Southwest Long Ago
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, October 4, 1908 [pt. 2 p. 2]
There were laid out on the plan of Washington in the lines of 6th, 7th, B and D streets southwest four building squares which were numbered 462, 463, S, 463 and 464. Three of these were in the tract of Burnes’ and the other in Young’s hands, the line between them falling in the bed of Virginia avenue.
A part of this, about the B and 6th streets corner, was somewhat marshy, for it was not far south of the bend in the Tiber from east to north course.
Other portions, however, furnished passable building sites. Not a little was used for gardening purposes.
In the first quarter of the last century there were but one or two settlers. About 1850 it had become one of the many village-like neighborhoods of Washington.
The square between B, 6th and 7th streets and Maryland avenue of six original lots in 1796 was divided. Daniel Carroll acquiring those lots in the west part of the square and in 1801 those in the east part from the United States. About this time George Jacobs’ name attaches to lot 6, corner of 7th and B streets, where in 1802 improvements of $130 are listed. The ground is listed at 3 cents per foot.
David Hepburn in 1802 leased all the square excepting the southwest part,, lot 5, and erected about the middle of the square a $500 house fronting Maryland avenue. Mr. Hepburn was a master bricklayer for years and besides local work did much or the government, including the building of Fort Caswell, N.C. He long resided in South Washington, and numerous descendants are living there.
Allen Allenderfer’s name is substituted for Jacobs in 1806. He is listed fr a $150 improvement, while the rate for the ground is reduced to 1 cent. No changes appear for twenty years. Then Conrad Ballenger, a gardener, is located on 7th street, and Abraham Bradley, 3d buys in lot 5.
In 1829 Mr. Carroll made thirty-nine sublots of the square. The value had risen to from 5 to 8 cents per foot on the corporation books. Sales were made to F.A. Flagler, N. Drummond and Peter Callen, and Solomon Hubbard and Joel Downer leased.
The next year Jeremiah Indermaur bought one sublot and leased another; Michael Horning and J.R. Phillips leased. In 1832 Phillips’ lease went to Washington Robey, who transferred to Obadiah Simpson and J.M. Neale.
In 1833 Thomas Lloyd owned a sublot and two years later three others fronting on 7th street, and James H. Birch four subs on Maryland avenue.
Noel Perrin, a gardener, was at the northeast corner of 7th street and Maryland avenue in 1830. Peter Callen is assessed on $800 improvements there on lot 5 and J.M. Neale is listed for over $2,000 improvements. Mr. Indermaur and his son Jerry spent nearly their whole lives as machinists in the Washington arsenal.
Resort of Militiamen
Mr. Lloyd, proprietor of the Union Steamboat Hotel on 7th street, opposite the Washington market, had his family residence with a fine garden at the southeast corner of B and 7th streets, and today descendants to the fifth generation are living here.
On the alley in the center of the square was a brick building used as a slave pen or Georgia jail, in which for twenty years before the war some of the incidents of the trade in human chattels took pace. While it was known as a place for buying and selling, it was also utilized by some of the District slave owners when they desired to discipline their servants, and some such are living today who can tell how frightened they were when told as the doors were locked that they were to go to Georgia. Early in the fifties it became known throughout the country through the capture of a number of slaves who, led by Drayton and Sears, had sailed on the schooner Pearl, bound north. These men had induced over fifty slaves to embark, but the schooner was overdauled down the river and brought back. While Drayton and Sears with the crew were taken to the county jail and afterward tried and convicted, the cargo of slaves were marched to the Georgia pen, and needless to say, some were sold and carried south and others returned to service.
In the forties John T. Cassell, a painter, settled on the corner of 7th street and Maryland avenue and was here in business and had his home many years, first as a master painter and afterward a grocer. Among others residing on Maryland avenue were J.J. Fowler, carpenter; J.W. Nye, contractor, John B. Carroll, tailor; C. Flagler, Mrs. H. Clark, James Gannon, W. Dorsey and Benj. Coe, hackmen. On the B street front was Henry Hardy, once principal of the fourth district school, and for some years connected with the National Intelligencer. Also Richard Pollard, W.H. Richards, --- Dutton; and Mrs. D.A. Patton at the corner of 7th street.
