Capitol Hill Realty
Many Residents Recall Time When Crops Grew There
Where Family Cow Roamed
Many Small Ponds in Winter Afforded Sport for Boys
In Early Days of the City
Initial Meetings of Churches Held in Tobacco Barn --
Incidents Many Years Ago
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, October 1, 1907 [p. 21]
That portion of Capitol Hill south of C street between South Capitol and 2d streets, which with much other territory was included in the lines of Duddington Manor, was part of the Carroll farm. Many not very old Washingtonians can recall, the time when corn, oats and potatoes were raised there, not a little of them as feed for the family cow which roamed at will when the weather permitted. So few were the houses and so little work had been done on the streets that the impression was that it was all under the control of the master of Duddington, who lived in the square south of E street between 1st and 2nd streets. Though that portion of this city has of late years materially improved and some conversant with the old conditions are resident there in fine houses, it may be found – in part, at least – in the topography. Aside from that section along and west of New Jersey avenue being low ground bordering on the canal, which at South Capitol and E streets passed into what is now Garfield Park, other portions presented an irregular surface. Two streams, one from near the Library site and the other from near Pennsylvania avenue and 4th street, entered this section, uniting in square 634, between D and E streets, New Jersey avenue between D and E streets, New Jersey avenue and 1st street. The caverns made by them of course were not incentives to building, but the boys of early Washington appreciated them as a first class gathering place; the small ponds when covered with ice furnishing skating facilities, and along the stream the boys got their ammunition for the numerous stone battles fought on Bloody Hill, as the locality was known to some.
Small Grist Mill
A mill near the canal and E street was fed by a race from these streams and a year or so ago in excavating for the railroad tunnels east of New Jersey avenue some masonry of brick and stone was encountered, and it is thought it was the dam of this mill. There are some persons living who remember that it was a small grist mill and that the miller ground a quality of meal which was a favorite with many of the older families. It is also remembered that small wooden bridges spanned the streams in New Jersey avenue and in 2d street.
Though Mr. Law had erected a number of houses and his project was to line each side of New Jersey avenue from the Capitol to the Eastern branch with houses and about 1800 had erected the “ten buildings,” it does not appear that much other improvement followed. This enterprise had the effect of setting the corporation’s early valuation of the ground at from 7 to 10 cents per foot, which later depreciated to from 4 to 7 cents.
In square 691, between South Capitol street, New Jersey avenue, C and D streets and the canal on the southwest part, the division in 1792 was in twelve lots; but in 1796 fourteen lots were platted and equally divided between Mr. Carroll and the United States. In 1800 lots platted and equally divided between Mr. Carroll and the United States. In 1800 lots 2 and 14 were leased to Edward Langley. Thomas Corcoran bought lot 12 and James Ramsey part of 12. In 1802 S. McIntire had part of 12 and James McCormick in 1807 owned this lot. Adam Lindsay owned lot 13 and G. Templeman and B. Gilpin parts of 14 in 1815. In 1819 James Fry leased part of lot 1, corner New Jersey avenue and D street. D. Adgate and George Grant bought lot 12 in 1823; S. miller, part of 1 the following year, and in 1831, John H. Houston, part of 12, as did C.H. Wiltberger and S. Burch, part of 14. In 1836 J.W. Beck bought lot 10 and P. McCaffray leased in the same lot and Timothy Winn, lots 27 and 28.
In the thirties, when the ground was valued at 10 cents per foot at the southeast corner of the square and from 2 to 7 cents in other portions, there were only two houses listed. They were on lot 1, New Jersey avenue and D street, each assessed at $700 to Ambrose White and James Fry.
Thirty Building Lots
Between South Capitol, D, E and Canal streets and New Jersey avenue, square 693 was laid off in thirty building lots, and in 1795 they were apportioned, one-half each going to the government and Mr. Carroll. Morris & Greenleaf succeeded to the government’s portion the same year and Thomas Law took title, and through Moffatt & Nesmith soon afterward commenced to improve in the southern portion of the east front of the square. The row of two-story brick dwellings which for many years was known as the "Ten Buildings," some of which are now standing, resulted, and long was a landmark of that section, the abode of some well-known families. W. Moffat and Ebenezer Nesmith held title for a few years, but on the dissolution of the firm it went back to Mr. Law. In 1802 the improvements are listed to Nesmith at $3,000 and $2,500, the ground at 10 cents -- soon afterward valued at 3 cents. No recorded transfers appear till 1813, when William H. Lyles obtained a lease in lot 2 on E street, and that in 1819 was assigned to William Ingle, who was taxed on $1,300 of improvements. In 1814 Shadrach Davis was on the lot corner of New Jersey avenue and E street. Four years later James Johnston was there and in 1819 Phillip Otterbach owned in the lot. Dr. William Gunton, in 1827, owned part of lot 18; James Adams, in 1830, lot 20; P. Lynch, lot 13, and C.F. Ellis, lot 28. Joseph Cuvillier owned part of lot 28 in 1831; Eli Cross, part of 22 the next year; Vandoran Mallion, part of lot 29, in 1833, and Elixius Simons, in 1834, owned four lots in the square. In the twenties, 2 to 5 cents per foot was the value of the ground and improvements were listed to Thomas Law, $500; George Hicks, $200, and P. Otterbach, $650, in lot 1; William Ingle, $1,500, lot 2; W. Pillings, $400, lot 18, and Mr. Law, $3,000, lot 30.
