Old "Burnt Bridge"
Where Ships Once Sailed Up Eastern Branch
Fired When British Came
Helped Early Settlement in Southeast Section of City
Scoffing Fiddler’s Conversion
Brickyard and Hill That Vanished to Fill Up the
Hollows of the Navy Yard

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, July 7, 1907 [p. 10]

In the neighborhood of 11th street, south of L street, east of the navy yard, there was some settlement in the early part of the last century.

Before the establishment of the navy yard, in 1800 there was a bridge over the Eastern branch, a quarter of a mile above 11th street, forming in part the thoroughfare to the branch and Prince George county, the route therefrom being a zigzag wagon track to the vicinity of the yard. This bridge was constructed by the Eastern Branch Bridge Company, which was incorporated by the legislature of Maryland in 1795, Daniel Carroll, Notley Young, George Walker, of the original promoters, were interested in the bridge, and before 1800 it was in service. It was a draw-bridge, for the branch then had such a depth of water that vessels for Europe and the West Indies had cleared at the port of Bladensburg, and that L’Enfant evidently looked for commercial activity in that portion of the branch is seen by the wharf sites projected.

The branch had not then commenced to fill up, and as late as 1843 a brig took on a cargo of tobacco at Bladensburg and sailed seaward. At least one native of Washington can recall a democratic barbecue at Bladensburg in 1840, when the unterrified democracy of the District to the number of several hundred attended, going and returning in a steamboat from the wharf at the foot of 3d street southeast.

Bridge Burned Before British
This bridge was in service until August, 1814, when it was partially burned on the approach of the British. The damage was repaired the following year, Congress appropriating $20,500 therefor, and it, continued in use till August, 1846, when the draw took fire from the sparks from a passing steamer, on which were excursionists to Pyles’ camp meeting, a few miles up the branch. It was burned completely and never rebuilt.

With this bridge till 1820, when the Navy Yard bridge was constructed, the outlet and inlet for travel and trade for lower Maryland, some little settlement was attracted to this section. When, however, the Navy Yard Bridge Company, incorporated in 1819 by William Prout, S.N. Smallwood, Timothy Winn and Adam Lindsay of that section and William Marbury, who lived opposite, constructed the lower bridge, near 11th street, the Maryland trade was divided. The old bridge took the name of the “Burnt bridge” after 1814, and when the 11th street bridge was constructed it was called the “Upper Navy Yard” bridge. These were each toll bridges, the former during its entire existence, with William Magill toll gatherer. In 1848 the latter, being purchased by the government, became a free bridge, and under the commissioner of public buildings for a few years James D. Buckley, who lived near, was the keeper.

The topography of the land adjacent in early times was widely different from the present, for there was a hill at about 11th and N streets, much of which in after years, being of gravel, was carried into the navy yard through the east gate and helped to improve the ground as the area of the yard was filled in. At 12th street there was a gully in which a small stream flowed from a spring of excellent water.

Southeast’s Early Brickyard
That the location of these bridges, with that of Navy Yard, had an effect on the settlement of that section is evident. The open space at the intersection of Georgia and Virginia avenues separated the bridge neighborhood from what little improvements were made northward, and so few were the buildings eastward that a village-like appearance was maintained for about half a century. The square known as 976, between L, M, 10th and 11th streets, was early of importance, for, possessing as it did a bed of fine brick clay, it was utilized, and for twenty years or more here were kilns that gave employment to a number of laborers.

There were four lots laid off on the plan, Nos. 2 and 3, the west half of the square going to Mr. Prout, but in 1797 the entire square was owned by Dunlap & Carlton, in 1803 by Dr. Wm. Thornton, and two years later it went to Mrs. Ann Brodeau, Samuel Baker, who in 1802 lived on 8th street, conveyed the brick yard in the square to Azariah Gatton. In 1823 W.R. Maddos, a well-known manufacturer of brick, bought lot 2, with brick and frame buildings, on the southwest corner of the square, and in 1841 it went to J.L. Maddox. In 1822 George Collard was in lot 3 north, and about this time Elizabeth and Cordelia Helmsworth had two houses in lot 2.

Land a Cent a Foot
Square 999, bounded by M and 11th streets and Virginia avenue, was cut into four lots, and the original proprietor, Mr. Prout, was assigned Nos. 3 and 4, on 11th street. The others, in 1797,went to Dunlap & Carlton, from Morris & Greenleaf, and A.B. Woodward bought lot 4, and in 1799 Joseph Slater bought lot 3. In 1807 the ground was valued at 3 cents and a house valued at $150, assessed to Patrick Stanton, who in 1809 had a deed on lot 2, and two years afterward on lot 3. The next transfer was of lot 1 to Chas. Glover, in 1823, in which year George Adams bought lot 4 and Mr. Otterback lot 3, and the next year John Smith had lot 2.

In this decade several houses were built. The assessed value of the ground was but 1 cent per fot, and the improvements were listed: P. Otterback, $650; J. Railey, $600; John Smith, $500 and $350; J.M. Farrar, S.N. Smallwood and P. Otterback, each $450; C. Miller, $150, and S. Adams, $118. In 1835 P. Stanton’s heirs are assessed on a $500 building.

