In Old Washington
History of Twelve Squares in Southwest
Development Was Slow
Brickyard Almost Only Sign of Improvement for Years
Now Busy Section of city
Grazing Furnished for Cattle Until Late in Last Century – Old Property Owners

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, November 22, 1908 [pt. 7 p. 12]

Within the lines of 3d, 7th, G and L streets southwest in which twelve squares were made in the farming lands of Notley Young there was till within the recollection of many residents, little development.

As unpromising as was this section in old times for civic purposes, there were some uses made of P. One of two brickyards in the southwest portion gave employment to a number, and while furnishing building material, leveled some of the ground to grade. Some spots were used for farming purposes, but the larger portion was in the open and furnished grazing for horse and cow.

It has, however, shaken off the lethargy of old, and though it can boast of no lofty, imposing edifices, it is now thickly studded with comfortable homes, stores, etc. and the long stretches of open common are things of the past.

But that there was intention prior to 1800 to make this section an important part of Washington is apparent from some of the squares being platted for many lots, and the association with the property of such persons as Greenleaf, Morris and Nicholson, and Thomas Law.

Property Under Mortgage
Not a little of the realty was under mortgage. Much of it was taxed to Pratt, Francis, Miller et al, the English building company, and Ball & Ford, the Philadelphia merchants.

In fact, for fifty years or more it was an unbroken common, if we except the wagon tracks in 4-1/2 and 6th streets, separating the settlement on the point from those north. Eastward of 3d street was more common and morass flanking James creek. The whole was nearly level.

In square 468, between 6th, 7th, G and H streets, thirty-four lots were made, and in 1797 they were vested in the United States. They were included in Greenleaf’s purchase of 1794, and in the early days of the corporation were assessed to Pratt, Francis, Miller et al., first at 2 cents per foot, and afterward at 1 cent.

In 1818 Richard Hendley bought six lots. No real estate dealings followed till 1842, when Henry M. Moffatt bought two lots on 6th street. In the meantime the ground had increased to 4 cents in value on 7th street, and to 2-1/2 cents on the other streets. About the first improvement was the residence of Thomas Fay on 7th street about 1860.

Square No. 469, between I, K, 6th and 7th streets of a like plan, has a similar ancient history. Mr. Hendley was a purchaser in 1818 to the extent of eight lots. There was no further movement till 1845 when Samuel Byington, afterward master smith at the arsenal, bought these lots.

The square south, No. 470, of twenty-eight lots, is a duplication of the above in history till 1844. Then it went into the possession of James Adams, cashier of the Bank of Washington.

Square No. 471, between K, L, 6th and 7th streets of twenty-four lots, was vested in Mr. Young in 1797, and early was included in the $60,000 purchase of Bell and Ford, in whose possession it remained many years.

Between 4-1/2, 6th, G and H streets, twenty-eight lots constituted square 497, which, in 1797 was vested in Mr. Young. Soon after it went to Thomas Fenwick. For years it was unproductive, save that it ws a basis of taxation at a valuation of 1 to 3 cents per foot on the bare ground.

In 1844, however, Isaac S. Miller bought the three lots, 14 to 16, including the corner of 6th and G streets, and erected a home, and for years was prominent in that section of the city. Two years after William Wheatley bought at the northeast corner of the square, 4-1/2 and G streets, lots 23 to 25, of which he sold the corner, lot 24, to Mrs. Jane A.E. Miles. Shortly after three two-story frame houses were built here.

Square 498 was included in the Greenleaf contract of 1794, and going to Robert Morris in the next year, was mortgaged to Thomas Law, but in the apportionment was vested in the United States. It was platted for forty-two lots, but subject to taxes on a value of less than 2 per cent for over fifty years, and was subject to no change of title till 1853, when Dr. C.H. VanPattent and W.R. Riley broke the spell by buying lots.

Titles Change Often
It was in square 499, between 4-1/2, 6th, I and K streets, that, in the infancy of the District, there were many changes of title, but there was no actual improvement. It was laid off for twenty-six lots, which were assigned to Mr. Young in 1797, and shortly after they passed to the ownership of Samuel sterrett. At that time the ground was of 2 cents per foot value and was reduced half a cent, at which it remained till 1830.

In 1804, J.J. Crawford owned seven lots and W. Read three. The next year C. Poleska and J. Gardner had three, and the next year D. Ludlow the same number. In 1806 J. Leany had three lots, which went to F. Harper and J. Waddington, and J. Moyland succeeded to the Crawford lots. In 1811 the lots of D. Ludlow were conveyed to Gullian Ludlow, and the next year the Read lots were in the name of R. Dale. By tax sale W. Ingle obtained six lots in 1822. In 1836 T.W. Ludlow had the three lots owned thirty years before. In 1839 John N. Trook owned five lots, and in 1840 H.M. Moffatt owned two lots.

Square 500, of forty-three lots, fronting 4-1/2, 6th, K and L streets, was assigned to the United States. It was one of the Greenleaf squares, and associated with it were Law, Morris and Nicholson, Joseph Wilkinson and Samuel Elliot, jr. In 1818 Greenleaf owned the north half of the square, and in 1825 the Bank of Washington owned it. The value of the ground was the same as above, and the only improvement noted is that of $500 value on lot 9 and L street between 4-1/2 and 6th streets, in the name of John Lowry on the assessment books of 1806. In 1820 there appears an improvement valued at $100, listed to Mr. Greenleaf. The next entry is the conveyance in 1853 of certain lots to Richard Barry.

The four squares east of 4-1/2 street were slower in taking on city ways than the above, though with them there were early attached the names of men of means and enterprise. They were devoid of improvement well down to the middle of the last century, and the value of the ground till after 1830 was but 1 cent per foot.

Government Not Interested
And, indeed, neither the general nor local government seemed to favor that portion of the city. In the improvement of 4-1/2 street the former provided for a footway on the west side, and other streets were not improved by the city till 1860, and then a ridge of gravel was dumped on those portions destined for foot pavements.

The twenty-eight lots on 3d, 4-1/2, G and H streets, in square 540, were vested in Notley Young by the Commissioners in 1797, but, through Mr. Greenleaf, Ball and Ford obtained title. Afterward they were bought by William Dewees, and in 1825 Henry King owned them. Five years after N.P. Poor, an auctioneer, was the owner. But it was not till 1849 that single lots were disposed of.

The square south, 541, of like size to the above, was long in Mr. Greenleaf’s name, an unproductive piece of property devoid of a change of title till 1850.

Between I, K, 3d and 6-1/2 streets the twenty-six lots of square 542 were assigned to Mr. Young, and Mrs. Greenleaf, early was the owner. In 1813 N.D. Heath purchased at the southeast corner of the square, but in 1817 Mr. Greenleaf’s nephew, S. Elliot, jr., owned the square. In 1833, the Bank of Washington owned it, and it remained intact till 1852.

The square south, between K, L, 3d and 4-1/2 streets, similar in size, owned before 1800 by Mr. Young, who sold to Greenleaf, was intact till 1850.