Known As Prout Farm
In Vicinity of K Street and Virginia Avenue Southeast
Some Old-Time Residents
Possession of Property First Held Under Leases
Subdivision of Square 928
Large Area at 9th and K Streets, Where Open-Air Meetings Were Held

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, July 14, 1907 [p. 11]

This is a portion of Washington, once in the lines of the Prout farm, north of the section described in The Star of the 7th instant, farm which the excavation made for the navy yard tunnel of the Baltimore and Potomac railroad, removed much of the original soil. This, however, being within the lines of K street and Virginia avenue, did not affect the rights of the private owners, and when the ditch was refilled the old conditions were restored. North of this cut re four squares laid off on the original plan, as Nos. 879 and 880 between I and K, 6th and 7th streets, and Nos. 905 and 928, between I and K streets eastward to 9th street. According to the original lay of the land the first was on the hill side, the second in the bottom and the others on the level plateau. The squares east of 7th street appear to have been settled first, according to records obtainable, and there is interesting history as to all of the squares, the names of the forefathers of many families of the present day being linked with the records, and much family history has come through with the growing generations.

With the exception of 8th street and the vicinity of the market, little material improvement was made in the section until in the twenties. Some few brick pavements and oil lamps were then in evidence on 8th street and near the market at 6th and K streets. Though the market house had induced some little settlement on K street, and the corporation fire apparatus in charge of the Anacostia fire company and a log lockup, or prison, near 7th and K streets, indicated that there was a municipal government in existence, the view north of the market for the first fifty years of the city’s history revealed green hills and few buildings. Eastward there were some buildings constructed in the early years of the century.

Possession Commenced Under Leases
It would appear, from the fact that for very many years but few absolute fee simple titles were passed, that the early settlers commenced possession under leases. These generally being for a long term, ninety-nine years, and renewable forever, with the privilege to purchase at a stipulated sum, there was but little hesitancy in erecting houses and other buildings. That the settlers were thrifty is evidenced by the fact that in very many instances in a few years titles in fee took the place of leases.

In square No. 879, formed within the lines of 7th and K streets and Virginia avenue there were but two lots projected, and these were assigned to Mr. Prout in 1797. In the same year he sold both to Augustus Woodward, who, in 1804, conveyed them back to Mr. Prout. In 1808 L. Farrington had title in lot 1, and the next year the lease of a frame house and ground in lot 2 was made to J. Bowen. In 1814 J.N. Brashears and James MacKim had title in lot 2, and a house and d to Thomas Lyndall, master joiner, and in 1836 James Bury, master blacksmith, was a resident on the square. Mrs. Bury survived her husband, and lived in the house for many years. The house is standing at the present day.

In 1820 the ground was valued at 6 cents per foot, and J. Bowen was assessed for a $200 improvement. In 1833 this was reduced t $150; Mrs. Lyndall was assessed on $50 and Mr. Bury, $1,100.

The square southeast of 6th street, facing the market, contained two lots which, in 1808, were vested in the original owner, Mr. Prout. No improvements appear in the early days, when 3 cents per foot was the valuation of the ground. Though there are no record of improvements on the original books, leases appear in 1806 to R. Delphy and E. Vidler, and the next year to Thomas Young, Thomas Foyles and Patrick Farrell. In 1808 Thomas Summers was a leasee, the next year James MacKim, in 1812 Elizabeth Brown, and in 1819 Peter Little. Mary A. Brown bought a lot in the square in 1822, and James Nokes and Lavinia Numan bought of James Scanlon in 1831. The latter was master plumber of the navy yard.

Ground Valuations
In 1833 the ground valuation was 7 to 10 cents, and the improvements were assessed to: Elizabeth Bowen, $250; James Canlan, $450; Foyles & Young, $200; P. Little, $300, and James Danford, $300.

