Tobacco Warehouse
When Washington City Was in the Business
The Old-Time Inspector
First Venturesome Merchants of the Early Southeast
Water Front All Blagden’s
Growth of Section About Navy Yard and Gradual Increase of Real Estate Values

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, August 10, 1907 [p. 8]

South of M street between 2d and 4th streets southeast, are a few building squares, two of which are one the Anacostia river, or Eastern branch, and at one time they were the center of commercial activity.

In the infancy of the city this section had St. Thomas bay on the east side, but when the navy yard was extended to 4th street the last vestige of the bay disappeared. On the west was a small stream which had its rise near the south line of Garfield Park. With the surface water it broadened and before it reached the Anacostia some portions of the building lots fronting on Canal, or 2d street, were under water. When the canal, authorized by the act of the Maryland legislature in 1795, was projected, this stream came within the lines and was by it absorbed.

The canal has had its day, and on its site and grass plots and the pumping plant of the District. A complete metamorphosis has been worked. The mouth of this stream became the rapacious basin of the canal and with the water front affording the wharfage, owned by Carroll originally, and Law, Barry and other early promoters becoming interested, this section was one of the leading neighborhoods a hundred years ago.

Old-Time Excursions
The wharves known as Blagden’s, Barry’s and Coombe’s, in the old days the landings for sailing vessels, were much used afterward by steamers, and there are numbers who recall how the East Washington people too steamers there for excursions down the river before the days of river resorts, and for the camp meetings at Bumpy Oak, near Glymont or Scagg’s of Pyle’s woods, up the branch.

In the presidential campaign of 1840 the Jacksonian democracy, several hundred in number, took a steamer here for a barbecue at Bladensburg, and without mishap returned at night.

Though there was some marsh about this section much of the ground was several feet above the present grade. Some of the original terra firma, especially that of the streets, was long since converted into bicks and used elsewhere. It may be said that from Georgia avenue northward there was a gentle ascent to the street when the ground sloped and some marsh was encountered. This may be designated as the southeast corner of the Carroll tract, and it became in the plan of Washington squares 770, 771, 801 and 802, with south of Georgia avenue, No. 803 designated a water lot.

Division of the Lots
In the division between the proprietors, Mr. Carroll and the United States, the whole of square 770 went to the latter in 1796 number 771, of seven loots, in 1797 was apportioned to James Barry; lot 1, the south part of the square to the United States, lots 2, 3 and 6, the northwest part, to Carroll; lots 5, 6 and 7, the northeast portion and number 801, of twenty lots, went to Mr. Carroll, and of the nine lots in square 802 Mr. Carroll had numbers 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, the east portion, and the United States the rest.

Square 770, between the canal and 2d street an M and N streets, was in the hands of Morris, Greenleaf and Law before 1797, when Mr. Carroll owned the lots fronting M street, Nos. 1 and 2. In 1798 R. Grigley owned lots 5 and 6 on Canal street, covenanting with Law to build a two-story brick house before the year 1800. No improvement is noted here in the first quarter of the century.

Two Early Leases
In 1801 John Keaglar had a lease in lot 4 facing Canal street, and in 1804 he assigned lease of house and lot to H. Tietjen for $200. In 1818 this went to Alex. Cochran. James Middleton had a lease in lot 1, 18 feet front at $18 per year, which he redeemed.

In 1826 the corporation valued the ground at 4 cents per foot, and the improvements were assessed as follows: Lot 3, J. Kreaglar, $150 changed to A. Cochran, $100; lot 4, Wilson Bryan, $300, reduced to $200; lot 4, Wilson Bryan, $300, reduced to $200; lot 7, Ephram Mills, $600; lot 9, Wm. Howard, $700. All these were on the canal. Lot 1, northwest corner of 3d and M streets, James Middleton, $850.

In 1807 Nathaniel Brady leased in lot 14, and the following year Thomas Allen was in 11 and 12, on 3d street, and Joseph Varden bought in lot 1, corner 3d and N streets. In 1809 Mr. Tietjen bought in lot 10, corner of 3d and M streets, and T. Howard bought in the southeast corner of the square. J. W. Lowe had a lease in lot 15. In 1809, and in 1811 D. Kealy and Albin Howe had leases nearby on 3d street, and D. Cooke had a deed in lot 4 on the canal. In 1814 Joseph Johnson was in part of lot 16, and W.R. Maddox, the following year, came on lots 11 and 12. In 1816 Ariminta Bean was on lot 15, and in 1821 S.N. Smallwood owned at the southeast corner of the square.

