Now A Hotel Center
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, October 26, 1907 [p. 11]
The building at the northwest corner of Pennsylvania avenue and 6th street has been vacated by a railway company and a hotel established there. This makes the intersection a hotel center, hostelries now occupying each of the four corners for the first time in its history. While the site is for the first time so used, the neighborhood has from the beginning of the city been famous for its taverns and hotels, Woodward's Center Tavern having been located a few doors west in 1802; the Indian Queen, now Metropolitan, fifteen years later, and in the twenties there was a tavern at 6th and C streets. On the south side, on the site of the Howard House, William Lovell had a frame tavern or hotel, to which the names of John Gardner, H. Burford and --- Huddleston later were attached. Before 1820 it was Carroll's grocery; in the thirties McDermott's tavern, and later John West's oyster house. A brick house was on the site in 1850, and in this decade Almon Green located there as an auction and commission merchant. In war times it became the Gilston House, and with the European Hotel adjoining, was destroyed by fire about 1868. At the fire P. Emmerich, the host of the European, was killed by a falling wall. It was during the fire that the running pump at the corner of 6th street ceased to flow., the supply from the city spring giving out. After being dry for several months the water resumed flowing. This caused much wonderment in that section.
St. James site was once within the public grounds included in reservation B, and in the early days of the Washington City canal much of it was under water. This was prior to 1822, when the canal was within the lines of B street, a small triangular part of the site only being solid ground. There were prior to 1830 some improvements on the corner. John Carothers living in one house and Poor's auction house adjoining. In after years Dave Reed, tailor; Whally and others were there.
The National Hotel site was before the war of '12 owned by Samuel CLoaky and for ten years prior to 1826 the Weightman buildings were there, Gen. R.C. Weightman, the owner, residing and conducting the book business at the corner. These were replaced by the hotel, which has been continuously conducted, first by John Gadsby and later by Guy, S.S. Coleman, Tenney and Jones, H.S. Benson, W.H. Tenney and others.
Literary and Political Center
In the summer of 1834 the building which then stood there was attacked by a mob, and the bar and restaurant in the basement was depleted of its stock of liquors and provisions. One Snow, a fine-looking and before this time a popular mulatto, was the proprietor of the restaurant and was the object of the attack, and would have been torn to pieces. At this period the sentiment of the community sustained slavery, and now and then when opposition to the institution was expressed in print or otherwise violence was prompted. A white man had been arrested and lodged in jail for circulating incendiary documents, and threats had been made to attack the jail and hang the man several times, mobs having gathered for the purpose. To protect him the authorities had asked military aid, and marines were stationed in and about the jail. There was much apprehension that a serious riot would occur and fears were entertained that the populace would carry out the threats. At this juncture it was reported that Snow had made a remark to a butcher in the market reflecting on the character of the ladies of Washington, and it spread like wildfire, in a little time the populace becoming infuriated.
Rush by a Mob
It is said that order was restored by the crowd becoming fatigued in following the many rumors as to the whereabouts of Snow, and a heavy rainstorm had a cooling effect. At any rate, Snow made his escape, the last seen of him being in the square between E and F and 9th and 10th streets.
The eating house was later conducted by William Walker, William F. Benter, P.M. Dubant and others.
The Center tavern, to the west, established by Woodward about 1800, was one of the first public houses in the neighborhood, and it was to it that the water was taken from the spring in the rear of the District building in wooden pipes, about 1802, and this is said to have been the first of such piping in the District.
This intersection was in the twenties and later the stage center of Washington, for the various lines had offices in the hotels nearby, and in the days of 'buses, lines ran from them to the navy yard, Georgetown and the steamboat wharves.