Promise Not Kept
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, July 18, 1908 [pt. 1, p. 4]
Between F and I streets west of 15th street, and bordering the Potomac and Rock creek, at the mouth of the latter, there has been little improvement, and some building lots yet are in nature's garb.
There was a time, however, when it was looked upon as a promising section of the city in a commercial way. For Georgetown, separated from it by the creek, had established some trade, foreign and coastwise, and there was deep water below the mouth of the creek. And, indeed, before the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, by means of a dam near the mouth of Rock creek, utilized it, there was some trade along its banks.
There is little doubt but a hundred years ago this was regarded by many as a most promising portion of Washington. Leading men of the day invested here. But as a residential section it remains incomplete, and the most prominent objects today are the gasometers and the C street wharf.
In the Peter tract it was laid out for building squares 2, 4, 6 to 9, 17, south 17 to 19. In 1792 squares 4 and 8 were apportioned with Mr. Peter, the proprietor, and later the others were divided. The western terminus of G street is where the government made its entry to its permanent home in 1800, the entire departmental force and effects being landed at Lear's wharf.
Scene of Commercial Project
According to Allen C. Clark's researches the firm failed, and in 1797 a deed was made by the creditors being Jonathan Hobson of New York, John Coles of New Haven and R.E. Griffith of Philadelphia, and there were half a dozen foreign creditors with claims of over $50,000. The whole of the square between F and G streets west of 28th street had been before acquired by the firm, and in 1798 a deed was made by Lear and Dalton conveying the northeast quarter of the square to William Deakins for $3,000, and in February, 1798, the store, warehouse and wharf for $12,000.
The next year the east half of the square, lots 1 and 2, are in Mr. Dalton, and in 1801 Francis Deakins has lots 3 and 4, the north half of the square, with the property in Georgetown, the consideration being $16,900. Col. Lear was the President's secretary for some years and married the daughter of William Augustine Washington, and in 1768, when Washington was appointed lieutenant general, when a war with France seemed imminent, became his military secretary.
After the death of Washington, at which he was present, he was in the consular service, at Santo Domingo during the uprising of 1803 and afterward was the consul general at Algiers, from whence he returned in 1812. He resided east of Washington Circle in 1816 at the time of his death.
Mr. Dalton's Career
Mr. Greenleaf, who was of the firm about three years, was a native of Massachusetts, but came here from Pennsylvania in 1793 and for fifty years was he associated with Washington real estate, in the early days being the largest owner. Thus Lear & Co. had a personnel whose occupations and interests were not confined to merchandising.
Mr. Coles carried on business here as a merchant a few years and in 1800 John Davidson acquired lot 3 and the wharf and for a long time was in business here.
There is no record of division of square 3, west of 27th street between G and H streets, and originally it was regarded as the water lots connected with square 8 on the east. In the apportionment Mr. Peter took the north half lots 8 to 11 in 1792, which in 1795 went to Thomas Clark and W.S. Chandler, who had wharf rights, and in 1708 John Templeman had the rest of the square, which in 1805 went to Benjamin Stoddert.
In 1800 James Wilson bought half lot 8 on 20th street. In 1818 Howes Goldsborough had lot 4 on G street and 17 on 28th street and R.G. Goldsborough had a lumber yard on the wharf. In 1830 the Chesapeake and Ohio canal acquired property through this square.
Government Acquires Lot
In 1830 the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company acquired the portion of the square required for its line, and, constructing a dam, closed the creek for uses other than for canal purposes. In 1837 Joseph Boulanger owned here, as did in 1841 Capt. Easby, and later Andrew Hoover had a lime kiln.
Square 6, between Virginia avenue, 28th and I streets, was of eight lots, which in 1797 were apportioned. The year before Morris and Nicholson mortgaged lot 7 to Col. Uriah Forrest, and James Wilkinson owned the square. In 1802 John Templeman owned lot 1, Virginia avenue and 26th street, and four years later Walter Hellen bought it. Mr. Stoddert acquired lots 6 and 7, north. W.W. Corcoran bought lots 34 and 35 in 1839, the west end of the square.
The triangle known as square 7, south of the above, was apportioned in 1797 and forty years after Dr. Henry Hunt owned in it.
Square 17, between 25th and 26th, H and I streets, of seventeen lots, divided in 1796, was included in Morris and Nicholson's mortgages, and ten were conveyed in 1802 to Benjamin Stoddart. R. Thomas in 1803 had three lots, corner 25th and H streets. In 1827 Jasper Cope had three lots, and H.K. Randall one on 25th street. In 1830 Col. G. Bomford had a lot on 25th street; in 1832 S.C. Grammer one on H street; Jasper Cope on 28th street. In 1836 James Larner at the corner of 25th and H streets, and the next year Dr. Hunt had two lots.
In square 17, between Virginia avenue, 25th and H streets, the two lots were vested in Mr. Peter in 1797, and remained in his estate until bought by Col. B. Ogle Taylor in 1811.
Peter Sells Lots
Square 19, formed by New Hampshire avenue, 25th, F and G streets, had a similar early history. R. Dunlop owned lots 1 and 2, F and 25th streets, in 1829. In 1832 five of its ten lots were included in the government's donation to the orphan asylums of the city and were deeded to St. Vincent's Asylum.
In the early days 3 to 6 cents was the value of the ground. Then improvements were listed in square and lot 9, 27th and 11 streets, $800, Thomas Herbert; lot 17, 26th street, $150; square 9, lot 1, F street and New Hampshire avenue, $300, T. Herbert; lot 3, Lear's wharf, 27th and G streets, in the name of B. Washington, $5,000; square 17, lot 3, John Coles, $2,000, and lot 4, Walter Heller, $2,000, both on G street.
Gen. Jacob D. Brown, commanding the army, lived in the former several years prior to his death in 1828, and Mr. Heller, then superintendent of stamps in the Treasury, had his home here.
In 1830 8 cents was the appraisement in square 8, west of 26th street between G and H streets, and the improvements listed were a house to Mary Wilson, $1,200, on 27th street, and two buildings to H. Goldsborough, $500 and $150. The same rate was in square 9 south and Davidson was assessed on $6,000. On square 17 but two houses were listed; James Dunlop, $2,000, and Thomas Peter, $2,500.
Among others in this section in the forties, apart from the few named above, Mrs. Anderson on F street, John Coburn on G street, then in the time business; A. Ferguson, William Herbert, D. Moran and William Thomas are recalled.