Land Four Cents a Foot
About 1825 the corporation valued the ground at 4 cents per foot, and improvements were charged to Thos. Howard, $1,500; S.N. Smallwood, $700; Varden’s heirs, $1,900; D. Cook, $100; Joseph Johnson, $175, G. Bean, $150; W.R. Maddox, $600; W. Barnes, $200; H. Tietjen, $1,000 and E. Booth, $150.

In ten years there was slight increase of the value of the ground, six cents being the minimum.

The square opposite, between 3d, 4th, and N streets of thirty two lots, was slow in growth, and for years was unproductive, save that the taxes on ground valued at three and four cents per foot went into the coffers of the corporation. The first conveyance in the square was that of Mr. Carroll to the corporation of Washington, on April 9, 1807, of lots 13 and 14, fronting on 3d street, on condition that a warehouse be erected upon it. The councils by act of November 10, 1806, authorized the mayor to receive this, and appropriated $2,000 for the construction of a warehouse with a capacity of 600 hogsheads of tobacco, and in May following provided for the appointment of an inspector.

Tobacco Warehouse
In November of that year the corporation went into the tobacco inspection business, and for many years Samuel P. Lowe was the inspector, his compensation being $1 for each hogshead inspected and $100 for the care of the premises.

In 1811 Griffith Coombe bought lots 4 to 7 on N street, nearly half the south front, but no improvement appears here except one of less than a hundred dollars. In 1819 Mr. Coombe made a subdivision of these lots into A, B, C, etc., and in 1825 sold subdivisions A and B to W.R. Maddox, who was taxed on $2,200 improvements that year, and on $2,500 later; while the ground was valued at 5 to 8 cents. In 1832 Thomas Howard had lot 12, on 3d street, Mr. Coombe’s lots adjoining, 18 to 22 on M street, and 28 to 30 on 4th street. In 1836 George B. Smith had 15 and 17 on 3d and M streets, and Mr. Maddox, 1 to 4 on M street, eight on 3d street, 24 to 27, 31 and 32 on 4th street, and in 1839 D.S. Griswold, 19 to 22, on M street.

Values Increasing
The initial valuation of the ground was 6 cents, in four years reduced to 5 cents.

The improvements were valued as follows: Craig Crawford et al., $5,000, lots 1 and 2, and Berg Waters, $2,000, lot 3, in 1802. In 1807 P. Miller was assessed $4,000 on lot 6, and Craig et al., $4,000 on lot 7. In the 20’s and 30’s the ground was valued at 10 cents and under and the improvements were charged as follows: Barry and Coombe, $4,500, reduced to $400 in 1835, and on wharf, $1,800; E.B. Caldwell, $2,500, reduced to $1,800; George Sanford, $250, reduced to $1,800; Eli Cross, $150; Bank of Washington, $1,400 and Foyles, $100.

In square 802 facing Georgia avenue, between 3d and 4th streets, below N street, nine lots were platted and allotted, 4 to 7 to the United States and the balance to the government in 1795. In 1796 James R. Dermott bought lot 7, on 3d street, and the next year found Thomas Law in possession of lots 4 to 6, the southwest part of the square. Mr. Carroll had lot 7 and lot 6 went to W. Moffatt and Ebenezer Nesmith. The latter were house joiners and builders, and improved many lots for Mr. Law and others and lot 6 went to them on account of work. When the partnership was dissolved title in this lot was vested in Mr. Nesmith. This lot was improved, and in 1806 became the property of Thomas Wheat and appears listed at $900 in 1806, the ground being rated at 5 and 6 cents. At this time the southwest corner of the square, lots 4 to 6 was leased by James D. Barry and Griffith Coombe, who bought full title some years later.

Blagden’s Water Rights
Thomas Blagden in 1802 bought lots 1, 2 and 3, with water rights to the channel extending about 150 feet. In 1806 Joseph Varden bought in lot 8. In 1813 Col. Wharton of the Marine Corps bought lot 6 at the corner of 3d street and Georgia avenue with wharfage rights. S. Stephens had a lease in lot 7 on 3d street and Edward Mattingly had a deed in the same lot in 1815. Mr. Coombe acquired title to lot 6, which included Wharton’s wharf. S.N. Smallwood in 1821 acquired subdivisions of lots 4 and 5, east of Mr. Coombe’s corner, and his wharf and lumber yard were soon well-known. The next year Mr. Mattingly bought lots 7, 8 and 9, which included the corner of 3d and N streets, and in 1830 Mary Van Reswick bought 8 and 9, at the corner.

