Grounds of Capitol
The Southeastern Portion Was Known as Square 688
Was Occupied Until 1872
Names of Some of the Early Residents Who Acquired Lots
Nature of the Improvements
Senators and Representatives in Congress Guests of Householders --
Valuation of the Ground

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, April 7, 1907

The southeastern portion of the Capitol grounds was, for a period of eighty years, designated square No. 688, within the lines of A, B and 1st streets and New Jersey avenue southeast. During that period, until 1872, the square became well filled with houses of brick and frame, private residences, taverns, stores, shops, etc. In 1872 the extension of the Capitol grounds obliterated, No. 688 as a city square, and in place of brick, mortar and frame appeared grass plot, trees and plants. To the east is the Congressional Library, and to the south the new office building of the House of Representatives. Some idea of the physical features of the old square may be had from tradition and record. In 1st street was a gully. Water from a spring east of the Capitol and the drainage flowed in a ravine across the square, A and B streets. The Capitol square was not leveled and inclosed until 1816, when a picket fence marked the lines. One of the first acts of the corporation was the placing of a small bridge over the gully in A street, after grading the street, between New Jersey avenue and 1st street, for which $1,000 was appropriated. About the center of the square there long existed a pond of water which was once used in the case of a fire. Within the area of the Capitol grounds two or more of the officers of the Senate and House had been granted permission to build homes, and the residences of Messrs. Thomas Claxton, Thomas Dunn and James Barron were there some years before the grounds were inclosed.

Like the square now included in the grounds at the northeast corner, No. 688 was laid out for twenty-four lots, ten each on A and B streets, and though they were allotted in October, 1792, there were no transfers until 1801. Then Benjamin Stoddert and others acquired ground including the northeast corner of 1st and A streets, and afterward two lots south, to which S. Blodgett succeeded. William Duane bought lot 13, corner of New Jersey avenue and A street. In 1801 Adam Lindsay had a lot at A and 1st streets, and there was erected the first house on the square. Mr. Lindsayís home for several years. It was valued at $600 and the ground at five cents a foot.

In the Year 1804
W.E. Keef in 1804 bought in lots 16 and 17 on A street, and three years later R.S. Bickley had several lots, some of which the same year went to other parties. Charles H. Varden bought lot 18 and A street, selling the east half to James Matthews. Capt. Peter Lenox bought lot 7 and B street, and erected a fine two-story brick house, which he leased to Bailey Washington, and Daniel C. Brent acquired lots 12, 13 and 14, the northwest corner of the square. At that period the property of Mr. Lindsay was unchanged in valuation, and the house on lot 7, in the name of Mr. Washington, was valued at $1,200.

The lease on lot 7 in 1808 was assigned to Henry Schroeder, who transferred it in 1810 to Capt. John Coyle, James Hickey, in 1810, was on lot 11, corner of New Jersey avenue and B street, and Benjamin Burns, a tailor, on the lot adjoining on the north. The next year W.H.P. Tuckfield was on lot 16, on A street, and afterward John Peltz and James Scanlon. The northwest corner of the square in 1817 was owned by Thomas L. Thurston and Dr. Frederick May, and in 1820 Jaffies Nowland and William Preston had leases on A street.

In the twenties the corporation valued the ground at 6 to 20 cents per foot, and the improvements were the Coyle house on lot 7, erected by Capt. Lenox in 1807 and enlarged by Coyle, valued at $3,800, facing on B street; lot 10, the Hickey property, 1810, $2,500, and lot 11, W. Clark, $800, on New Jersey avenue; lot 13, John Peck, billiard saloon, corner New Jersey avenue and A street, $200; lot 16, James Scanlon, $300, three buildings; lot 17, Wm. Costin, brick house, $800; lot 18, James Matthews, 1807, brick houses, $2,200 and $1,300, and 21 to 23, frames, Adam Lindsay, 1801, $450 and $200 on A street.

Located on A Street
On A street were located Mountjoy Bailey, sergeant-at-arms, and H. Tims, doorkeeper of the Senate. John MacCarthy, grocer; Wm. Preston and Wm. Ettridge, stone cutters; John Carlin and A. Cosgrove, carpenters; a man named Waters, John Fleming and P. Heffren, laborers; James Fowler, tavern; John Peck, saloon, and W. Costin, colored. On B street was Capt. Coyle and on New Jersey avenue were Mrs. Hickey and Wm. Hickey.

