IN OLD WASHINGTON
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, November 7, 1908 [pt. 2, p. 3]
That part of the city in the lines of Maine avenue, 3d, 6th and D streets southwest was not, in the plan of L'Enfant, designed for building purposes. It fell within the lines of reservation two, or the Mall, the south line of which, from the Capitol grounds, was Maryland avenue to its intersection with south B street.
Consequently was a triangular strip made by the lines of Maryland avenue, 6th and B streets, known as "square N.W. 492," which was platted into two lots. For thirty years it was on the market.
This condition was brought about through the change or reclamation or swamp lands by altering the course of the old Washington city canal. Prior to 1800 the Tiber, whose waters were afterward confined by the walls of the canal to what is now square C, west of 3d street and south of Maine avenue, united with those of Saint James' creek, flowing southward.
That portion northeastward by some was known as Goose creek, though the main stream of the Tiber.
Much of the ground was marshy along the streams, and in this section a veritable quagmire.
These conditions were known to Congress when the capital was located here; for by the act of 1790 for establishing the government here a canal was authorized. In 1795, under an act of Maryland, a company was formed for the purpose, but did not build it.
Congress in 1802 repealed the authority for opening a canal, but in February, 1809, incorporated a company for the purpose. The canal was constructed, and in 1816 it formed an artery of trade from the Potomac to the Eastern branch. In 1822, to better drain and reclaim the ground embraced in thise section, as also north of the Mall, Congress authorized the Corporation of Washington to contract with the canal company to change the course of the canal; and among other things to lay off the two squares now in the lines of Maine and Maryland avenues, 3d and 6th streets, known as squares C and D.
In this way the Mall, was contracted, two squares added and a small one obliterated on the maps of the city.
This portion of the city's domain was in the Burnes tract when the government took title; and the squares ere N.W. 492, 493, 634 and 635. As may be inferred from the above, prior to 1840 there was little development, and then it was on Maryland avenue that settlement came.
In 1802 the corporation valuation of ground was fixed at 3 cents in the square on Maryland avenue between 4-1/2 and 6th streets, and 2 cents in the others; but in four years a uniform rate of 1 cent was fixed and prevailed many years, reaching 3 to 5 cents about 1830. Until 1820 there were no improvements listed.
Ownership of Property
Square 492, between Maryland avenue, 4-1/2, 6th and C streets, was platted for fourteen lots; and in 1796 division was made with Mr. Carroll. In 1801 Gen. Van Ness had four lots on C street. Not till 1833 was another transfer made, when John P. Pepper had lot 9 on Maryland avenue, and S.P. Franklin and W.B. Kibbey each had portions the same year.
Thomas C. Wilson two years later was on this lot. In 1838 W.A. Bradley bought lots 7, 8, 10 and 11, adjoining, and in the following year Andrew Coyle and Seth J. Todd were on lot 12, on which was E. Handy in 1841.
There had been a subdivision of lots in the northeast part of the square of over a dozen sublots by D.D. Arden in 1818. R. and C. Barnhouse in 1842 bought in this subdivision. The same year Nicholas L. Queen had the three lots in the southeast corner of the square, G.C. Grammer the lot north of 4-1/2 street, and J. Kedglier lot 10 and Richard Polkinhorn lot 9 on Maryland avenue.
In the thirties there had been improved lots 8 and 9 on Maryland avenue near 6th street, the brick house on the first assessed to J.H. Carroll for $1,000, and in the second to D.D. Arden for $1,200. Patrick Naddy was then living at the corner of Maryland avenue and 4-1/2 street.
In the forties there were here Charles Bradley, long known as a bank officer; Peter M. Pearson, long engaged in the lumber business, many years a school trustee and alderman, assessor of internal revenue and prominent in the local affairs of the community; Henry Lee and James Espey, cabinet makers, long in the undertaking business on Pennsylvania avenue, now represented by J. Wm. Lee; Richard and Caleb Barnhouse, carpenters and builders; Joseph Lafontaine, Benjamin S. Kinsey, leather dealer; John West, Wm. Thompson, Mrs. Quigley's tavern, F.F. Stoeck, grocer, at the corner of 4-1/2 street, and some others. On 4-1/2 street were William Wise, one of the oldest, best known and most useful citizens of South Washington, a ward commissioner and contractor; G. Heide, a school teacher; William Joy, cabinet maker, and James Littleton.