Between M, N, 10th and 11th streets was square 977, laid off in twenty building lots and in 1797 apportioned between the government and the proprietors, Daniel Carroll, William Prout and William King. Some of these lots, before 1800, had passed to Dunlap & Carlton and Morris & Nicholson.

Commodore Tingey’s Investment
Commodore Tingey of the navy yard invested in several lots, 20 to 26, on 11th street, and the following year a lease was taken on lot 22, on 11th street, by J. Moyers, and he erected a small house thereon, valued in 1802 at $440. In 1804 William Smith, school teacher, and James Nowland, long a model maker in the yard, and city councilman, had leases on lots 24 and 25, and these were each improved by $600 dwellings. The next year Robert Armstead, George Lake, J. Carlton and Thomas Hunter had leases on lot 27, on 11th street near the corner of N street.

In 1806 Jesse MacKay and Thomas Hunter had leases on lot 26, and Bernard Parsons owned the corner of 11th and M street. The following year, 1807, George Grant and E. Bland were on lot 23, while W. Bushby was on lot 18, on M street. The house of Mr. Lake was valued at $1,200; those of Messrs. Bushby, Bland and Grant, $600 each; J. Hunter, $200, and Mr. Prout had three houses of like value on lots 21 and 23 on 11th near M street.

In 1812 Thomas Wilcox succeeded to a lease in lot 23, and Aaron Lambert, the following year, bought in the lot, R. Clark in 28 and G. Rice in 19. In 1814 "Zack" Walker owned in lot 28 and two years later Charles Jones was here. In 1818 George Adams had a deed in lot 2, N street; William Bland in 23, G Lake in 27 and N. Cassidy in 15.

Land Rises to Four Cents a Foot
In 1820 4 cents was the valuation of the ground, and the following improvements were charged; Bernard Parsons, $500, lot 1; George Adams, $125, lot 2; R.G. Gates, $850, lot 15; Beverly Waugh, $450, lot 18; C.J. Jones, $350; E. Bland, $450, lot 28; J. Nowland, $350, lot 24; R. Brown, $200, lot 25; T. Hunter’s heirs, $300, lot 27, and R. Clark, $700, lot 28. Ten years later the same names appear and the ground has the same appraisement, but the value of improvement is reduced about a fourth.

Square 1000, between 11th, 12th, M and N streets of the Prout & King contribution, was divided into twenty-eight lots, the fourteen constituting the western half of the square going to Prout & King.

In 1802 Joseph Marshal bought several lots, and in 1803 S. Tousard bought others. It was ten years before other lots were disposed of, W.B. MacGilton, R. Cooper and George Lake then buying lots on 12th street.

In 1819 Joseph Nourse owned lots at 12th and N streets, which he sold to Joseph Davidson. These afterward went to W. Davidson. In 1821 John Judge bought on 12th street. The following year W. Magill was on lot 6 and lived in the southern house on 11th street. In 1829 Elizabeth Little had a house on lot 6. Its southeast corner belonged to Washington Boyd, United States marshal, after passing through the hands of Ignatius Howe, long a constable; Edward Simms, an old-time grocer, and Dr. Hamilton Howe to John Howe. The elder Howe was long an employe of the navy yard as a peace officer of the old regime, one of the sons following his example by serving on the Metropolitan police.

The two lots on N and 11th street, 14 and 16, were in the twenties owned by John Cox, afterward by Jared MacKenny and Col. Henry Naylor. In 1820 the two corners had small improvements, that at O street on a $450 valuation and that at N street, two houses valued at a few hundred dollars each. Four cents per foot was the ground valuation.

Property of Frederick Spicer
The two lots at 10th and N street in 1841 became the property of Frederick Spicer, then and for years a prominent butcher, who also succeeded to a dozen or more of the lots then vacant.

In square No. 1001 the commission platted twenty building lots, Messrs. Prout & King being the proprietors. In 1795 Tristan, Dalton, a partner of Greenleaf and one one of the first senators from Massachusetts, purchased in the square, and Louise Deblois in 1797 bought in lots at the corner of 11th and O streets. In 1804 W. Brock and W. Lambell leased lot 9, J. Perkins, lot 12; Timothy Crowley and James Fry, lot 8; in 1805 John Hyatt, lot 12, and in 1806 R.H. Picknall leased lot 9, all on 11th street.

It does not appear that the improvement was at a rapid rate, for the corporation books show the following valuation in 1807: Crowley & Fry, lot 8, $400; R.H. Picknall, lot 9, $400, and John Hyatt, lot 11, $500.

Houses More Costly
W. Venable and Lewis Talbert bought lots 10 and 11, corner of N and 11th streets, in 1807. John and Timothy Crowley took the lease on lot 8 in 1809, and James Kemp and E. Grant a deed for lot 9 in 1811. The next year the Perkins lease in lot 12th and N streets was taken by Michael Quigley, who obtained a deed, and A. Serra got deed to lot 9. In 1811 Samuel N. Smallwood had the corner of 11th and O streets, in lots 4 and 5. In 1818 lots 8 and 9 go to H. Burford and G. Cox, respectively, and in 1823 R. Mitchell had lots 4 and 5.