Between 7th, 8th, I and K streets, or Virginia avenue, square No. 905 was laid off, and being vested by the Commissioner sin Mr. Prout in 1797 for improvements, it I supposed that it was not then bare of buildings. In this year Augustine Woodward had the southeast corner of the square, which, in 1804 was bought by Andrew Forrest. This place fronted seventy-one feet on 8th street and sixty-seven feet on Virginia avenue. The consideration was $504.53. Buildings, including one on Virginia avenue, were erected shortly afterward and nearly all of them are in service today. In 1808 William Bunyie leased the southeast corner of 7th and I streets, and three years afterward took a deed. James Walker leased a brick house on 8th street and John MacCutcheon had a lease on 8th street in 1804. Thomas Holliday acquired the southwest corner of 8th and I streets, and James Johnson at this time resided on 8th street. In 1809 L. Talbert had a frame house in the square; James Wickam purchased the ground with an unfinished house on Virginia avenue, and Salvadore Catalano two houses on 7th and I streets. Two years afterward Catalano sold to Michael Sardo. Mrs. Elizabeth Rankin owned houses in this square about the same time, and in 1812 George Gran bought on Virginia avenue. In 1813 Mr. Walker bought the house he had leased, and in 1814 Charles Venable bought at the southwest of Virginia avenue and 7th street. In 1820 Thomas Gulick had a lease on 8th street property. In 1822 William Jones resided at 7th and I streets, and C Byrne on I street.

There was little transfer of property in the twenties, when the ground had a value of 5 to 9 cents. In that decade the improvements were assessed. To Andrew Forrest, $4,150; James Wickham, $500; G Grant, $300; Charles Venable, $2,000, on south front of the square; S. Catlano, $600; and T. Holliday, $250, on 7th street; William Jones, $1,800, 7th and I streets; James Walker, $1,000, on 8th street.

In 1833 the Forrest property passed to Mrs. Elinor C. Bulley but not out of the family; James Tucker, master blacksmith, bought on Virginia avenue in 1834, and Thomas Bayne established on 8th street at boot, and shoe business. In 1838 Matthew Trimble bought on 7th street, and in 1839 Robert M. Coombs had a lease on Virginia avenue.

Subdivision of Square 928
The square south of the marine barracks between 8th, 9th, I and K streets, known as No 928, in 1792 was divided into twelve lots, all of which were assigned to Mr. Prout. Four of these fronted on each street, and in 1797 those on K street were conveyed to A. Woodward, who afterward sold them back to Mr. Prout. In 1799 David Slater had lot 5 and Joseph Slater lots 6 and 7, nearly all the west front. N improvements were listed in 180307, but the ground was valued at 5 cents. Tradition is that the Slaters had homes here for some years, and as several leases were made in the first decade of the century some improvements followed. Hezekiah Smithson had a lease on lot 4, 8th and K streets, as also had George St. Clair and Elizabeth Ireland and J. Stanes. Lots 2 and 12 went the year following to John Cummins. In 1808 John Vint leased in lot 5, and the next year transferred it to T.C. Wright. In 1810 Andrew Forrest bought lot 1, at 9th and K streets, and William Cocking took the deed to the property leased to Vint. In 1814 the deed for lots 3, 4 and 5, in the southwest quarter of the square, went to S.W. Young. William Hebb then had a lease on lots 2 and 3, assigning soon afterward to H. Somerville. In 1816 Benjamin G. Orr bought lo 6 on 8th street, and J.B. Forrest the two houses at the northeast corner of 8th and K streets. He afterward owned lots 3 to 5.

Mrs. Esther Murphy obtained a lease in 1822 on lot 10, at the southwest corner of 9th and I streets. A year later Marie Clarke and Edward Simms were tenants in the square, and in 1824 James Edgecombe owned lot 5 on 8th street, and John Hodgson had a lease and James Marshall a deed to K street property.

Four to eight cents was the assessed value of the ground in 1825, and the improvements were assessed as follows: J. Hodgson and J. Sanford, $125 each; J.B. Forrest, $3,800; T. Winn, $900; Mr. Palmer, $350; J. Edgecombe, $400; E. Simms, $1,200; J. Prout, $450; A. Lindsay and Hester Murphy,, $150 each; A. Richardson, 4200; J. Horner, $2,000, and Prouts heirs, $50 and $100.

Vacant Space in 1830
The space at the southwest corner of 9th and K streets, on which a section of the District fire department is now quartered, also had an interesting history. Prior to 1839 it was an open common, over which meandered the roads made by the country teams from Virginia and Maryland, and it afforded a fine place for open-air meetings, militia musters and drill grounds. In the presidential campaigns of yore there was room for both parties, and it was no uncommon sight to see the banners of the rival candidates flying from hickory and pine poles only a few hundred yards apart, and here also were stands for the public meetings and room for the bonfires the youngsters were wont to kindle on gala occasions. It was in the summer of 1839 that the Anacostia or Navy Yard fire company was authorize to erect an engine house on the corner for housing the apparatus which had been kept near 6th and K streets. The company was not long in erecting a house for its purpose, and in a few months engines and hose reels occupied the lower floor, and a moderate-sized meeting room was provided above. The polls were opened in this hall in the municipal elections.

