Early Washington Land Owners

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, May 23, 1909 [p. 12]

In that section within the lines of L, P, 4th and 7th streets, embracing a dozen building squares, there was a promising outlook a century ago, for it was elevated ground, bordered by an important thoroughfare, but for nearly fifty years fine sites could be bought for a few cents, some at a few mills, per foot. After the ground was conveyed by Lynch & Sands for conversion into squares and lots over 250 home sites were laid out, but, if the occupants of the poorhouse on M street east of 7th, be excepted, there were not a dozen families on this ground until about 1840. There was, however, about 1809 a house on the site of the Polk School, 7th and P streets, for in that year it was transferred by Andrew Thompson to Walter Mitchell, with its contents, for $500. About a dozen years after a four-hundred-dollar improvement at the southwest corner of 5th and P streets was owned by William Gallant, a leading carpenter and builder of those days. In 1830 on the east side of 6th street between L and M, a two-story frame was listed to Way & Gideon for $400. There was then no mention of other taxable improvements, and the land listed in 1802 at half a cent soon after fell to an eighth, and did not average once cent until near 1840. Nevertheless, after many years that section "got a move o," and it has since become thickly populated. "Poorhouse hill," the name a portion of it bore in the first half of the last century, is known only to the old folks; and "Crow hill," as the neighborhood of 5th and N streets was known about war times, is about obsolete.

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The establishment by the corporation of the infirmary on M street between 6th and 7th streets in 1807 is responsible for the name of Poorhouse hill, for a hill it was at that day - a full story above the present grade - and it was there that the indigent poor were cared for by the board of guardians. The square had been laid off into twenty-four lots on M, N, 6th and 7th streets, and they were vested in the government in 1796, and lay idle until 1807. The corporation had for a few years cared for the poor in temporary quarters, and square 448 was selected. Andrew Bradley, jr., John Davidson and Griffith Coombe were the commissioners, and the purchase was made of Thomas Munroe, the city superintendent for $200in February of that year and a building erected. This was a three-story-and-attic structure of brick parts of which are yet standing, having been converted into dwellings. Before the close of 1807 it was opened for use. Besides accommodating indigent poor the "penitentiaries," as offenders against the city ordinances were called, were confined there; and a portion was used as the dwelling of the Intendant. As may be supposed, the situation being commanding and the structure imposing, it was attractive to those on the outside, and from the reports many of the inmates, whether patients or prisoners, were satisfied to be there, though the latter were made to work. A substantial fence inclosed the square, and for many years gardening was the occupation of inmates. A number after 1822, were employed on street work in the neighborhood under an overseer. In winter woodsawing gave employment to the inmates. Among the intendants of old recalled are Robert Clark, John McClelland, president of the guardians, acting; Mr. McNerhany and Richard Butt. The potter's field was in the northeast section, and in the cholera epidemic of 1833 a part of the square northeast was utilized for burial purposes.

In 1843 it was determined to relocate the institution and the corporation had a subdivision made into seventy three lots which were sold at public auction May 10, that year, and, liberal terms being offered, many passed to private owners - Rev. Dr. G.W. Sampson, Caleb H. Shreve, Michael Hoover, Mr. Ward and others.

They brought an average of $90 per lot; from 3 to 5 cents per foot It was three years later before the square was all vacated.