In the thirties Thomas Blagden bought the water right of lots 4, 5 and 6, thus having the whole water front. N. Brady had subdivisions of 4 and 5 fronting on Georgia avenue and George B. Smith had lot 8 on 3d street.

In the twenties and thirties the ground had a value of 8 to 10 cents, and the improvements were listed as follows: George Blagden, $3,750, later $5,000; S.N. Smallwood, $1,900; wharf, $1,800; Mr. Coombe, $1,900, afterward $2,500; Rachel Wheat, $1,500; Wharton’s heirs, $4,000; G. Mattingly, $5,000; Van Reswick, $1,000.

Great expectations prevailed as to the future of this section, for, with fine wharfage sites on the south and the basin of the canal on the west, a profitable trade was counted on.

Bridge and Ferry
Communication with the Navy Yard, Greenleaf’s point and capitol Hill was early enjoyed, for wagon roads furnished thoroughfare, and the streams were crossed at M and N streets by bridges,, and a ferry was established with the south shore. Capt. Barry, before 1798, erected the storehouse now represented by “Castle Thunder,” on 2d street and Georgia avenue, and this, with other property, was sold to Ross Simpson of Philadelphia, and later to Crawford & Co. Peter Miller, whose bakery turned out large quantities of ship’s biscuit, was on 2d street for a few years, afterward moving to 3d street, selling the 2d street property to Berg Waters. Griffith Coombe appeared on the scene about 1806, when, with James D. Barry, nephew of the captain and afterward Mr. Coombe’s son-in-law, he leased a dwelling on Georgia avenue, east of 3d street. Mr. Coombe took up his residence in the house known by his name today.

G. Blagden had, in 1802, bought the east part of the square between 3d and 4th streets. Thus the wharves were owned by Barry between 2d and 3d streets for years, and Barry & Coombe and Mr. Blagden owned between 3d and 4-1/2 streets. The Barry & Coombe wharf was, from 1813 to 1816, the property of Col. Wharton, then going to Mr. Coombe. In 1821 S.N. Smallwood bought in the lots east and a wharf was known by his name, but in the thirties Mr. Blagden owned the whole water front of the square.

The lumber yards of Coombe, Blagden and Smallwood were here, as well as Dyer’s saw and planing mill.

Early Groceries
In the twenties Henry Tietjen, who came here in 1795 and was connected with the Law sugar refinery, was keeping a grocery at the southeast corner of 3d and M streets, in the house still standing. His descendants are now known as the Teachems. On the southeast corner of 3d and K streets was Joseph Fugitt’s grocery, and below were the store and tavern of E. Mattingly and the stores of William Radcliffe. Among others on 3d street there were William Barnes, George bean, E. and S. Booth, Thomas Howard and W.R. Maddox, who was at the northeast corner of 3d and N streets. He was the father of Dr. John Maddox and Capt. W.S. Maddox of the Marine Corps, and was a pioneer in the brickmaking business, both here and north of the Navy Yard.

On 4th street were Mrs. Charles, Mrs. Sarah F. Boyce, F. Burley and King & Foyle’s slaughterhouse. Facing the canal was Joseph Johnson’s wheelwright shop.

On Georgia avenue resided George Sanford and John Ferguson, the former a wood and coal measurer and the latter clerk at Smallwood’s wharf.

Twenty years later, in the forties, Williams & Jolly had a wood yard near the corner of Georgia avenue and 3d street, and the store was conducted by them. Capt. Jolley lived north, as did Dr. James Coombe, in the Coombe mansion. George B. Smith, brickmaker; and M. Williams, Wilford Van Riswick, long a carpenter and builder; Amon Woodward, who in early life was the contractor for sinking wells, etc.; J.H. Wise, plasterer; John Wheat, printer, descendant of an old settler; H. Teachem, carpenter, from old stock; George Bean, a grocer; and E. Mattingly, who kept a tavern and grocery, were also on 3d street.

On N street was Blagden’s lumber yard and George Moore, A. Emerson and W. Bary. On M street were William Bayliss and George Collard, the latter a native of Carrollsburg, engaged for very many years in the lumber business. On the canal was Thomas N. Fugitt and on Georgia avenue Nathaniel Brady and John Ferguson, then a wood corder, long a clerk on Smallwood’s wharf, also the saw and planing mill of Alexander Dyer.

In the twenties there were the taverns and grocery of Edward Mattingly and the grocery of Joseph Fugitt.