Early Days of City
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, February 5, 1909 [p. 10]
Lying between 11th and 16th streets north of S street, within the original plan of Washington, the squares of ground which were cut up into building lots were of no use as home sites for half a century or more. Indeed, what portions that were utilized were for purposes foreign to intention. Possibly the most profitable was the utilization of half a dozen squares as the city farm of Joshua Pierce, who was extensively engaged at Linnean Hill as a nurseryman and florist. There were before the tirties some gardens and two graveyards in the tract. From about 1804,, when the National race course was established, 14th street became the usually travelled road thereto, and a nearby cockpit and tavern and the location of Columbian College, now George Washington University, in the twenties, increased travel thereon. It was nothing more than a common dirt road until the fifties, and until funeral processions demanded it, grading and graveling were not done. No attempt whatever was made to improve other streets, though there was some travel on Boundary street, now Florida avenue.
Land Belonged to Robert Peter
Square 188, in the lines of New Hampshire avenue, 16th, U and W, or Boundary streets was allotted to Mr. Peter, in 1843 going to Henry Johnson, and in 1843 David Einbread had a lease upon it. It had not been valued at over a cent per foot. The squares S. 188, a triangle, and 189 and N. 189 have the same history, excepting they were bought by Thomas and W.W. Corcoran in 1845. Squares 190, between 15th and 16th, T and U streets and 191, south went to Greenleaf in 1794, Joshua Pearce buying the latter in 1839 and Thomas Corcoran the former in 1845.
The tier of squares between 14th and 15th streets to S street, 202 to 206, in 1796 were divided, Mr. Peter being assigned two squares and lots in the others, and the United States one square and lots in the others. Square 202, on the Boundary, in 1837 was bought by Col. B. Ogle Tayloe, and a colored family named Brown started a garden there. Near the west end was a spring from which the water flowed to Slash run. In 1844 William Murphy bought the square and long made a business of gardening. The square south has the same early history, and in 1839, it went to the Farmers and Mechanics’ Bank of Georgetown. No. 204 was of twenty lots, and those on the east half in 1841 passed to William Murphy, and five years later Thomas Corcoran had the rest.
Square 234, between 13th, 14th, W and Boundary streets, contained one lot, and when the transfer was made to the Commissioners a house owned by Robert Peter was there. In the first assessment, 1802, it was listed at $250. The title remained in the original proprietor, Mr. Peter, or heirs, until 1827, when Jacob Broadbeck bought it, and in 1830 he was assessed $500. In 1840 F. Mohier owned it.
The Old Graveyards
In the forty years of the graveyard’s history it was well populated. Burials were discontinued virtually in the sixties, for every part was crowded. About 1870 the remains were removed to other more modern cemeteries, those unclaimed being taken to Glenwood.
The square south, between U, V, 13th and 14th streets – 236 – in the apportionment in 1796 went to the United states and the twenty lots remained intact until late in the past century. In 1845 John Walker bought the square, but the next year it went back to the United States. W.W. Corcoran bought it in 1852 and sold it to Rev. J.B. Donelan of St. Matthew’s Church, and it was dedicated to burial purposes. For many years it was so used, but the long-established graveyards of St. Patrick’s on Boundary street near 3d street, and St. Peter’s on H street, had become more popular. The 14th street burial ground was therefore peopled from St. Matthew’s congregation and when about 1870 it was determined to put it other uses and the bodies were removed nearly every lot was occupied. Many families removed their dead to other cemeteries and the unclaimed were reinterred in Mount Olivet.
Between 13th, 14th, T and U streets, square 237 of twenty-four lots, in 1796 was vested in the United States, but the square two years before was included in the Greenleaf bargain with the Commissioners. In 1815 William Moore leased it to Mr. Jamison. Thomas Halliday owned it later and in 1841 A Heitmuller bought it.
Between S, T, 13th and 14th streets, square 238, the same size, was in 1794 in Greenleaf’s possession, but in the division in 1796 Samuel Blodget was allotted eight lots, Robert Peter seven and the United States nine. Jamison and Halliday had a lease on it for some years. In 1825 R.S. Beckley owned six lots on R street; in 1830 W. Jewell had a lot on S street, which six years after went to James Larned. Col. George Bomford bought six lots on 14th and T streets in 1834; J. McCormick, jr., eight lots on S and 14th streets in 1841, and Thomas Corcoran in 1843 had nine lots, the east end of the square.
Between 12th, 13th, S and T streets, square 275, of eighteen lots, was in 1798 apportioned between Peter, Blodget and the United States. James McCormick, jr., in 1816 bought the six lots assigned to Blodget at tax sale. In 1830 William Jewell bought one on S street, in 1832 T.B. Brown had six lots, Thomas Corcoran one in 1835, and in 1841 seven lots were bought by W.W. Corcoran.
Squares 273 and 274, northward to V street, were assigned in 1796 to the United States, and not until 1845 were they sold, Thomas Corcoran then buying.
The square north, 272, assigned to Mr. Peter in 1838, went to Anthony Preston and the year after the Farmers’ and Mechanics’ Bank had it. The square north, 271, on Boundary street, was assigned to Mr. Peter. In 1827 Jacob Broadbeck bought it and eight years after F. Mohler had title.
Part of the Slashes
It was not until war times that there was much sign of improvement and values had appreciated. In 1802 one cent per foot was the figure on the assessment book, but it was reduced to small fractions, and until 1830 half a cent was the maximum. About 1840 the original figure, one cent, was used, but much ground could then be bought at a few mills per foot.
Needless to say, the history of this section as a place of residence and business covers but a small part of the last century. Hale and hearty people are living who spent many days of their youth in berry picking, hunting in tese confines. The travel on 14th street, especially during races, between such horses as Boston, Blue Dick and Eclipse on the old National course, the funerals and the mere footpath made, by the day students at the college are remembered by many.