ingram; W. Pitts, printer, on 7th street; T. Collins and P. Collins, printers; John Speake and Eli Davis, shoemakers; Margaret Sinnott, school teacher; Mrs. Sherlock's boarding house; James Hanlon, James Handley', printer; Miss H. Martin, milliner and dressmaker; and Joseph Martin, bookbinder. Mrs. Duncan's boarding house, S. Crocker and Thomas Slade were on 6th street.

About 1830 material advancement was made. The lots on F street from 7th street for a considerable distance became the property of Jacob Gideon, who erected what was then considered the fine Union row of buildings. Judge T. Hartley Crawford, long the terror to evil-doers arraigned before him in the criminal court, resided in the house on the corner, and other houses were occupied by Edmund Burke, commissioner of patents; Capt. Maxwell Woodhull, U.S.N.; George S. Gideon, printer, and R.W. Latham, a banker. The tin shop of William Robinson and apothecary shop of Wolfenden, the site of which is now occupied by the May building, 7th and E streets, about this time disappeared. Mr. John F. Callan acquired the property, and placed thereon a row of houses long known as the Callan buildings. These were four three-story-and-attic bricks used for stores, offices and dwellings. Mr. Callan resided at the east end and in the corner store engaged in paint, oil, and glass, agricultural supplies, trees, plants and seeds business for many years. The store to the north was for a long time the tailoring establishment of John D. Evans. In the offices were Anthony Holmead, physician, Bigelow & Peugh, W.S. Allison and others as claim, patent, and general agents.

Game to Beat Lottery
The view from an attic window down the Potomac being unobstructed, it played a part in a game to beat the Virginia lottery, the drawings of which took place at Sarepta Hall in Alexandria. Though there was telegraphic communication northward, there was none south for a short time and the recognized time for news to arrive from Alexandria, consequently, was one hour from the time the drawing was given the lottery agents in this city and Georgetown. A government clerk conceived the idea of buying up winning tickets during that hour. Ostensibly a horseback rider for the benefit of his health, he would ride over the Long bridge to the place of drawing and, taking note of the number drawn, he would ride to the light house at Jones Point and by means of rockets would signal the numbers to the man in the attic. The latter would immediately telegraph to confederates north and hand the list to the local operators, and in a little time tickets bearing such numbers would be secured and consequently the lottery people were out of pocket in large sums. The trick came near wrecking the company before the line was open to Alexandria and the hour of grace was abolished.

In the forties, other than those above named, there were on F street James Selden, the naval storekeeper; H.H. Sylvester, chief clerk at the patent office; Maj. J.P. Heiss, the junior editor of the Union; Mr. Larner, printer; C.S. Fowler, china and glass dealer who had erected a fine residence; Michael Larner, printer; and L.J. Middleton, then a grocer at 9th street and the avenue; at the corner of 6th street C.S. Fleishman, a clerk; Mrs. Fleishman's young ladies' seminary; Mrs. Peddicord, milliner; Columbus Munroe, R. Powell and D.H. Saunders, clerks; Mrs. Walker and J.H. Saunders, lawyers; Mrs. Hepburn's boarding house on E street; John Turner, carpenter and A.J.K. Baker, printer, on 6th street, and Dr. W.P. Johnston, who long had his office and residence on 7th street near F; Chas Shussler, tinner, and John T. Sullivan, long a clerk, who later bought the house.

In the fifties there was some improvement noted on F street. William Noyes, wholesale shoe dealer, had erected a block near 6th street; Andrew Hoover, a boot and shoe manufacturer, a fine residence, and east of Union row Augustus Perry, long in the dry goods business, erected a fine house, while about the center of the square Thomas U. Walter, architect of the Capitol then being extended, built a fine house in which he resided for a number of years.