Quiet on River Bank
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, June 27, 1908 [pt. 3 p. 1]
South of F street and west of 25th street, at the river bank, there is yet found much to remind one that within the corporate limits the city is not yet finished.
Though there is evidence of progress in the few manufacturing works and boathouses along the river front reached in part by open streets or meandering wagon tracks and paths, within but a few hundred yards are to be found primeval hills and rustic conditions, interspersed by a few dwellings.
Some of these are over seventy years old. Where a street has been cut down the houses were built downward, the added story being in the side of the hill and the rear yard reached through the second story. Enough is seen to get an idea of the scenery of yore, and there are, in a few families, traditions which sound fabulous as to the natural resources.
A skiff full of wild duck, or a half-bushel of black birds at one shot from a pound gun was not rare along the river, from which they were taken in quantities surpassing belief.
An old gentleman remarked to the writer that the same rate of taxes is imposed here as in the rest of the city and yet the authorities make no improvements and pavements of Mother Earth predominate; that they were not so well off as in ante-bellum days, for the taxes now are higher.
This section in the Peter tract, which followed the river shore and Rock creek, embraces eight squares, which, with the exception of one of the water lots, were plotted for building purposes. In it George Washington was the first investor. He took square 21, west of the observatory grounds, but it was not developed, and passed out of his estate. There is no record of improvements prior to 1830, but there were doubtless a few. It is difficult to say by whom they were made.
James Hoban in 1798 bought two lots, 1 and 3, in square 10. In 1830 James Lynch is charged on $100 in lot 3, corner of New Hampshire avenue and F street. Mrs. Ann Brodeaux, who had owned the south half of square 20 since 1802, was listed for $2,500 in lot 3 on E street west on 25th street.
Thomas Peter, who by the partition of David Peter’s estate in 1812 owned lot 4, square 22, corner of 26th and D streets, was charged on $2,000 improvements.
The southwest corner of this square, lot 1, was bought by John Boyle in 1820. He was listed for $1,500, Isaac Lucas and John Cumberland bought lot 2, west of the above, in 1828 and erected a frame residence, long their homes. On the lot bought by C.W. Goldsborough in 1811 fronting the river between 26th and 27th streets, two squares south of 12, in 1826 J.G. Gardner had a lease, and in 1830 $100 improvements.
Few Realty Transfers
In square 20 between 25th, 26th, E and F streets Mrs. Brodeaux owned the south half in 1802 and Mr. Peter the north half. Mrs. Dr. Thornton in 1829 took title to three lots on 26th street, and the next year H. Gassaway and R.P. Dunlop each a lot and L. Frye two lots. Square 21 south was Washington property. In square 22 was Moses Thomas interested in 1818, Mr. Boyle in 1820 and Messrs. Lucas and Cumberland in 1823.
The Boyles residence was a picturesque one at the foot of the 25th street, overlooking the river, and later he added to his grounds by purchasing the lot north. He was for some years the chief clerk of the Navy Department and of the family were some who had distinguished careers in the government service, and today it is represented in the literary world.
After living here for about fifteen years he invested on 10th street near the avenue, and in the neighborhood of 6th and F streets, and erected a number of houses, the brick for which was burned near by. Messrs. Lucas and Cumberland engaged in the boat-building business, and the old folks long have passed away. The third generation of the Cumberlands are engaged in the same business, and the popularity of Cumberland’s boathouse, adjoining that of the Analostan Boat Club, attests that the business was well founded.
Easby Undertakes Boathouse
Mr. Easby bought lot 3 in square 12, on the D street front, and lot 4, square S. 12, fronting the river at the corner of D street and later other lots and parts of lots. The canal company acquired ground in squares 10, 11, 12 and S. 12. In a little time, and for over thirty years, was Easby’s shipyard a feature of the neighborhood, at times giving employment to many. Convenient to the Georgetown wharves, much business came from there, and, here was the revenue cutter Harriet Lane built, as were other vessels.
In the shipbuilding was John W. Easby, the son, who after, as a naval constructor, long was the chief of the bureau in which he attained the rank of rear admiral. When the canal was opened for business, H.N. Easby, another son, established lime kilns on its banks, and was long engaged in that business.
Capt. Easby was in the early fifties commissioner of public buildings and was frequently elected to the city council, and Mr. H.N. Easby served as a representative of the first ward.
In 1832 G.C. Grammer owned lot 1, square 22, corner of 26th and D streets, as also lot 4 in square 20, on E street; R. Goodwin, lot 11, square 12, on 26th street, and W. Jewell lots 1 to 3, on New Hampshire avenue, 26th and E streets, and 14 to 17, corner 26th and F streets. The next year Mr. Boyle owned lot 6, square 22, on 25th and D streets; John Sibley, 14, and S. Burch, each in square 20, F street between 25th and 26th streets; St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum, lot 1, corner D and 26th streets, and H.N. Easby, lot 3, on 27th street, in square 12; P.W. Jerdenson in 1835 has lot 11, square 20 corner of F and 26th streets, and Levi Bigges and John Linkins are on lot 14, east, the next year; Charles Cumberland, in 1837, ownes lot 10, square 12, corner E and 20th streets; A. Kibbler is on square 10, fronting the river, between E and F streets; Dr. Henry Hunt owns lot 5, D street, east of 26th street, and Joseph Libby, lot 18, square 20, in 25th street between E and F streets.
Two frame houses are noted on lot 12 of this square on F street. The house of Mr. Bigges is standing and his descendants live on 24th street not far away. Few if any who were there sixty years ago remain.