Site of Navy Yard
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, July 21, 1907 [p. ?]
The location of the navy yard in the southeast section of the city in the early days of the last century had much to do with the settlement and development of the adjacent building squares; and it will be seen that immediately following the selection of the site for the United States marine barracks on the square known as No. 927, between G, I, 8th and 9th streets, the property west was improved, dwellings and stores springing up.
Upon the opening of the yard in 1800 ship carpenters, blacksmiths and others of the bone and sinew element had their homes near their work. The marines, numbering scarcely a hundred, under the command of Maj. W. W. Burrows, were quartered in the yard for a few years until permanent headquarters and barracks were provided. Provision for this was made by act of Congress for the erection of barracks before the selection of a site was made, $20,000 being appropriated therefor March 3, 1801.
One of the first official acts of President Jefferson was to appoint an agent to represent the government in the selection and purchase of a site in the person of Samuel Smith; but from the interest that the President manifested in the erection of the barracks it is likely that he had much to do with the location. June 9, square 927, having been selected. Mr. Smith made an agreement for its purchase for the government at 4 cents per foot. In the division of the squares and lots between Mr. Prout, the proprietor, and the government, the title was vested in the Commissioners, and on June 20 following the deed was passed to the United States, the consideration being $6,247.18, there being 156,179.5 feet of ground. The work was soon after entered upon, and an additional appropriation being made it was carried to completion, the complete cost being $33,453.59.
President Jefferson left evidence of his interest in the work in a note dated 1803, calling attention to the fact that some of the work was out of plumb, and directing that a wall be taken down and rebuilt. It was in 1804 that the barracks were ready for occupancy, and the corps moved from the navy yard. About this time, the commandant, Col. Burrows, retired to private life and Lieut. Col. Franklin Wharton succeeded him, taking up his residence here.
In the war of 1812 the post was most of the time depleted by drafts on the corps for sea service and also for service with the land forces.
It was while the British were here that Matthew Wrights, a member of the committee of safety, bearing an improvised flag of truce -- said to have been made of a shirt -- entered the barracks to ask protection of property. The British commander, before Mr. Wright had taken many steps in the inclosure, ordered that he be blindfolded and detained. The flag of truce was used for blindfolding him.
At this time the marines of the garrison were under Maj. Samuel Miller with the army in the field. Lieut. Col. Franklin Wharton was succeeded by Lieut. Col. Gale in 1819, and the following year Col. Archibald Henderson became the commandant and was such till his death at an advanced age.
The residence of the commanding officer, on the north side of the parade ground; the center house, in which are the commissioned officers' quarters, fronting 8th street; the barrack buildings, on the east side with other buildings, on the south, are intimately associated with lives of men and events which illumine the pages of the past. Majs. Samuel Miller, William Gamble, Parke G. Howle and the elder and younger Nicholsons -- Augustus and A. A-- on duty here in the early days, had private residences outside, and were each as well known for their public spirit as for their official rank.
Possibly the best known from his long residence here and his association with the citizens was George Henderson, whose service was forty years, over twenty-five as commandant.
Recruits Prepared for Service
From an early date the members of the band, though enlisted, have been given the privilege of living outside and commutation allowed them. These, with the civilian employees and some few marines, helped to make up the outside population which was adjacent to the barracks.
Directly opposite square 904 between 7th, 8th, G and I streets, was open to settlement, but not until after the barracks were occupied was there much improvement. In 1795 the west half of the square was vested in Mr. Prout, the United States taking the remaining fifteen lots. In 1799 the Slaters had the southwest corner of the square: the next year Commodore Tingey the northeast corner, and Capt. James Barry four lots on 8th street, 22 to 25, and W.S. Chandler lots 26 to 29, on 8th street, extending nearly to I street.
In 1803-7 the ground was assessed at 4 cents per foot, and improvements on lot 1, corner of I street, have the name of Carlton and Dunlop attached, and afterward the names of R. Brown's heirs, who transferred to Matthew Wright at a valuation of $2,000.
On lot 29 A. Cochran, jr., is charged on $2,000 and John McLeod $1000. In 1805 Lawson Pearson, a bricklayer, was on lot 39, adjoining Wright's property, and was located there thirty years or more. Z. Farrell was on lot 28. Buller Cocke purchased lots 18 to 21, G and 8 streets, and Joseph Wheat lots 22 to 25 on 8th street.
