Near The New Library
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, April 10, 1908 [pt. 2, p. 1]
The four squares of ground north of Mount Vernon Square, between K, M, 7th and 9th streets, were for several years borne on the corporation books at an extremely low valuation - a half cent per foot at first, and in 1802 being reduced to one-fourth cent, from which 1 to 1-1/2 cents was reached by 1820. By the next decade - the thirties - as high as 4 cents was the valuation as listed, and for double that eligible lots were sold. The highest point was at about 7th and M streets. There was a gentle descent south and west, marred by a ravine in a northwest direction which crossed 7th street a few yards north of K street. Judging from the number of transfers, buyers were optimistic, though little use was made of the building sites. The location of the Washington asylum and work house in square 448 north of M street and east of 7th street, and the latter street leading direct from the Center market to the 7th Street road, incorporated by act of 1810, had but little effect on development. In the forties, however, with the location of the Northern Liberty Market house on the east side of Mount Vernon square, and the location of the Northern Liberties fire company on the south side, in 8th street, natural growth followed.
Many of the market dealers as well as patrons settled about it and the hall of the fire company affording meeting place for associations it was not long before it became the armory of a fine military company, the Walker Sharpshooters, of which the president of the fire association was the captain, the hall of Northern Liberties' Division Sons of Temperance and the place for entertainments of a social character.
There was some little improvement of the squares in evidence before this time. As early as 1819 a schoolhouse, a small frame, had been erected on the south side of L street, between 7th and 8th, by the African School Society, and for several years colored children were instructed there. It appears from the records that lot 8 of that square, 6,600 feet, was bought for about 5 cents per foot. The deed was to Patrick Frazier, David Jones, C Mahoney and Thomas D. Johnson as trustees, who gave a trust on it for a few hundred dollars Thus did they provide for the education of their children, though, as shown in signing the deed of trust by mark they were illiterate themselves.
At 8th and Streets
These four squares in the portion of the Port Royal tract owned by Dominick Lynch and Confort Sands, were, prior to 1800 involved in the Greenleaf contract, but there is no evidence that he made any improvements. For many years less than a cent per foot was the appraisement of the ground, though the selling price reached 5 cents, but not till the forties had the city authorities put that value on the ground.
Square 426, between K, L, 7th and 8th streets, of twelve lots, 1, 3, 7 and 9 being the corners, in the division was assigned to Lynch and Sands in 1796. The next year Joseph Cooache had lots 3, 6 and 8, George Lewis lots 1, 4 and 10, and John Atkinson lot 11. In 1800 J. Bernaben had lot 6 and Lawrence Sands lots 2, 5 and 9. In 1806 Joseph Taylor had lots 1, 4 and 10, which, through Thomas Cottrell three years later and M. Ward the following year, went, in 1812, to John Eastburn, at which time Jeremiah Warder had lot 11. In 1814 R.C Sands had lots 2, 5 and 9, W.R. Wilcox in 1818 owned lots 3 and 8, and the next year sold lot 8 to Patrick Frazer et al. for the African School Society, as stated. In 1820 Joseph Haskell owned lot 3, and the next year Thomas F. Anderson ot 9, corner of 7th and L streets. Zach Hazle in 1824 had lot 5; Joseph Martin lot 4, and John Easburn lots 1 and 10; in 1825 Joh Lynch et al. 7 and 12; in 1829 Daniel Serrin 7, and R. Semmes 12. The next year Aaron VanCoble 9; in 1831 Eleanor De Krafft 3 and John A. Wilson 12 in 1883; Julia W. Sands 2 the next year, and John Kedglie 6 in 1835. In 1836 John and Asa B. Gladmon owned in 7 and Thomas Magill in 9. Two years later Edmond Kane lot 2, selling to Joseph Harbaugh, and G.G. Carroll 1 and 10. In 1839 W.T. Griffith owned lot 1, Alex. Leadingham and Elijah Lazerby in 7, Andrew Rothwell 10 and Joseph Harbaugh 12, and in 1840 John Haggerty was in 7.
As explained the Haskell property at 8th and K streets was listed in the twenties. It was owned by Mrs. De Krafft in the thirties and occupied prior to the forties by Daniel Gold, a congressman's clerk, who later was on 9th street. W.T. Griffith, a leading merchant tailor of half a century or more ago, erected on K street two two-story, attic and basement brick dwellings of which he and A.H. Young, a grocer, later a city post office clerk, wee occupants a long time. The Gladmons, Downing, Lazenby and Haggerty improved their holdings on 8th and L streets. On Mr. Harbaugh's lot facing the market was a fine brick building, where Valentine Hargaugh, long a druggist, resided many years.
