Known as 'Irish Hill'
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, date [p. 9]
In the early days of the last century a portion of square No. 533, between Indiana avenue, 3d, C and 4-1/2 streets, was included in what was known as the "Irish Hill," though the hill was about the corner of C and 4-1/2 streets -- now John Marshall place. Some of the newly arrived sons of the "green isle" found work mostly on the public buildings, the canal and in nearby brick yards, resided there -- hence the name. Prior to the erection of the city hall, in the twenties, some of them in question resided on Judiciary Square. While "hill" was the term used for the square, it was a misnomer, as the grade descended from the site of the city hall to the eastward, and near 4-1/2 and C streets there was a small knoll. To the south were public grounds, and for many years on the east and north there were no indications of carriage or wagon ways, or, indeed, that such was necessary. It is true that Indiana avenue was in the line of the Ridge route to the Capitol, but there was only a wagon track and foot path. It was not until the thirties that this was graded. Ten years before, C and 4-1/2 streets were improved, the location of the Masonic Hall and the city hall and some other buildings being incentive thereto. About 1830 several dwellings, one a grocery on the C street front, called for improvements thereon. Like the square to the west, No. 533 was blessed with good water, and some of the early settlers were wont to say that with a spade and good right arm water could be found on any lots fronting on C street, and a six-foot well was all that was necessary in other portions.
Platted for twenty-five lots on the original plan, those numbered 1, 10, 15 and 24 represented the southeast, southwest, northwest and northeast corners of the square. In 1792 two of these, 5 and 6, on C street, were taken by J. and I.N. Bond, but passed to J. and L. Perkins in 1800, to Gideon Snow in 1810; to H. and A. Hallowell in 1817 and to Robert Moffatt in 1821. John Moffatt conducted a grocery there for several years, and it is said the business was established long years before, Solomon Etting, in 1800, owned lots 1 and 2, corner 3d and C streets, and in 1804 Dr. Thornton had lot 2, Samuel Blodgett having given a trust of it to secure the payment of lottery prizes two years before. The lot on 3d street, No. 23, was obtained in 1800 by Cruikshank and Thompson, and in 1821 it was in the name of Lewis Clephane, and later J. Kedglie and Elisabeth Abbott were the owners. In 1800 Pratt, Francis and others owned four lots on the west and north fronts of the square, including the northwest corner, and two years later Isaac Pollock owned seven lots, one each on C and 4-1/2 streets, and five on Indiana avenue, including the corner of 3d street. Later he sold the 4-1/2 street lot and three lots at the corner of 3d street and Indiana avenue to F. Fairfax.
Southwest Corner of Square.
Samuel Elliott, Jr. in 1815, owned the northwest corner of the square, and sold lots 15 to 17 to David Elliott. Later, about 1830, Aaron Van Coble erected on the lot two three-storied brick residences, in one of which he lived several years. Mrs. Van Coble and E.J. Pendleton in the other. Philip R. Fendall, a leader of the bar, lived here many years, buying the property on which is now the Fendall law building.
The head of the Franzoni family of this city, G.G. Franzoni, was one of the first residents of the square. Mr. Franzoni was one of the Italian sculptors who came over at the instance of the government to beautify the capital, then being rebuilt after its destruction by the British, and though under his contract the government was entitled to return them, at no expense to him, he and family elected to remain here. The lot adjoining the corner of Louisiana avenue and 4-1/2 street on the south, was bought by him in 1827, and he built a home thereon. It was a three-storied and attic brick residence, with a large porch at the main door with two flights of steps leading thereto, and an entrance beneath. After the death of Mr. Franzoni the property was purchased by John Withers.
In 1827 W.W. Worthington resided on lot 3 on C street near 3d street, which passed after he had improved it by the erection of a house, through Samuel Ditty and W.B. Drummond to George E. Dyson. S.S. Hamilton bought in 1827 part of lot 4 adjoining, and erected a fine brick house upon it. In 1828 Richard S. Coxe, a member of the bar of the old school, bought part of lot 18 on Indiana avenue, and also improved it.