Mr. Lindsay, who is said to have been the first resident of the square, was a Scot. He erected a frame building on a knoll and lived there a few years. In his day he was a leading citizen, a member of the city councils and was prominent in the Anacostia Bridge Company and other public utility enterprises. Most of his time he resided in a cottage about 12th and C streets southeast, and though only one child survived him several of his grandchildren reside in the same neighborhood. Mr. Lindsay was prominent when the morus multicaulis of silk worm was prevalent here in the thirties. In addition to extensive gardening he raised many mulberry trees and succeeded in getting enough silk to make him a suit of clothes.

Mr. Lindsay in 1801 erected at the northeast corner of 1st and A streets a neat frame dwelling, which he occupied several years prior to locating southeast of Lincoln square, where, as stated, he engaged extensively in gardening.

Residence of Capt. Coyle
Capt. Coyle, who took the house on B street built by Capt., Lenox in 1810, greatly improved it, and resided there long enough for the structure to become well known as "the Coyle house." Some of the oldest residents remember him as the popular Capt. Coyle, a genial, public-spirited citizen, who Coyle, a genial, public-spirited citizen, who long filled a clerkship in the first auditorís office. So convenient to the Capitol was he that he often had senators and representatives under his roof, the early senators from Mississippi, T.H. Williams and David Holmes, with Representatives Charles Rankin of Massachusetts and Joseph Hemphill of Pennsylvania, being his guests in the twenties. Later the house was the residence of Count Portales of Switzerland, then of the coast survey. The count being a big, handsome man, and the countess a lady of beauty and charming manners, attracted attention everywhere. It was said the count, having married a domestic on his fatherís estate, was, therefore ostracized by many of his family and countrymen, so he departed. He exiled himself for a number of years, but later, coming into some of the ancestral property, he, with his wife and daughter, returned home. The daughter was a beautiful girl, known as such far and wide, and the early photographers prized her pictures highly.

One of the best known families in the square was that of the Hickeys, whose house fronted New Jersey avenue. It was a fine three-story building, north of B street, where resided the widow and son of the settler of 1810. The latter was in his day well known in military circles in the departments and at the Capitol. It is related that the father, James Hickey, was the one who shot at Gen. Ross when the British troops invaded this city.

Brigadier General, D.C.M.
The son of William Hickey showed that "the boy is father to the man" in the war of 1812 by gathering and drilling a company of boys in the neighborhood. On reaching manhood he devoted much of his time to the uniformed militia of the District, in which he rose to the rank of brigadier general, holding such commission to his death. As such he received orders from Mr. Lincoln to take the field in 1861; but, when the extraordinary session of the Senate was called, he, being the executive clerk, was recalled. He was one of the half dozen clerks in the pension office in the twenties. As guests of Mrs. Hickey were Representatives Woodcock of New York, M.L. Hill of Maine, Josiah Butler of New Hampshire and W.S. Blacklege of North Carolina.

The Costins, on A street prior to 1820, was one of the earliest colored families on the hill. From the father, William Costin, down they were very light in color, and regarded as of the "F.F.V.ís" of their race, enjoying the respect of the community at large, and the descendants living are proud of the name left them. The father was long an employe in the Capitol.

Mr. Varden, who acquired property on A street in 1807, was a pioneer tailor, long of the firm of Matlock & Varden on New Jersey avenue. Mr. Burns, on New Jersey avenue in 1810 was for a few years a tailor there. Adjoining the northwest corner, on A street, the Preston property was in about the twenties under lease to Mr. Lynch and later to M. Callan, and in the thirties to James Barron.

Valuation of Ground
In 1830 the valuation of ground was from 8 to 25 cents and there had been but little change in the assessment for improvements Peckís saloon, at B street and New Jersey avenue, increased to $500, the Preston house was reduced from $1,000 to $8850, Scanlonís property from $300 to $800, Costinís reduced from $800 to $500. H. Tims, $800, and R. Brown, $2,000 on the Matthew lot; Coyleís house from $3,800 to $8,500.

