By James Croggon, The Evening Star, October 10, 1909 [p. 15]
The square of ground on Capitol Hill northeast; known as square No. 725, in the lines of B, C, 1st and 2d streets, possesses much interest, for during the early years there were some of the older Washington families associated with some of the thirty-two building lots plated therein. Though these passed from the original owners slowly, a few of them became permanent sites for buildings during the first quarter of the last century, and some of the workmen on the Capitol had their homes here. The ground was originally elevated, the average being nearly ten feet above the present grade of the street, affording what in this day would be ideal building sites and permitting terraced fronts.
Until 1850 the natural grade was undisturbed and the improvements were made with no reference to aught but building lines. When, however, the streets were cut to the established grade the earth was used for terracing the Capitol, and some of the lots were also cut down to the grade.The house at the northwest corner of 2d and B streets was probably the first improvement made in the square, as also the most substantial, dating from about 1800, and it is yet an imposing residence. For very many years it was occupied by Henry Sewall and known by his name. As the residence of the Spanish minister, the boarding house of Riehl, at which Vice President George M. Dallas was a guest, and the home of Reverdy Johnson, Attorney General under Taylor, Sam Strong, a contracting builder, and Senator Barbour, it has in turn borne their names. There were one or two other early improvements, which have long since disappeared.
An Original Proprietor
In 1796 George Collard owned lot 4 on B street. Dr. Robert Sewall bought lot 1 in 1799, and afterward lots 2 and 32 in the southeast corner of the square, and in 1802 George Fenwick obtained a deed for lot 5 on B street, but had held rights in same years before.
At this time the corporation of Washington had been established and the ground listed at 6 cents in corner lots and 4 cents in the others. The improvements were listed to Dr. Sewall at $3,500 on lot 1, corner B and 2d streets; J.R. Dermott’s heirs, $800, lot 3 on B street, and Robert Brown, $300, lot 24, on C street.
Mr. Fenwick, in 1801, had leased part lot 5, midway the B street front, to P. Dougherty, and the latter, in 1805, transferred a lease of 400, subject to the payment of $15 per annum, to Peter Howard, for $15. In 1806 Robert Brown obtained a deed for lot 24, C street.
Had Garden on Lot
In 1820, Ann R. Dermott became the owner of lot 3, and the building was listed to her at $800. Eight years after Griffith Coombe held the lot adjoining, 4, and Thomas Havener owned in lot 5. In 1830 the corner lots were listed at 6 cents per foot, the others at 5 cents, and the improvements. On lot 1, Sewall’s heirs, $4,000; lot 3, Ann R. Dermott, $800; lot 4, Griffith Coombe and George Collard’s heirs, $200 each; lot 5, Thomas McIntosh, $500; lot 14, Margaret Dickson, $500; lot 24, Robert Brown, $100. Mr. Carroll had placed his lots in the hands of Tabbs, Weightman and Wallach, trustees.
An Imposing Residence
Some forty years ago the heavy grading of the streets followed; the cellar gave way to a full lower story.
In 1884 Timothy Winn, many years purser at the navy yard, purchased lots 6 and 7. Ignatius Wheatley, in 1836, bought in lot 4 -- 7,163 feet of ground -- for $600. In 1841, C.H. Wiltberger owned lot 10, corner 1st and B streets. In 1844 David A. Hall bough lot 13 north. The Dickson property, lots 14, 15 and 16, went to James Moore, sr., and Scott Stephens held lot 4. In 1845, William Fisher bought several of he Carroll lots, and Jonathan Elliot lots 21 to 26, in the northeast part of this square.