There were no listed improvements on this plot in 1803, and when the average of six cents per foot valuation of ground was cut in half. Twenty years later the books show Daniel Brent, assessed for $5,000 improvements on lot 10, at 4-1/2 and C streets. G. Franzoni's heirs, $2,000, lot 14 on 4-1/2 street; D. Brent, $300, lot 17, and W. Fletcher, $100, lot 20 on Indiana avenue; Elizabeth Abbott, $100, and J. Kedgler, $450, lot 25, on 3d street. The ground was then worth from 8 cents to 12 cents per foot.
Progress of Improvements.
It was about 1840 when as may be seen from the names mentioned and new ones, that there was progress. There were still vacant lots to be seen, but more dwelling houses were in evidence. The vacant spots especially on C and 4-1/2 streets were inclosed and well-kept gardens were attached, imparting a suburban aspect close to the main thoroughfare of the city. That such a locality was appreciated by a fine class of people is apparent. Some of them were noted public-spirited characters and it was not uncommon to see little gatherings about sunset, especially of the older people, by whom the questions of the day were discussed. Nor was there any stint in hospitality, and it was dispensed especially to those to whom it was a real treat; at times to the orphan asylums and schools. There were on C street, Edward Simms, who having been in the United States service in the war of '12, bore the title of captain; the well-known Dr. John S. Blake, then a treasury clerk, and later commissioner of public buildings, secretary of the Washington Monument Society and president of the Metropolitan National Bank; Pisbey Thompson, an avenue book seller from 1830, who later returned to England, his native land; Daniel Campbell, a saddle and harness maker for a long term of years; Ross Brown, a well-known writer, and Mrs. Catharine Brown; Dr. Smythe, Charles Bradley of the Patriotic Bank; Phil Barton Key, district attorney; W. R. Kithbey, leather design; G.E. Kennedy, the well-known grocer, and Dr. Gamaliel Bailey, the editor of the National Era, on C street.
Occasionally the vicinity of Dr. Bailey's house was the scene of riotous demonstrations because of the anti-slavery sentiments of his paper, the National Era. But beyond the noise made and threats to stone the house the usual tranquility of the neighborhood was preserved.
On the 4-1/2 street front of the square north of the Hunter or Grammer residence there were few residences until civil war times. Wm. White, Mrs. Van Coble and John Purdy resided here, and at the corner was the Fendall house, alongside which were one-story law offices.
In the Forties.
Gen. Peter F. Bacon -- then an officer of the National Blues -- of the grocery firm of S. Bacon & Co., was located on Indiana avenue in the residence still belonging to the family. Gen. J.M. McCalla, then second auditor of the treasury, and in the fifties collector of taxes, was a neighbor. W.G. Elliott, civil engineer and patent agent resided nearby.
The rectory of Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church was on Indiana avenue. Rev. J. Stringfellow being the occupant. Mrs. J. Kennedy conducted a boarding house nearby, and in the vicinity was the residence of William Wood, and close to 3d street that of Amon Baldwin, a carpenter and builder.
In the fifties George Blagden erected the fine row of four-story buildings opposite 4th street. Chief Justice Taney resided here for a number of years prior to his death in 1864.
Frank Taylor, the bookseller, about that time settled near Gen. Bacon in a three-story brick house and James M. Torbert, a clerk in the first auditor's office, also moved near. Rev. Dr. Byron Sunderland appeared as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in that decade, and his parsonage faced the court house. There he resided for about twenty years before moving to C street.
It is told that with the practice of law one of the residents, fifty years ago, united the poultry business, that he bought a few cockerells and pullets of the shanghai breed and they were so prolific that in a little time his premises were overrun; and he so loved his flock he would not dispose of them till finally they invaded his house, and so mussed it up that the ladies of the house came to the front and the shanghais were sent elsewhere. There were some other characters there as elsewhere, including an old gentleman whose blue swallow-tailed coat was to be seen winter and summer, for he never owned or wore an overcoat or cloak, and another who wore such a prodigious shirt collar that when a circus tent was rent by a tornado the collar was suggested to match it.