As to Franklin Park
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, January 25, 1908 [pt. 2 p. 1]
Square No. 249, between I, K, 13th and 14th streets, which has been known as Fountain Square, Public lot and Franklin Square, now a fine park, represents probably the first investment made by the government in Washington real estate. And it has a history not duplicated by any square in the District, for it was from there, in the days of Monroe, the White House and some of the departments received a supply of water.
One of the squares in Gen. John Davidson’s portion of Port Royal when the government took the land for the Federal District was in 1796 platted for thirty lots. In the division with the proprietors these were vested in the United States, and in 1801 acquired by Benjamin Stoddert. The corporation placed a valuation of 2 cents a foot on the ground, and that was the rate when held by private parties. In the early days several springs were found in and about the square, and in 1816 the corporation of Washington made an appropriation to purchase a spring and site, but this became obsolete because of the discovery of good water on the west side of 13th street south of K street. From this many residents were supplied by a wooden log line down 13th street, and this later was extended on F street to 15th street. About 1820 the government appropriated more than $9,000 for the purchase of land and to supply the White House and departments with water. About one-third of the sum was expended.
Appropriation for Purchase.
The government after completing its pipe lines and constructing reservoirs in 1834 seemingly neglected this square for nearly twenty years, and it became attractive to the boys in search of adventure: on a part of it the corporation cattle were wintered, and Mr. Williamson gathered much hay. In the thirties it became well known to the public as “Fountain Square” through a delegation of Sac and Fox Indians giving a war dance upon it. A large crowd assembled, ladies and children in front of the circle. As the dance progressed the crowd broke the lines and pressed in when it was found that the Indians’ uniforms were nature’s own garb, with paint and feathers, and, with ladies fainting and children frightened, the dance gave way to an indescribable scene.
In 1851-52 appropriations were made by Congress for filling up the square, and nearly $6,000 was expended. From three to ten feet fill was required to bring it up to a level.
Camp Site for Troops.
The square to the north, 248 of twenty lots, was, in 1796, vested in Davidson’s name, and in 1810 they made a subdivision into sixty-six lots fronting K, L, 13th and 14th streets. Thomas Snowden of Prince George county, Md., in 1803 had lots on K and 13th streets, and in 1810 Thomas G. Slye of Georgetown leased this square with others for twelve years. Count Demenu in 1825 owned lots on K street and 13th street. Six years afterward Joseph Elgar, W. Williamson and James Owner owned some lots. In 1832 Robert Oliver and H. Peters had invested in the locality. About 1837 Charles L. Coltman bought lot 22 on the corner of 14th and K streets, afterward selling it to C. Hill. A three-storied brick building was erected here, and in the forties the Rugby Academy was established by Rev. G. F. Morrison. There some of the leading residents prepared for college and the business walks of life, among them Mr. G. D. Wise of Virginia, Gen. Peyton Wise, Admiral H. C. Taylor, Maj. F. Taylor, W. C. Bell, W. Stone Abert, C. S. and A. T. Bradley, Joseph H. McKinney, H. Wise Garnett and Leonidas Coyle were some of the graduates, with a number of Smiths from Virginia.
Interruption of a Habit.
Though few were the subscribers to the morning papers in that section, there was an individual not a patron who had the habit winter and summer of reading the papers before the other residents arose. The boys got on to this racket and, anticipating his visit, hid the papers from him and enjoyed his discomfiture in afterward seeing that the subscribers received the papers.