Early Day Values
Washington Squares at Nominal Figures in 1796
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, January 4, 1908 [pt. 2, p. 8]
North of Judiciary Square and G street, between New Jersey avenue and 5th street and south of I street – known as parts of the English Hill section – like that portion of the same section heretofore described, was of slow growth. This was true for many years after the lots were on the market. When, however, about the year 1830, the purchasers appeared lots went rapidly and new homes were opened nearly every week. For the most part the residents were workingmen.
The squares carved out of the territory were known as S.516, 517, 518; immediately north of Judiciary Square 528, 529, 562, S.562, 563, 564 and 565. They were in the Ben Oden tract, and in 1796 were apportioned between him and the United States. Some were platted into a number of building lots and a few were left undivided, apparently speedy use for building purposes not being anticipated. There was some little curly settlement on the ground.
North of the pension office, square 518, now having over a hundred habitations, on 4th, 5th, G, H and Washington streets passing east and west through the center, was in 1796 only six lots, but they were of generous size. The natural grade from the middle of the square to 4th street was rising, and from ten to twenty feet above the present grade. On a knoll here, about 1835, the gallows was erected for the hanging of a mulatto for an assault on a white woman. A large crowd had assembled and patiently awaited the arrival of the condemned man, but the people were disappointed. As the negro was being led from the old jail in the center of Judiciary Square a messenger from President Jackson appeared with a respite, and that was the last of the case.
To say that the crowd was chagrined is putting it mild, and as they moved off threats of a violent character were made.
Some Early Residents
In 1816 James McCormick owned lot 1, corner of 4th and G streets, and in 1819 James Moore was assessed for part of 3 and Catharine Haynes part of 4. In 1824 Ezekiel McDaniel owned in lot 3 and A.T.F. Bills was on part of lot 4. In 1829 J.P. Ingle, B. Oden and James Moore were interested in lot 7; James Cope in 2, 6 and 8 and Tucker and Thompson in the same lots. James Newall in 1830 was on part 4; in 1834 John T. Clements had a lease on part 5 on 5th street, where he had a carpenter shop, and two years after P. and J. O'Donoghue had lot 3 on G street, where for years the soap and candle manufacture was carried on.
In the twenties the ground was assessed at two cents per foot, with $900 to E. McDaniel on improvements in lot 3 and $800 to P. Hayes in lot 4. Ten years later three cents per foot was charged upon the ground and the improvement lumped at $1,400 and charged to McDaniel.
The square north, of thirty-six original lots was vested in the United States in 1796. In 1800 over half the lots passed to S. Elting, and two years after W. Stewart owned ten lots. Thomas Brashear in 1811 was assessed upon several lots there, as was Thomas Williams, on 5th street, which he later improved by the erection of a row of tenements known for years by his name. In 1819 Thomas Burch owned lots 13 and 17 on H street, and Owen McGlen lots 10 and 12. Notwithstanding that, in 1820 the ground was assessed at but half a cent per foot. In that decade there were a number of transfers. In 1827 John Eyre owned lots 2, 3 and 21 to 25, H.K. Randall 32 and 36, Col. Bomford 1, 23, 26 and 31, S.H. Smith and I.W. Jewell 27 and 34, Semmes & Pickrill 5 to 8, J. Seaver 36, and J.H. Smith 4. In 1828 S.W. Handy had lot 4 and the next year C. Smith and 29 and 30.
In 1830 there were a number of transfers of single lots. John Major, Wash Robey, Thomas Burch, Mary A. Mason, George McClelland, John Withers and M. Tarleton were the purchasers, and James Williams had four lots on 5th street and Mr. Burch two lots on the same street. In 1833 Mrs. Ann McGonigle, Sarah Tower, P. Bulger, O.B.B. and Wm. Burch were purchasers, as was Mrs. Mary Mullican on 27, corner 5th and I streets, two years later, where for years she kept a little store.
In the thirties three cents per foot was on the ground and the improvements were listed: Thomas Burch, $1,100, lot 17; $300 lot 20, grocery, 5th and H streets; J. Eyre, $350, lot 21; seven pieces of $900 each listed Handy, Eyre, Bomford, Jewell and C. smith on lots 21, etc. and two of $400 each to Bomford on lot 30.
In 1839 Mr. Charles Hibbs, long connected with the land office, bought lots 1 to 5 and 13 to 22, the entire east end of the square. Lot 22, on 4th street, went to Frederick Iddins, a painter, afterward a grocer, in 1839, and the next year to Samuel C. Wroe. In 1840 James Lynch owned lot 21; on 4th street; E.M. Preston, lot 12, west end of square; J.T. Walker, lot 1, lots 13 to 18, east of the square; W.H. Hanover, lot 20, 4th street; Charles E. Walker and Roger Beck, lot 2, on Massachusetts avenue.
Between G, H, 3d and 4th streets was square 520, cut into twenty lots, title to which in 1802 passed to Benjamin Stoddert. This was also a half cent a foot locality, and lay idle until 1827. In that year J. Eyre had most of the lots; W.S. Nichols, two; James Moore, jr., three; J.A. Wilson, two, and J.A. Smith, two. In 1833 T. Gallagher had lot 8, on 4th street; in 1835 James Douglas, lots 3 and 6, on G street, in 1836 B. Giveny, lot 10, and J.P. Pepper, lot 14. In 1837 E. Laomen had lot 9; J.A. Smith, 13 and 15, in 1839 Letitia Speak had parts 1 and 2; Sarah Gallagher, part 7; G. Bowen, part 1, and Catherine Airs, parts 1 and 2 to 20.
Increase in Valuation
No. 364, between 2d, 3d and G streets and Massachusetts avenue, was an undivided square for very many years. Half a cent per foot was the valuation quoted and the ground was owed by Oden. In the early days it was bought by John P. Ingle, and afterward was in Oden’s name. In 1839 Edward Dyer owned it and made a subdivision, and among the investors were Lynn Boyd, prominent in Congress as Speaker of the House, and Joseph Gillet and John Ball.
The remaining squares west of New Jersey avenue and south of I street long remained unoccupied, figuring only on the tax books and as a playground.