P. Pravett was then on lot 27, and in 1808 A. Cochran, jr. had deeds for lots 22, 23, 28 and 29; Robert Alexander, lot 30; James Thompson, 23 and 24; Buller Cocke, lot 22; Hugh Smith lot 28; John McLeod, lot 29; G. McCauley, lot 26, and James Duddell, brick house and lot all fronting 8th street. The following year Mr. Wright was on lot 2; J.S. Stephenson on lot 29, which he sold to Col. Wharton two years later. In 1820 Richard J. and Lyde Elliott had lot 28 and James McKim lots 24 and 25. In 1811 A. Sinclair was on lot 29 and R. Dye on lots 28 and 29. D. Bates was on lot 3 on I street, in 1812; George McCauly on 27, adjoining his first purchase: W. Cassidy on 30; W.H.P. Tuckfield bought in 26 and sold it to Shadrach Davis in 1813. In 1815 Adam Lindsay was on lot 4, on G street: in 1818 Walter Cox had lot 3; Jeremimah Alvey lot 26; E. Foster leased lot 28 from Farrell. In 1819 Joseph Janney was on lot 3; Wm. Elder, lot 19, on G street, and had a grocery opposite the barracks. In 1833 lots 18 to 21, including the corner of 8th and G streets, was transferred to J. Bassett.
Valuations in 1825
In 1827 Philip Cravin, a coppersmith who was on lot 11 a number of years, leased the property; Edward Simms in 1829 bought lots 18 to 21; in 1831 Enoch Bryan's heirs were occupying lot 29, as was Mrs. Ann Roberts the next year, and Joseph White, Jared Taylor and G.W. Williams.
In that decade and afterward Isaac Beers, Rev. Wm. Ryland, Joseph Brady, R.I. Jordan, Sarah J. Crandell, James Whipple and Thompson Van Riswick owned on 7th street, and J.M. Roberts on G and 8th streets.
About the year 1835 the value of the ground was from 7 to 14 cents per foot and the improvements noted were: M. Wrights, $1,800, reduced from $2,200: P. Cravin, $200; J.T. Neeman, $400; J. Thompson, $150; A. Sinclair, $900, reduced from $1,000; McKim's eirs, $00, reduced from $650; and $250, from $400; J. Alvey, $500 reduced from $1,100; G. McCauley, $600, from $1,500; Dye, $600 from $1,200; Pearson, $600 from $1,300; Cassidey, $300, from $400; E. Bryan's heirs, $600; Foster, $200; Tucker, $750, and $150, unchanged.
The house known as the Simms or Roberts house on the south side of G street was long on the property of Buller Cocke, who purchased the same in 1806 of Commodore Tingey, and it is believed, was erected by him before 1820. Mr. Cocke was prominent in the early days, a member of the councils, and connected with the navy as the prize agent of the U.S. sloop Wasp. Surgeon Chas. B. Hamilton, U.S.N., resided here a few years, and owned and occupied by Capt. Edward Simms. Subsequently Capt. James Edelin was here, and later Dr. George M. Roberts lived here long enough for his name to attach to the house.
Before 1835, in addition to those named above, there were on 8th street Mrs. M. Bryan, B. Biscoe, W. Durety, M. Loker, T. Wiggins and P.F. Nash, shoemakers; W. Clark and Sarah King, grocers; John Rose, machinist; Benjamin Stetlings, Charity Nicholson, Rosana Walker, James Farrow, E. Foster, draftsmen; S. Harwood, John Cassidy and James Lawrence, tobacconist. Chaplain Ryland
In the forties these lived on 8th street: John Wilkinson, Thomas Thornly, grocer; John O'Donnell, confectioner; James Nokes, painter; Charles Hooper, musician, W. Grunen, F. Elwell, confectioner, Dr. G.M. Dove, Marmaduke Dove, A. Douglas, Mrs. Dennison, Kenneth Deneal, hackman; W. Cox and John Castell, grocer. Chaplain Ryland
On 7th street were John Mills, blacksmith; James Jordan, marine, and John Jarvis, musician.