In Old Washington
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, July 19, 1909 [p. 9]
In the now well settled portion of this city between G and K and 1st street east and west where now are St. Aloysius Church, Gonzaga College and the government printing office, there was but little indication that the rural conditions would disappear till about 1850. On the eastern slope of Burchís hill, described in last Sundayís Star, there was a solitary habitation about 1820. This was on the church square, a two-storied frame building on a hill north of I street and east of 1st street east occupied by Ignatius Boone, a clerk in the Treasury fo some years. North of this house was a small stream flowing eastward to the Tiber, which increased the value of the ground as a pasture. Most of the ground thereabouts was worked as a farm and late in the forties was known as Lynchís farm, and in the fifties as Roverís garden. With this exception the face of nature was undisturbed, the streets unopened and much of the primeval growth remained, but approximating the lines of H street there was a wagon road made by the travel over the turnpike entering the city at 15th and H streets, and the sporting element, which attended the dog and chicken matches and other amusements at the old Spring Tavern near the toll gate. Much of the ground was above the present grade and was of gravel, much of which was utilized under the corporation for foot walks and on the street beds. The Tiber cutting through east of North Capitol street, was a handicap to improvements for many years, but about 1850, about its crossing at H street, Swampoodle sprang into existence and for many years it was regarded as the typical settlement of the sons of Erin.
Quicker Results Expected
The church and college, square 622, of fifty-two lots fronting North Capitol, 1st, I and K streets, was bought of Mr. Oden in 1819 by Benjamin G. Orr, then Mayor of Washington. In 1830 the valuation was half a cent per foot on the ground, which was assessed to Mr. Orr's heirs,, as also the house above noted, for $600. John Boyle was the owner subsequently and in 1849 it was sold to Ambrose Lyn ch for a nominal consideration. The latter owned the square south, 623, from 1842 and in 1850 leased for ten years, thesesquares and part of that north to John Rover, who as above stated, engaged in gardening and supplied his stands in the markets. It was stipulated in the lease that if the corporation opened the streets during this term Mr. Rover would do the necessary fencing. In 1857 Adelaide Talbot became the owner of two lots in the southwest corner of the square.
May 4, 1857, Mr. Lynch conveyed to the president and directors of Georgetown College the east quarter of the square for a nominal consideration, and it was stipulated that a church and college should be erected and covered in, the first in two years and the latter in four years. On the same day a deed was given by Mr. Lynch to the trustees of St. Joseph's Orphan Asylum of the adjoining quarter west, minus twenty feet for an alley between it and the college fourth. The building of the church was soon after commenced and within two years was under roof, and in December 1850, it was dedicated, the celebration of the semi-centennial of which the large congregation is now anticipating.
Prominent Singers in Choir
The young but large congregations in the infancy of the church during the civil war came near being shut out of the building. The government was about to take possession and use it for hospital purposes and had lumber on the ground before the intention was known. Rev. Father Wiget protested to the officer in charge and many of the congregation joined their appeals not to use the church proper for the purpose. At the same time the use of the ground in the square north was tendered. After a few hours the members offered to erect the buildings, and they did. In a week wards sufficient for two thousand patients were in place and St. Aloysius Hospital in service.