Equal Division of Land
Between C and D streets, New Jersey avenue and 1st street the land was laid off as square 692, with fourteen lots, in 1796, and equal division was made between Mr. Carroll and the United States. In 1797 government lots 3 to 5 and 9 to 12 went to Mr. Law. In 1800 W. Bushel took a lease on lot 6, on New Jersey avenue, and that lot was in 1815 bought by Charles Glover. No improvements appear listed for forty years or more. In 1836, John P. Ingle bought lots 1, 2, 13, and 14, on D and 1st streets.
East of the foregoing the flat-iron shape plot, formed by D and 1st streets, New Jersey and North Carolina avenue was designated square 694. It consisted of eleven lots, of which the United States took title to five in the apportionment of 1795. Those of the government, two years later, passed to Mr. Law, who in 1801 acquired lot 2 and owned the larger portion of the square. It does not appear that much progress was made in the development of the square, the only lot subject to conveyance in forty years being lot 3. In 1810 that lot was under lease to William Gray, in 1811 to F.A. Wagler, in 1813 to Philip Hines and 1817 to A. Johnston. Down to 1835 an improvement of the value of $150 was listed to Johnston. In 1838, Edward Stephens had lot 7, at the corner of New Jersey avenue and D street, and in 1836 J.W. Beck had lot 5, on New Jersey avenue, and 10 and 11, on 1st street. Near the southwest corner of this square, New Jersey avenue and E street, was the tobacco barn of Mr. Carroll, in which were held the initial meetings of Washington parish of the Protestant Episcopal Church, 1805. It was the first place of worship of the congregation of Christ Church, on G street southeast, now approaching its centenary. What is now Trinity M.E. congregation also used the tobacco barn before the old Ebenezer, now the First M.P. Church, was erected on 4th street. Under the names of East Washington and 4th street the Methodist Episcopal congregation worshiped there many years before locating at 5th and C streets southeast.
Of Historic Interest
About square 733, between 1st and 2d, C and D streets, especially to the Catholics , for the second of their parish churches, St. Peter’s is there located. Prior to 1820 the title to the thirty lots was in the United States and Mr. Carroll, and at that time Griffith Coombe bought eight of them from the government. The purchase included the church, site at 3d and C streets, lots 23 to 27, and as Mr., Carroll bought them and afterward n 1824 conveyed them to Archbishop Marechal, it was doubtless Mr. Carroll’s intention in 1826 to donate them to the church. Prior to 1820 St. Patrick’s parish covered the whole extent of the city besides the parish church at 10th and F streets, St. Mary’s Chapel on the point being a place of worship known as Barry’s Chapel. Measures were taken at that time for establishing another church, and it was decided to locate it east of the Capitol. A committee was appointed to carry the enterprise into effect, consisting of Rev. Wm. Matthews, Daniel Carroll, Wm. Brent, clerk of the circuit court; James Hoban, architect of the Capitol; Nicholas L. Queen of the hotel of his name, Edward Mattingly, tavern keeper; James D. Barry and James Spratt, dry goods merchant. They solicited subscriptions and erected the church, it was a plain brick structure, seating not more than 200 persons, and was on a knoll back from the street. Rev. J.F.M. Lucas entered on his duties there on the opening of the church, September 3, 1821. It for many years was attended by the residents of that section, with many from South Washington and the county east of the Eastern branch. The late James T. Boisseau was the first child christened in the church, and spending his entire life in the fold of St. Peter’s, was buried therefrom a few years ago, well up in the eighties, and today, his descendants are communicants. Among the communicants in early days were the families of those named, with the Smoots, Baynes, Hickeys, Naylors, Fitzpatricks, Devlins, Tuckers, Colenians, Mitchells, McGuigans, Jenkinses, Davises, McKennas and others, and also a large number of the colored race, one of whom, David Atkins, born a slave, became a man of means, leaving at his death valuable property, some to the church. During his life he gave much for charitable and religious purposes. Many of the original communicants are represented today by grandchildren.
The Archbishop of Baltimore
Mr. Carroll in 1824 conveyed lots 25 to 27 to Ambrose Marechal, Archbishop of Baltimore, and the same year they went to J.F.M. Lucas, then the priest; Wm. Matthews, pastor of St. Patrick’s; Samuel D. Wroe; Elexius Simms, Philemon Moss and James Rhodes as trustees. As stated, the original church was a small brick structure. Attached was a graveyard, and in the rear of the building and north were a number of graves with monuments and memorial stones. The last interment made there was that of James Rhodes, who for many years was a leading butcher of the Navy Yard section.