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The square south, between L, M, 6th and 7th streets, 449, twenty-fur original lots, was assigned to Lynch & Sands, the proprietors, in 1796, but prior to that, Greenleaf had title. J. Covachichi, George Lewis, Thomas and John Atkinson, prior to 1800, and L. Sands, James Taylor, T. Cottrell, M. Ward, J. Eastburn, J. Martin and Jere and J.H. Warder, before 1812, held lots. In 1818 Return J. Meigs, Postmaster General, owned seven lots on 7th street. In 1829 John A. Smith owned on M street, and Charles Fletcher three lots including the corner of 6th and M streets; in 1831 Sophia Meigs on 7th street, the next year T. Fletcher five on N street and in 1834 J. Haskell one on 7th street. The ground was then listed at 1-1/2 to 3 cents a foot. In 1838 J. Evans owned lots 1 and 2; F. Hall, lot 3 and Elias Kane lot 4 on L street, extending west o f6th street, and G.D. Carroll, 7 and 8, corner 7th and L streets. In the next year Mr. Hall acquired 1 nd 2, as also 21 to 24, about one-fourth the square. In 1840 Col. H. Naylor owned 12 to 14, at the northwest corner of the square; D.A. Hale, 15 and 16, on M street and 5 and 6 on L street, and George Phillips, lot 7 at 7th and L streets. In 1841 H. Naylor and A. Rothwell owned lots 9 to 11 on 7th street, and Mrs. Ann Ward, 13 and 14, fronting 7th and M streets. The latter erected a two-story frame house at the corner and for years conducted a grocery In 1843 Henry Horstkamp bought lot 9 on 7th street, 2,900 feet, for $200, erecting a residence and opening a grocery. The south half lot 11 was bought by R.J. Falconer, who erected a frame dwelling and a grocery and feed store the same year, and Edward Gallant bought the other portion.

Besides the groceries noted above, H. Moore established the fourth on the east side of the street, on which were J. Luber, a tailor, and Christian Emerich.

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A somewhat noted square in the olden times is that located east, for it was known to the young people as the "Garden of Paradise" and to the general public as Seaton's garden. It was located on a hill, on the side of which was a spring from which flowed a rivulet southward. When the adjacent streets were cut down the garden was made somewhat difficult to reach. The ascent accomplished, a fine garden of fruit and vegetables in the care of a colored gardener could be found, and it had many patrons round about. Particularly attractive was the garden to the boys because of its fruits, etc. It is known as square 482 of twelve lots in the lines of 5th, 6th, L and M streets, and its history prior to 1817 is the same as that of square 449, noted above. In that year Philip Mauro bought the northwest quarter of the square, lots 5 to 7, which in 1820 was in the name of Andrew Coyle. In 1835 Col. Seton bought lots 1 and 8 to 12, the east half of the square, and in 1841 the southwest quarter lots 2 to 4, $130 being the consideration for the latter three lots.

In 1830 the ground was assessed at 1-1/2 cents per foot ad the improvements on lot 5 at $400, which was afterward known as Davis' house, then listed to Way & Gideon.

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Bounded by New York avenue, L, 4th, 5th and M streets, square 514, of twenty-four lots, was apportioned equally in 1796 between Lynch & Sands and the United States. Prior to 1800 the names of William Bailey, Joseph Stras and I. Coombs were attached to some lots, and thirty years after H.M. Moffitt owned lot 3, J.A. Wilson 4 and W.H. Harrison 1 and 19. In 1841 Joseph Burch owned lot 4, and two years after E.W. Hansell bought lot 1, corner of 4th street and New York avenue. The price was $250, or 2 cents per foot, the lot containing 12,500 feet.

Square 513, between M, N, 4th and 5th of forty-eight lots, was divided between William Deakins, jr., Lynch & Sands and the government, but there were no transfers till 1829. Then H.M. Moffitt had two lots which the year after were deeded to George Cover. In 1834 Julia Sands had two, as did Polly Jennings at the corner of 4th and M streets in 1836. James A. Kennedy in 1837 aquird twenty-one lots and Peter Kennedy one on M street. In 1839 William Carroll owned a lot on 5th street, E. Kane one adjoining and another interior lot on the sixty-foot alley known for years as Ridge street. J.S. Griffin also had a lot on that street and Charles Dyson one on M street. One-fourth of a cent per foot was the appraised value until this time.

