Port of Washington
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, December 12, 1907 [p. 18]
That section of the city in which New Jersey avenue was projected south of what is now Garfield Park to the Eastern branch had, before 1800, attracted the attention of Thomas Law and the coterie of promoters of the capital. While from the configuration of the ground, a gentle rise from a valley in which was a run near the line of 2nd street east to extensive hills of clay westward, there were ideal sites for homes, the deep water of the branch and facilities for wharfage soon were apparent, and maritime trade was anticipated, and New Jersey avenue it was expected would become the great thoroughfare to that point. In fact, with the Washington city canal having its basin and outlet in and at the foot of 2nd street, and manufacturies contemplated there, that portion of the city was regarded by some as the port of Washington. Though these optimistic views were never fully realized, it is interesting to know that among those who found homes in the section were some who were prominent in the early days of the city, and that their descendents may today find the sites and in some cases the houses where their great-grandparents lived before the city had a government. And when one can form an idea of the many ideal sites for homes, and recalls that Tom Law and others were early interested in its development and succeeded, the wonder is that it was not more rapidly developed.
Location of Canal
The tract of Daniel Carroll of Duddington included this section, in which are squares numbered 738 to N. 743, 743 and 744, and in the division with the proprietors several were assigned to Mr. Carroll. Much of it was in the name of Mr. Law and some were included in Greenleaf's and Morris and Nicholson's dealings before 1800. It will be seen that it was only partly developed. As early as 1800 New Jersey was improved in its roadway, and some little work was done on the sidewalks. What was done in the matter of improvements of streets or lots has nearly entirely disappeared, for at first but little grading was required, and with the exception of three houses on New Jersey avenue --1002, 1004, and 1120 - all building antedating 1820 have gone. The canal basin in 2nd street below I street has long since been filled in with the exception of the slip south of the District sewerage pumping station.
First Important Enterprise
Slow in Development
The square north of the preceding, one between L, M and 1st streets and New Jersey avenue, of nine lots, was vested in Mr. Carroll in 1796, and the following year Mr. Law acquired it. He made some improvements upon it. In 1801 Bernard Bryan had lot 9 on 1st street; Mrs. Barbara Marshall in 1805 had property on New Jersey avenue, and Robert Brent in 1807 owned lot 1, the corner of New Jersey avenue and M street. The ground was then of 3 cents value and the improvements were charged to Mrs. Marshall, $150; M. Bryan, $450; and Mr. Law, $1,500. In 1808 J. Roberts owned lot 9 on 1st street, which later was in the name of J.G. McDonald and in Col. F. Wharton in 1812. Mrs. Marshall owned the adjoining lot in 1816; James Taylor had a lease on lot 1, corner New Jersey and M street, in 1819, when Barton Milstead took a lease covering all the square, which had not been put to use, presumably for the purpose of brickmaking. In the twenties Mr. Law was assessed on $800 improvements; Taylors' heirs, $1,000; and B. Milstead, $800. Until 1837 there was no change in property, when D.G. Hickey, Nathaniel Brady, J.P. Keefe, and Mary Wiseman purchased on the east front of the square.
In Square No. 740
Between New Jersey avenue , 1st, I, and K streets was square 738, laid off in five lots, which in 1796 was vested in the United States and the next year they were acquired by Mr. Law. In 1802 Bernard Doyle took a lease on lot 2, corner of 1st and K streets, and D. Watterson on New Jersey avenue. The ground was valued at 6 cents, reduced later to 5, and the improvements assessed to Mr. Doyle at $260, and late $350, and Watterson $380, later $800. In 1813 John Moore bought at the corner of New Jersey avenue and I street, and J.H. Cross and Eli Cross, in 1819, leased and later bought lot 1, the southeast corner of the square, of Mr. Law. Later Mr. Blagden owned them. In the twenties, $400 of improvements was charged to Eli Cross, $250 to Watterson, and $600 to John Moore.