But two lots were made of Square 463, between Maryland avenue, 6th, 7th and C streets, and lot 1 in 1796 went to the government and the other to Mr. Carroll. In 1798 Samuel Elliott had lot 1, which was sold to Robert Kidd in 1802. Three cents per foot was the first ground value, and it decreased to half that sum, but before 1820 rose to 5 cents. In the late twenties Charles Wilson worked part of it as a garden, but no buildings appeared till the next decade. R.H. Drummond, a well known carpenter, took the lease of the western portion in 1828,, and transferred it to William Bird, who soon after had improvements valued at $1,200 thereon. Lot 1 in 1835 passed to the Bank of Washington, and Mrs. Sarah Talbert in 1838 bought at the corner of 7th street and Maryland avenue. Mr. Bird and his brother Eben each erected homes on Maryland avenue, and the former acquiring the whole square, did much building.
Row of Frame Houses
Among those living here in the forties were Mrs. M. Davis; Butler Baker and John West, carpenters, the sons of the last named becoming well known in building circles as brick manufacturers. Later were William A. Linton, Charles Polkinhorn and John B. Bird here.
On square south of 463, between Virginia avenue, C and 6th streets, in 1790 the United States had the lot on 6th street, and Mr. Carroll the other in the division, and in 1802 John P. Van Ness had lot 1. The values and appearance corresponded with those of square 463 till 1819, when Thomas Johnson had a lease in lot 1 for twelve years . The next year .D. Schureman and N. Plant leased in the same. In 1824 D. Sutherland and J.B. Speake were there, and two years after W. Gibson took a lease in lot 1, assigning to William Samuels in three years. R.H. Drummond in 1826 took a lease in lot 1 and transferred it to William Butler, and S. Chester a lease in 2. James T. Cassell bought in lot 2 in 1832 and Thomas Lloyd bought in lot 1 in 1835.
The improvements listed were $700, to William Gibson, and $300 and $175, to J.B. Speake, on lot 1 and $500 to James T. Cassell, in lot 2. Mr. Speake lived here in the thirties, and later was connected with the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. A son became a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, serving several of the local churches and in the presiding eldership. Mr. Cassell erected a little home and lived here many years, engaged as a master bricklayer. There were also here William Gibson, R.H. Drummond, John Campbell and John Evans in the thirties.
In 1840 Rhoderick O’Brien, a stonecutter, bought in lot 1 and erected a neat frame residence fronting C street, and George Miller, a carpenter, bought in lot 2 and had his home on Virginia avenue. The latter lot was made into a seven sublots about this time and shortly after there were on Virginia avenue George Stock and George Strobel. The former was long in business as a a wheelwright, having his shop near by, and the latter a locksmith and machinist, who is well represented today in the neighborhood.
United States an Owner
Mrs. Milburn, Miss Milburn and Miss Trook afterward became prominent as teachers in the public schools, each becoming veterans in the service. In the fifties two line dwellings were erected on Virginia avenue near he east end of the square, and William A. Williams long resided here. The eastern point of the square then became the site of the Island Hall, a three-storied brick building, the upper story used for lodge rooms, the second for balls, parties and public meetings and the lower part for business and school purposes. Before the armory, now fish commission, building was completed I was the armory of the National Guard battalion. During the days of know-nothingism it was the scene of many meetings of the order which taxed the size and strength of the hall, and in some of the later political campaigns, national and local, it was in service. It was best known, especially to the young people of that day, as the scene of much social enjoyment, and some like to recall the balls given by the Ugly Club, when annually the ring and penknife were awarded to the most homely lady or gentleman, the presentations being made with much ceremony, followed by refreshment of pumpkin pie and hard cider.