The square west, 481, of fourteen lots facing 5th and 6th streets, like the preceding square, had the government, Lynch & Sands and Mr. Deakins as owners by apportionment. Down to 1811 the Atkinsons, G. Lewis Taylor, the Warders and M. Ward owned lots, the Warders at the southwest corner. In 1836 Dennis O'Hare had two lots on 6th street and Henry Seifert owned the seven lots on 5th street.

North of the Poorhouse square twenty-two lots facing N, O, 6th and 7th formed square 447, and they were vested in the United States and included in the Greenleaf grant. Under the act of 1832 donating ground for a charitable purpose St. Vincent's Orphan Asylum was given title. In 1839 three of the six lots, 7, 9 and 12 on 7th street were bought by Andrew Rothwell for $197.60. Four years later W.R. Lowndes owned part lot 9, and in 1846 Christopher O'Hare and Reuben Brown bought parts of the corner lot at 7th and N streets. Mr. O'Hare improved his property and for many years was in business there as a grocer and Mr. Brown erected a house. There lived on 7th street in the forties H.C. Davis and Thomas Hudal.

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The sixteen lots facing O, P, 6th and 7th streets, now the site of several pubic school buildings, formed square 446, and the lots were vested in Lynch & Sands, Blodget and the government. Early were lots in the southwest part sold, but the only improvement noted is that of $500 on lot 9, noticed above. R.C. Sands in 1814 had lot 16, on 6th street; William O'Neale the next year owned lots 8 to 11, fronting 7th and P streets, which in 1825 passed to R.S. Bickley Columbian College in 1833 owned lots 4, 5, 7, 12 to 15. E. Kane in 1838 owned lot 16, which the following year went to Andrew Rothwell with lots 1, 2 and 6.

East, square 479 was cut into ten lots, in the division of which in 1797 the United States took five, and S. Blodget and William Deakins, jr., the others. Until 1840 it lay in the open, and until 1830 a quarter cent per foot or less was the appraisement. In 1819 David Shoemaker owned lot 1, at 5th and O streets, and two years later William Gallant owned 8 and 9, 5th and P streets. In 1822 Mary B. Varnum owned three lots. In 1828 Jonathan Seaver owned lot 1, which passed in 1833 to Rachel Lancaster. In 1839 Mr. Gallant owned lot 3, corner 6th and O streets, and added two lots to his previous purchase at 5th and P streets.

Between 5th, 6th N and O streets, square 480 owned by Lynch & Sands and William Deakins, jr., was constructed of twelve lots, of which six were allotted to the United States and three each to the other parties in 1796. The following year Joseph Covachichi owned lot 6, on 6th and in 1800 L. Sands had the lot adjoining 7, corner of 6th and O streets, which in 1814 went to R.C. Sands. Charles Glover in 1817 bought lot 6, which passed to James McClery in 1823, and to James A. Kennedy in 1826. In 1830 George Cover owned lot 5, and John F. Callan bought it in 1837. The corner lot 7, at 6th and O streets, in 1838 was owned by B.E. Payne and afterward by J.A.M. Duncanson. In 1840 Mr. Callan bought lot 6 on 6th street, and lots 1 and 8 to 12, the east half of the square, and made a subdivision into seventeen parcels -- Nos. 11 to 27.

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In No. 512, east of the above, there were twenty-six lots platted, to front N, O, 4th and 5th streets, and they were shared by Mr. Deakins and the government. In 1794 Mr. Greenleaf was interested. Lot 6 on N street was bought by P. Warring in 1812, and not till 1840 was there another transfer, when W.G. Cranch, nephew of Mr. Greenleaf, took title to all but lot 6. In 1846 Henry Hoffman bought lot 9 on N street.

Nineteen lots in square 511 fronted New Jersey avenue, O, P and 5th streets, and the square has similar history to the preceding down to 1845, when it was bought by John Hollidge. Here he erected a substantial brick residence, for a time having a large garden, and reared a numerous family, mot of them still residents. For a long time - twenty years or more - the Hollidge house stood alone, but later a subdivision was made and his sons erected some houses, while others purchased and erected houses.