A small cannon was kept in the same house and it was used for firing salutes. This same gun figured in the “now Nothing” riot near the corner of 7th and K streets in June, 1857. It was forcibly taken to the scene of the rioting, the polls of the third and fourth wards, and an attempt was made to fir it on the marines, who had been called out, when the latter fired into the mob an captured the gun.

Forest Family
The Forrests were allied to Benjamin More, who published the Washington Gazette of 1806. Andrew Forrest married a daughter of Mr. More, and established a grocery at 8th and K streets, first, and later at 9th and K streets, and almost without intermission the first location has been a grocery stand. For some years Andrew Forrest held the lucrative position of sutler of the Marine Corps. He was noted for being a very large and handsome man weighing nearly 400 pounds As a grocer he was succeeded by his kinsman; Capt. Michael Bulley, and nephew and namesake, A.F. Bulley , and others. John B. Forrest, who in 1816 bought at the northeast corner of 8th and K streets, was for many years the commissioner of improvements in the fifth and sixth wards, having several square miles of territory under his supervision. On this corner Cat. Edward Simms, so called for his service in the war of 1812, was for a number of years in the grocery business and laid here the foundation for the highly successful wholesale grocery business of Simms & Sons, on Pennsylvania avenue, in the forties in which he amassed a fortune. Mr. Simms lived for a long time near his store, but his old age was passed on C street east of 4-1/2 street, and his memory being bright, he often entertained his friends with reminiscences of the war of 1812 and descriptions and accounts of episodes in the ancient history of Washington. Mr. James MacKim, living near the market, was a clerk in the navy yard, and the father of the well-known Dr S.A. H. MacKim. Messrs. Young & Foyle were butchers in the Branch market; Peter Little was the market master and James Nokes, well-known as a painter late in life, was public gardener.

Old-Time Celebrities
Some few can recall Salvatore Catalano and Michael Sardano, the first being sailing master of the yard, and the later leader of the marine Band. Catalano was one of the heroes of the war with Tripoli and Great Britain and was noted for outspoken, blunt language calculated to call forth a reprimand from officers but his service was so well known that no excuse was required of him. Mr. Sardo is said to have been an Italian count at home, but never claimed the rank here. He served his adopted country in the battle of Bladensburg, and for many years lived at 10th street and Pennsylvania avenue. Many relatives reside here.

In 1814 George Grant, a carpenter, was located on Virginia avenue, and he, too, is represented at his day by grandchildren The Venable family, long in tin and sheet-iron workers and almost constantly represented among the gunner of the navy, came on Virginia avenue and 7th street about ninety years ago and some are yet living there. William Hebb, who in 1814 was on k street, near 9th street, was the progenitor of Col. Hebb, well-known marine officer. John Hodgson, who in the twenties lived near M. Hebb, was employed in the navy yard, and the father of the late Joseph F. Hodgson. He, too, was one of the four heavy men of he section, tipping over 300 pounds, and was known for his handsome features, fine figure and genial disposition. James Marshall was then a blacksmith on K street employed in the yard but in after years was a justice of the peace, police magistrate and assessor under the old corporation.

In the thirties Thomas Bayne was keeping a shoe store on 8th street. Matthew Trimble was a well-known grocer on 7th street, and R.M. Coombs had a dry goods store on 8th street. John Bright and C.E. Ellis were on 8th street; Mrs. J. Jolley and H.W. Franklin sailmaker, on 7th street; James Tucker, a prominent blacksmith, and Osborn Turner, on Virginia avenue.

Some of the Residents
In the forties J.A. Golden’s tavern, F.S. Walsh’s drug store and residence, Stanislaus Tench’s grocery at Simms’ stand, B.E. Smith’s boot and shoe store. Thomas Nokes painter, and Robert Middleton, A.F. Bukley, J. Howard, Joseph Ropeth, barber, were on 8th street J.W. Forrest, John Davis and James Crandle, on 7th street; John Cook, blacksmith, R. Clark’s carpenter shop and John Bohlayer, butcher, on 9th street, the latter at I street; Miss Dykes, W. Bush, Mrs. Patterson and Mr. Bradley were on K street. Thomas Thornley, then keeping a shoe store on K street and living on I street. A. Catalano, a ship carpenter, and A. Camillius, a musician, were on I street, Mr. Robb, a blockmaker; John Peake, after master painter in the yard, and Mrs. E.C. Bulley were on Virginia avenue.