Homes in Square 402
The first transfer was that of lot 12 on 8th street to W. King, jr., in 1840, followed the next year by that of lot 9 on the northeast corner of the square to William Johnson, who erected a frame house, and to Henry M. Moffatt, who bought the south front lots 1 to 3 and in 1842 Daniel Gold, who lived there last, bought these, selling lot 1 and part of lot 2 to Jonathan T. Walker. Mr. Gold erected a residence on the present site of the Mount Vernon M.E. Church South. Mr. Walker's purchase was of 75 feet front by 100 feet deep at the northwest corner of 8th and streets, the consideration being $1,200, and he at once improved the same, erecting a row of five handsome three-story brick residences, making his home at the corner. On the rear of his home lot was a carpenter shop, the use of which he gave for Sunday school and preaching services, and this was the nucleus of the present McKendree M.E. Church. Maj. William Doughty in 1842 bought lots 5 to 8, the northwest portion of the square fronting on 9th street, and in a short time Doughty's row of five three-story brick dwellings was completed and occupied. In 1844 Isaac Hill bought lots 4 and 5 south of this row and 11 and 12 on 8th street, erecting on 9th street a fine brick residence in which he resided for a long time.
Similar in its early history to that of square 402 is square 401. Laid off for fourteen lots, vested in the proprietors Lynch & Sands, most of them were sold prior to 1800, and though in the early days there were some changes of title, there was no record of improvement for nearly half a century, the lots figuring on the tax books alone for the ground valuation. In lot 9 James Taylor was interested in 1806, Thomas Cottrell in 1809, M. Ward, J. Eastburn and J. Martin in 1812. Jeremiah Warden had lot 8 in 1811. Alex. Suter in 1817 had lots 1, 13 and 14, the corner of 8th and L streets, which in the following year went to James Greer. Ten years later - 1828 - lot 1 was bought by E. Stephens. Jane Lynch conveyed to John A. Smith lots 5, 10 and 11 in 1829, and W.H. Harrison and S. Atkinson the next year had lot 2, Edward Stephens in 1832 owned, at 8th and L streets, lot 1; L. Ashton lot 5 in 1833; a few months later J.N.R.P. Hayes, Elizabeth Hayes and Alex Dowling owned in the same. A. Duley in 1834 had lot 5, L. Carusi lot 6 in 1836, A. Gladmon lot 2 in 1837, A. Rothwell lot 12, J. Reed lot 14 and T.S.W. Boyd lot 5 in 1839; James Reeves lot 2, Charles Hibbs and J.C. Hall lots 3 and 4, J.A. Brightwell lot 3 in 1840, and the next year A.B. Gladmon and William Miles were in lot 5 and Z. Jones in lot 4. In 1842 lots 13 and 14, fronting on 8th street, were made into five sublots, known as subs. Nos. 1 to 5.
Idle for Many Years
Rapid were the building operations in the late forties and fifties, and soon the neighborhood became well known. At the northwest corner of 7th and K streets W.D. Spignul, in the forties, opened a grocery in a frame building, and it is yet a business stand. About the same time E.F. Queen & Bro. started the grocery business on the square above, after moving south of K street. Robert Brooks' grocery, Lockey's bakery, E.F. Tatsapaugh's feed store and Mrs. Hillery's fancy store, H.T. Parker's tailor shop and J. Walter's boot and shoe store were the business places on 7th street. There were John, Samuel and Caleb Shreeves, Reuben Brown and others engaged in the market; S.H. White, Lewis Walker, Mrs. Duley, Milton W. Ward and James Lee, also on 7th street.
John G. Adams erected a three-story dwelling, with store, at the northwest corner of 8th and L streets, and for year it was a noted store. Alfred Taylor, bricklayer; C.C. Owens, shoemaker; Daniel Lazenby, Thomas Endressel, W.T. Collins and John Brown, carpenters; J. Jones, wheelwright; John Ferguson, Treasury clerk; John Melson, hatter; John Fletcher, Francis Hogan and William Johnson lived on 8th street. On the east side of 9th street lived Daniel Gold, Isaac Hill; later Commodore Joseph Smith, Maj. William Doughty, John Moore, bacon dealer; F. Knight, A.P. Matthews, Treasury clerk; --- Middleton and C.I Canfield, printers; Zephaniah Jones, bricklayer; W.J. Darden post office clerk; Mrs. Chew, Mrs. TR. Brightwell, Asa Gladmon, carpenter and builder; John Seibly, tailor, and Mrs. Martin.
Residents on K Street
In municipal affairs a number of the residents were prominent, John T. Towers having served as mayor of Washington, and in the councils Mr. Walker more than once represented the third ward. Col. Lemuel Towers was also a councilman, and in military affairs was an officer of the Grays and Washington Light Infantry in ante-bellum days and with the District troops in the civil war. It is needless to say that the personnel of the Northern Liberty Fire Company included many residents, while the youth were wont to run with the apparatus. Among other engagements in private houses impromptu concerts were given, for the choir of McKendree Church was well represented on these four squares.
That the growth of the population was more rapid than building operations sixty years ago was plainly seen from the number of infants being trundled about in the afternoons. On 8th street between L and M streets the baby parades took place and it is safe to say that had President Roosevelt been a spectator he would not have any fears of race suicide. By this show the neighborhood became known as a veritable nursery ground, and it was an attraction to pedestrians from less favored sections of the city.
One old gentleman attracted much criticism by his appearance, for with his well-fitted clothes his shirt collar was so out of all proportion as to suggest that he wore his short bottom upward. He evidently heard the comments, but continued along the even tenor of his way. In the fifties the wrecking of a circus tent took place and The Star, in a satirical account, stated that he had proffered his collar for mending the canvas. The old man, outwardly at least, enjoyed reading the article, laughing with the rest of the population.