After Father Lucas came Fathers Deagle, Van Horseigh, who served a number of years; Peter Lanshan, McManus, later monsignor; Knight, from 1853 to 1861k then F.X. Boyle, who served as chaplain to the old Capitol prison during the war; De Woolf, G.D. Devine and Jeremiah O’Sullivan, the after becoming Bishop of Mobile.
The church edifice underwent little change for nearly thirty years, during which time the congregation increased, and in Father Knight’s pastorate the question of enlarging the building was discussed. The ladies held a fair in 1859 at the Anacostia engine house and raised more than $600. With that as a nucleus the church was enlarged, front and rear, a sacristy with Sunday school room on the west and a new front for the accommodation of the choir and organ and belfry being added. The next year the bodies were removed from the church yard and in 1862 a bell was placed in the belfry.
Trying to Protect Fruit
John Bell in 1820 owned the east half of lot 5, on D street; five years later I. Johnson had a lease on part of lot 3, on the same street in 1830 William Bush had part of lot 5 and the title to lots 2, 4, 6, 221, 24, 28 and 30 was in Rev. Father Matthews as trustee for St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum. There were no improvements in the thirties, but fifty years ago there was a family named Gross located west of the church, and in the inclosure were a number of pear and other fruit trees. It was only by eternal vigilance that fully ripe fruit was secured, for the Capitol Hill boys obtained the greater portion of it when not guarded at night as well as day. Along the ravine in the square were ponds and there are some who remember many days they enjoyed skating there, as also the numerous stone battles from which the name of "Bloody Hill" originated. On Thanksgiving day fifty years ago the ponds were frozen over, and though the ice was thin some of the boys boldly set out for a day’s sport. It was not long before one of them, now a Washington business man, broke in and his companions, seeing that he was in danger, ran off to get a rope. While they were gone the half-drowned and frozen boy endeavored to crawl upon the ice, and only succeeded in breaking the edges, falling back with each successive effort, and when, as it seemed to him, hours had passed and he was on the point, for want of strength, of giving up, the companions returned with the rope. It was thrown him.
"But," he says, "I was so near gone and my fingers were so stiff that I grasped it with difficulty, and sled-like I was drawn out, carried home and put to bed, and providentially escaped a spell of pneumonia. We later found that the water where I broke in was not waist deep, and I could have easily walked out, but I lost my head and my companions theirs. This episode had no appreciable effect on the boys, for this place as a playground became popular. I have often thought that in the business world my boyhood’s experience has frequently been repeated. One finds himself staring failure in the face and calls to his friends for help, when if he would put forth his best efforts he could extricate himself."
Angular Plot of Ground
The angular piece of ground known as square 734, formed by the lines of North Carolina avenue, 1st, D and 2 streets, was platted for eighteen lots. They in 1796 were apportioned between Mr. Carroll and the government. In 1800 Solomon Etting took title to lots 2 and 18, and in 1802 W.S. Chandler had lot 17 and Benjamin Stoddert lots 1, 15 and 16, all in the eastern part of the square. They were prominent in the real estate operations of that period, the last named in official circles, but there is no evidence that they improved the property, nor, indeed, that any portion of the square was used for building sites for twenty years.
W.H. Tuckfield, Jacob Chandler and William Chandler in 1803 owned in lot 3, in which sixteen years later Moses Liverpool and George Bell were interested. The Tonine Company bought lots 2, 17 and 18, near the east end of the square in 1809. In 1814 N Franklin was on lot 3 and A. Kerr had lots 4 and 5. A. Johnson in 1819 had a lease on lot 11, on 1st street, and assigned a portion of it to Tabitha Wiggins, each having houses upon it assessed at $150 and the ground at 1 ½ cents in the two decades following. James Greenleaf in 1825 owned lot 3, James Smith lot 2 in 1827 and Joseph Cope lots 17 and 18, on D street. N. Franklin in 1829 bought the title to part of lot 11, he had held under lease for twenty years. Part of lot 11 in 1833 was bought by W. Tappan, and George Cover bought lots 7, 8, 10, 12, 13 and 14, conveying later to John Carothers, and w. Bush and W. Fletcher, jr., each owned in lot 3, Mr. Bush afterward acquiring lot 2.
Not Much Demand
Square 735, bounded by North Carolina avenue, 1st and E streets, was laid off for eight lots, which in 1796 were all vested in Mr. Carroll. The title remained in the family until 1829, when conveyance was made of all of them to Moses Tabbs and other trustees to sell. It does not appear however, that there was much of a demand for them, for it was not until 1835 that any improvements were listed. Then to George Hicks and William Tappan were buildings assessed aggregating less than $100 in value, while the ground was rated at 2 ½ cents per foot.
George Hicks, Christopher Johnson, a stonecutter; Mrs. Ellen Lepragle, Mrs. Sarah Nichols, school teacher; Levi Colter, silversmith; Mrs. McCuffray, grocer, and Mrs. Thomas were some of the early residents of the "Ten Buildings." James Fry was on the northwest corner of New Jersey avenue and D street as a carpenter in 1819, and was later in the "Ten Buildings," as was William Jones, a shoemaker.