Home of Blagden Family
Square 741, south of the foregoing between New Jersey avenue and the canal, K, and L streets, has a curious history similar to that of square 740, opposite. There were eleven lots projected and in 1797 they were assigned to the government, but were speedily acquired by Mr. Law, in whose family title remained for fifty years. Some improvement was made by him before 1800, and by others on leased ground. The corporation books show that in 1802 the ground was valued at 5 cents per foot and improvements of $2,000 were taxed to Mr. Law, and $100 each to J. Story and J. Swank. In the twenties, the ground was valued at 2 to 5 cents, and Mr. Law's improvements at $2,700 and later at $2,400. In 1843 there was a movement in the titles, in which Thomas Blagden, S.H. Beach, Benjamin Collard, and R. Barry acquired title, and four years later J.C. Fitzpatrick bought on New Jersey avenue.
Fronting the Canal
In 1815, R. Handy purchased property which ten years later went to George Loyall. In 1819 S.P. Lowe had a lease and later a deed on property and Barton Milstead bought on the square. In the twenties Loyall was assessed on $2,000 improvements, Law $100, and Milstead $400. Later Benjamin Pollard and J. Milstead were on the square, and in the thirties Loyall was assessed on $1,500, Milstead $600, and S.P. Lowe $800.
Benjamin Moore, the editor and publisher of the Washington Gazette, which antedated the Intelligencer, resided on the east side of New Jersey avenue near M street, in a house built by Law. Thereafter when in the occupancy of Maj. William Gamble in the twenties it was known as "Retirement," and is now 1120 New Jersey avenue. Maj. Gamble was a popular marine officer long attached to the headquarters here. Mr. Moore was by marriage connected with the Queens, and aside from his prominence in journalistic circles was a useful citizen, serving in the early city councils.
Possibly the best-known residence in the olden time was that of George Blagden, and known by his name for the best part of last century. Mr. Blagden, as master carpenter, was engaged a number of years on the Capitol, and was the builder of many of the fine old buildings of over a century ago. Later he engaged in the lumber business and owned much property in the eastern section of the city, and was honored with several terms in the city councils and other corporate service.
"Abode of Haunts"
Opposite in the early part of the century David Watterson carried on the stone-cutting business for a time, being succeeded by Robert Craig. R. Delphy also lived there; Benj. Bryan, long a wood, coal, and lumber measurer; Mrs. Barbara Marshall, J.D. Barry, Robert Sherry, Richard Charles, M. Scott and Benjamin Moore were some of those who lived on New Jersey Avenue.
In the twenties the names of several of the foregoing had not disappeared, and there were also those of James Middleton, Mrs. Miles, Mrs. Wailes, S.P. Lowe, tobacco inspector; Mrs. Scam, Mrs. Westcott, Barton Milstead, Jesse Tanner, carpenter; Mrs. E. Smith, W. Penn, brickmaker; George Bell, clerk in navy yard; Dr. J.H. Bell; Eli Cross, grocer; James Carlan, wood yard near the sugar house; Mrs. Charity Nally and B. Collard. In the thirties were John Dunning, butcher, who later in the gunners' department of the navy yard lost his life; Mrs. M. Hughes, Thomas Bowen, D.J.H. Beall; Mrs. Cartwright, Mrs. E. Darragh, James Stewart, brickmaker, and Mrs. A. Morgan.
At this period there were several brickyards in the vicinity - Maddox's, Milstead's and Hickey's. Ten years after, in the forties, in addition to some of those named, there were Mrs. Kemp, John Thomas, carpenter; Mrs. C. Milstead, W. Lowe, blacksmith; Mrs. Milstead, Thornton Hickey, brickmaker; D.G. Hickey, brickmaker; W. Hefferan, William Gooch, Etham Cheshire, Moses Bell, S.B.B. Bach, post office clerk; Richard Barry, a navy yard clerk, and J.C. Fitzpatrick, clerk at the capitol and long an alderman. Later the Richards, Grinder, Lambell, Pritchett, Ellis and Coster families were there.