In that decade, the thirties, J.S. Clubb bought lot, 9, on B street east of the Hickey property, and erected a dwelling, residing there a few years. He was in early life connected with the Marine Corps as fife major in charge of the Marine Band, and in the thirties was a messenger of the Senate. He is pleasantly remembered as an old time choir leader, whose greatest delight was in conducting singing schools and choirs.

In the forties there were W.J. Wheatley, one of the oldest residents and a boot and shoe maker; Dr. Jacob Gardener and Joseph Lardella, druggists; the taverns of Mrs. Mary Sweeney and James Johnson, with James Casparisí refectory; the grocery stores of Hitz & Bro. And Casparis, and Mrs. Timsí boarding house on A street; Messrs. D. Vass and Thomas P. Trott of the Post Office Department on B street, J.D. Waller of the Capitol police and Mrs. Tayloeís boarding house on New Jersey avenue.

The site of Peckís saloon, at the corner of New Jersey avenue and A street, was long the property of Frances Hanna, who in the thirties improved it by a frame house. Peck was there to the thirties, and following him were M. King, Casparis, Joseph Hamlin and Mrs. Whitney. Later it was Sandersonís Hotel. The house on the east was the Fowler tavern of the twenties, afterward Lynchís White House, a then brick structure, later occupied by Sweeny, Tom Stone and others.

Settled on the Hill
James Casparis, long the host of the public house bearing his name, settled on the hill with other Swiss countrymen in the early forties. First he was at the corner of A street and New Jersey avenue in a neat frame building on the site of Peckís place of the twenties, and by use of paint the house to all appearances was ever a new one. It soon became a most popular place, enjoying congressional as well as local patronage, and in a little while larger quarters were demanded for the business. In 1845 Mr. Casparis bought lot 15, east of the site, and later, in 1852, erected a three-story hostelry, and was there located till war times, when the building was converted to hospital uses, and many of the surviving veterans of the war feel grateful at the mere mention of the name. When Lincoln was a representative Casparisí was a place of recreation for him and his friends, especially those who enjoyed billiards. In fact, so popular was the place that when Congress was not in session the tables were always in service, and some old-timers say that the sergeants-at-arms of the two houses often, under a call of the house, summoned absentees from bowling alley, billiard table and bar.

It is related that in the fifties a messenger of the Senate was sent for a senator who was booked for a speech on an important subject and found him at Casparisí bar. Touching him on the arm, he said: "Senator, your friends are waiting for you, and want you in the Senate. Have a drink." He responded, and both smiled, the senator taking a big drink. When he entered the Senate he was reeling, and the messenger received a reprimand for not having taken him home. The senator, however, by the support of his desk, made the speech of his life, and his friends were elated at his success, though his enemies said it was whisky talking.

Acquired A Reputation
About the same time the well-known Hitz family appeared on the Hill, and the grocery store of Florian & James Hitz, a few doors east of the hotel, soon had more than a mere neighborhood reputation. In 1846 Jacob B. Gardener established himself as an apothecary on the south side of A street, buying lot 18 and afterward the adjoining lot. John C. Fitzpatrick, clerk in the office of the secretary of the Senate, came here in 1848, buying and settling on lot 4, on B street.

In 1850 Casparis was on the Peck corner, and the old White House was run by Schafer, a veteran of the Mexican war. Schulze, a tinner, was located in one of the two-story bricks, and Aigler, a Swiss confectioner, who in 1854, returned to his old home, was in the other. On the adjoining lot east Casparis erected his hotel. Next in order were George Brown's residence and the residence of Fields, a carpet weaver, in a frame building that stood back from the street; the Hitz grocery, in a two-story brick building; a three-story brick dwelling, in which John Hitz, the Swiss consul resided; a bowling saloon, then occupied by Daniel Genam as a shoemaking shop; the two-story house of a Mr. Moulton, a Capitol employe, and a small frame on the corner, occupied by a colored barber named Washington.

Dr. S.C. Busey resided in a three-story brick on 1st street. On B street was a Mr. Fairfax of the coast survey in a two-story frame; Col. C.W.C. Dunnington of the Capitol police in a brick of two stories; James Adams of the Bank of Washington in a three story brick; J.C. Fitzpatrick in a two-story house, and the Coyle property. On the corner of B street and New Jersey avenue were the Hickey houses, in one of which a family named Steel resided, and on New Jersey avenue three small frames, in which were Washington's barber shop and Wilson's oyster house.