Name Given Houses on the North Side of K Street
Early History of Square 284
Description of Location of Gen. Davidson's Farm
Accent In Natural Grade
Graveyard for Slaves on Building Line of K Street East of 13th Street
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, January 18, 1908 [p. 16]
Square 284, between 12th, 13th, K and L streets, was the location of the farm house of Gen. John Davidson, the proprietor of a part of Port Royal when the city was laid out. Its history as orchard, garden and the building sites on which Commodores' or Franklin row was erected about eighty years ago is regarded as interesting.
In former days there was an ascent in the natural grade from just south of K street to a hundred feet north, where the row was later erected, and a plateau with gentle descent extended north. The farmhouse was about the center of Gen. Davidson's possessions in the northwest portion of the square. It is yet standing in a dilapidated condition and is a two-story frame of four rooms 22x32 feet in dimensions. It has a basement. Near by were the kitchen, slave quarters, barn on Massachusetts avenue near 12th street, and stables near the southeast corner of the square. Near the home was a small spring, from which a little stream flowed into 13th street. On the building line of K street east of 13th street was a graveyard, said to have been for the deceased slaves. The gardens were adjacent to the house, and orchard and fields were north and east of the square.
Made Into Twenty-Four Lots
A single lot was platted when the title was placed in Davidson's heirs, but they made twenty-four lots of it. In 1803 t. Snowden bought lots 1 to 5 on K street and in 1810 Thos. G. Slye of Georgetown had a lease for twelve years on this square and other property. For more than twenty years 2 cents was the corporation value of the ground and the farmhouse appraised at $400, the only listed improvement. Mr. Slye had under lease much ground in the neighborhood, and while the orchard east and north of the square was known by his name, the property, managed by a Mr. Jenkins, took his name. In 1825 Count Demenu, the French minister, located on the K street front, and, in connection with Nicholas Snowden, made preparations for improvements. Before 1830 the fine row of seven three-storied and attic brick dwellings was completed. The value of the ground had increased from 5 to 10 cents per foot. The houses, set well back on lots 140 feet deep, made possible highly ornamental grounds in front and sides and gardens in the rear. The houses were erected by Joseph Bryan and Charles F. Wood in the most substantial manner, the buildings being in good condition today. They were listed by the corporation at $3,300 each, but with the lots there were some sold as high as $7,000. In 1830 James Owner, jr., and the next year W.C.H. Waddell, J.T. Thompson, John France, Bryan and Wood, and in 1832 Robert Oliver and Rev. O.B. Brown were the owners. The corporation books in addition to the names of France and Brown attach those of Thomas Harris and G.S. Cooper to the property.
Known as Commodores' Row
Commodore Granville S. Cooper, A.S. Wadsworth and J.H. Aulick, Mrs. Commodore Rogers and Mrs. Commodore Henley and Surgeon Harris were interested as owners or occupants in 1840, and the name of Commodores' row was attached, but it finally gave way to Franklin row. Capt. Richard France followed his father as owner and resident, and was long prominent as a lottery and exchange broker and in local military circles; Col. Thomas Corcoran, brother of W.W. Corcoran, then in the brick business; H. Jackson, post office clerk; J.M. Harmanson of Louisiana; Rev. J.W. French, W.A. Weaver, rector of Epiphany Church, and T.H. Quincy of the land office and Col. Truman Cross were there in the forties.
Col. Cross, as deputy quartermaster general, was with Taylor's army in the Mexican war and was the first American to fall a victim. Col Cross had long been stationed in Washington and was as popular with the civilians as he was in official circles. Consequently when his remains were recovered and sent here for burial he was given a most imposing funeral. There were no United States troops in or convenient to the city t that time and the escort was composed of the uniformed volunteer military of the District and there were hundreds of citizens present to attest their respect.
In the fifties Daniel Radcliffe, a well-known lawyer; Samuel Carusi, professor of music; Capt. McCausland of the Potomac mail line; J.S. Black, United States Attorney General, and Prof. Alexander Dimitry of Louisiana long of the State Department, were in the row.
Vineyard and Garden
The northwest section of the square, lots 13 to 18 in 1839, became the property of M.A. Guista, a native of Italy, and soon was the vineyard and garden well known by his name. That he was highly successful needs no telling, for in the course of a few years the simple name of the garden would induce the sale of products, be they flowers, fruit, herb or vine. Some of the family yet live on the ground.
In 1840 lots 19 and 20, the southwest corner of 12th and L streets, went into the possession of Charles Baker, long attached to the War Department. He built a frame cottage, which is yet standing, laying off his ground into a fine flower garden in front and vegetable garden in rear, and living there for many years. In 1842 Chester A. Colt, a clerk in the general post office, settled south of Mr. Baker, erecting the double frame house there today.
It was in the thirties that in the square south there was some little change of title, John McClelland in 1829 having bought seven of the twelve lots on the I street front, and in 1838 two lots on 12th street passed to Commodore Wadsworth.
Home of Lovejoy Family
In the following year John N. Lovejoy, long connected with the Treasury, bought lots 1 to 4, extending from 12th street along I street. The family, including the venerable father of Mr. Lovejoy, an interesting character, who had been a soldier in the continental army, settled there in a two-story frame house. Subsequently these lots were subdivided and other improvements made in a two-story frame, one son having his physician's office here and another a drug store. About 1841 James C. Haviland, for twenty-five or more years of the Treasury Department, bought on 13th street and in a two-story house long had his home. At the intersection of 13th and I streets a pond was formed and this had attractions for the boys. Arthur L. McIntire, for a long time connected with the patent office, and later a patent agent, about 1840 bought a lot on K street west of 12th street and erected a home, afterward moving to M street.