Gen. Van Ness an Owner
In 1830 Charles Bezat was in possession of the southwest part of the square, using it for gardening purposes. He was the gardener to the President at the time. There was on it a small building assessed for $100. Richard Barry owned the lot at D and 4-1/2 streets in 1828. A $150 building was shortly after upon it. At this time a building is listed at $100 to J.H. Carroll on lot 3, and Matilda Arnold has lot 2. Some minor improvements also appeared on lots 12 and 13, on C street, charged $75, to Mary Evans, and two of $25 each to --- Dyson.
In 1832 lot 15, on 4-1/2 street, was in the name of Michael Sardo, and the next year John Douglass has lot 11, on C street.
In 1834 John Purdy bought lot 6, on Virginia avenue, and Charles Polkinhorn lot 3, on D street, on which was built a frame church of the Old School Baptists. This was called the Shiloh Church, and though the congregation for whom Mr. Polkinhorn and C.H. Leachman officiated as elders was small it was well known as the Ironside Church throughout the District. It finally went into the possession of the Fifth Baptist Church, of which Rev. C.C. Meador was pastor, for about half a century, and after worshiping in the frame structure some years this congregation erected a brick building, eventually selling it and erecting an imposing edifice on E street near 7th street southwest.
In 1837 Mary Evans had title to part lot 12, and the following year W.A. Bradley had title to lot 2 on B street and lots 12 to 14 on C street, including the corner of 4-1/2 street. William Grinder in the forties had a grocery on the east front of the square.
On Square 534
The square south, 535, was of eighteen original lots, and Nicklin & Griffith, in 1800, had a lot, and two years later Gen. Van Ness had six lots, mostly in the west part of the square. There were no improvements noted, or for that matter, few conveyances till the forties.
Ulysses Ward had three lots, Inez B Palmer two and J.B. Gorman and James Young one lot each in 1833. In 1835 W.C. Orme owned lot 18, on 3d street, and in 1839 Mrs. Eleanor Grinder owned lot 14, on C street. In the forties the well known grinder family lived on C street, Mrs. Handy on D street and Charles Kiernan had a grocery at the corner of 4-1/2 and D streets.
The latest constructed squares, C and D, necessitated platting a new avenue to separate them from the Mall, and Maine avenue came into being, marking the north line of these squares, Maryland avenue, with 3d, 4th and 6th streets, being the other lines.
First Deed in 1828
In 1830 G.F. Berry had a lot on Maine avenue, which went to D. Riddick two years later, and N.B. Haswell owned on 4-1/2 street, which in 1839 went to Camalia Coddington. Solomon Drew purchased on Maryland avenue, near the corner of 2d street, in 1836, erecting a home in which he lived some years. Mary A. Hall came to this locality in 1839, erecting the brick building on Maryland avenue, east of 4-1/2 street, now used for educational purposes for the colored race.
In 1842 John M. Young, prominent in the coach making business, bought on Maine avenue and the family home was long here. Archibald Crawford's carpenter shop was for some years at the corner of Maine avenue and 3d street. W. Hill lived on Maryland avenue near 3d street.
The other square, D, in whose making was required the bed of B street from 4-1/2 to 6th street, and original square N.W., 492, was opened for settlement about 1830. In that year William Franklin bought part lot 9, with a frame house, and A. White owned in the lot, as did Thomas Donoho, in 1832. Caleb Barnhouse owned in lot 8, adjoining, in 1836, having a carpenter shop, and G. Burnett and Samuel Smith in lot 7. In 1837 P.W. Browning owned and lived on lot 9, and the following year John Purdy owned in lot 11, near the corner of 6th street. In 1840 W.A. Bradley acquired several lots in the southwest part of the square; William H. Gunnell in lot 6, on Maryland avenue; Elixius Semmes in the northeast portion, on Maine avenue and 4-1/2 street, and John Fleming on 4-1/2 street.
In the forties there were other purchasers of lots, builders and settlers. Among those on Maryland avenue was Thomas K. Gray, long a tailor, afterward in the wood and coal business, a prominent Methodist and Odd Fellow. One son is the well known founder and iron worker on Maine avenue, and another, long a printer, yet resides at the old home. John Springman, father of the brothers of that name in the express business, and of the well known "Jim" Springman of the U.S. Marshal's office; P.W. Browning, a leading merchant tailor; James Kelleher, then a hackman, afterward in the livery business; Anthony Manyett, founder; Frederick Duff, a news and periodical agent of extensive local patronage, as he was a persevering itinerant; George Stewart, carpenter, and James McPeak. On 4-1/2 street there were John Smithson, machinist, and John Fleming, a liveryman. On Maine avenue was the foundry of Mr. Manyett, which afterward was known as Rider's foundry; the cabinetmaker's shop or A.W. Yeatman; A. Dorsey, machinist, and the residence of Rev. Mr. Matchett.