Of Old-Time Homes
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, November 1, 1909 [p. 9]
Immediately east of the Congressional Library there were two such squares, and, indeed, in that portion of the city between 2d, 6th, East Capitol and B streets, southeast there were, up to civil war days, wide open spaces about one or two villages or isolated homes. It would appear, notwithstanding, that a populous section was anticipated, for near the corner of 2d and B streets a site was selected for the Eastern Academy, or public school, shortly after the corporation was established. The school, however, did not materialize here, and it was located on a site at 3d and D streets.
Among the early settlers were a number of mechanics employed on the Capitol building, and some officers of the government, among them Elias B. Caldwell, clerk of the United States Supreme Court, and George Watterson, librarian of Congress.
The topography of this section was almost level, and unbroken save by a small stream which wore a gully in the neighborhood of Fourth and B streets. Consequently, there were convenient building sites and but little cutting and filling required to conform to the established grade. Settlement was tardy, as also the improvement of streets and but of small value, cents and fractions expressing it.
In Square 760
The square south, 761, consisting of eighteen lots between 2d, 3d, A and B streets, the southwest lots near Pennsylvania avenue, went in the division equally to Mr. Carroll and the government, Mr. Carroll taking the nine lots comprising the east half. Col. Caldwell, in 1808, bought of the superintendent of the city lots 5 and 7 in the southwest part, for $580, and erected a dwelling afterward appraised for $2,500. In 1800 the lots adjoining were conveyed by the trustees of the Washington Academy to Mr. Carroll in exchange for lots at 3d and D streets southeast, and the public school for East Washington was established at the latter place. Col. Caldwell, about that time, added lots 4 to 8 and 12, and in 1812 James Gales owned a lot which went to W. P. Zantzinger in 1816, one-third fronting on B street, for which the consideration was $1,500.
In 1819 Griffith Coombe owned, at the southeast corner of the square, lots 1,2 and 18, and he improved the corner lot to the extent of $2,500. This property in about the year 1837 was bought by Maj. George W. Walker of the Marine Corps, and it was his residence for many years.
In the same year, lots 12 to 17, fronting A and 3d streets, were included in the government’s donation of city lots to Georgetown College. John Kedglie then bought lot 10 at A and 2d streets, and this, with lots 9 and 11 adjoining, was purchased in 1840 by Robert Beale. Mr. Beale, the father of the late Buchanan Beale of the marshal’s office, lived for many years on the south front of the square.
Largely on Leased Grounds
Pratt, Francis, Miller et al. had succeeded to the government lots, but left no evidence of development here. The ground was first valued at 5 cents per foot and often at half that rate. Soon after the leasing above noted P. Tool and Ann Shaw succeeded to leases, and it appears that they were made at $1 per front foot per annum.
In 1802 P. Tool and Ann Shaw were each listed for property valued at $100 and P. King and John Dempsie at $00.
Four years later, Tool’s assessment was reduced to $00 and Mrs. Shaw’s increased to $250. In 1818 L. Pumphrey owned in lots 8 and 9, 50 feet front on East Capitol street, for which $500 was the consideration. N. Fagan in 1890 owned an interest in lot 6 on A street, and the next year John Taylor leased in lot 4 on A street. In 1822 Jona. Porter held in trust for Jane Mallion a lease on lot 4. In 1823 J. W. Beck owned in lot 6 by assignment of lease, afterward owning the title in fee, and the next year J. Pumphrey owned in lots 8 and 9 and D. D. Landon bought on A street. In 1826 James Martin leased on the A street front part of lot 5 and shortly after P. Martin, William Sutherland and Mildred Berry owned lots near the corner of East Capitol and 3d streets.
In 1830 the ground was assessed at an average of 4 cents per foot and the improvements were listed to James Mallion, $500, and James Martin, $100 on A street; J. W. Beck, $1,400; P. Martin, $100; W. Sutherland, $400; Ann Shaw, $150, on 3d street, and W. Pumphrey $300 on East Capitol street.
Twenty Lots in Square 788
Here was the third location for the Capitol Hill Market, it having been once in New Jersey avenue south of the Capitol, then in East Capitol street between 1st and 2d streets, and was located for the last time in the forties. It had an existence as such for fifteen years, but other markets and market stores drew business away and in the fifties the building was diverted to school purposes. The site is now that of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.
Fronting East Capitol, A, 4th and 5th streets, twelve lots from square 817, and title to all remained in Mr. Prout many years. In 1824 Charles Bell bought lot 4, corner 4th and A, and erected a small dwelling, and nine years afterward Samuel Goldsmith bought lots 6 and 7, at the corner of 4th and East Capitol streets, and erected a small house. H. Goodwin bought here in 1837 and made it his residence.
The square south, 818, improved more rapidly. In 1792 Mr. Prout owned the west half of the square, seven lots on A, B and 4th streets, and six lots of the eastern portion was included in the extensive purchases of city lots by Moses Young. In 1833 W. Lowman owned lots 3 and 4, corner of 4th and B streets; Rachel Messer owned lot 3, three years later, and N. Brady lots 11 to 13, on 5th street, in 1839. It is shown, however, that before 1830 there was a number of small houses there, William Thomas, James Gant, Jerry Lowe, Rachel Messer, Harriet Small and H. Arnold being assessed at from $50 to $300, respectively, for improvements.
East Capitol, A, 5th and 6th streets embrace square 841, of twelve lots, title to which, in 1795, was vested in the United States, and there was little change in title for nearly seventy years. Saunders Lewis, in 1838, acquired three-fourths of the square, and the next year sold Charles Miller lots 1 to 6 for $343.03. For a long time the assessed value was but a fourth of a cent per foot.
Prout Gets West Half
Beside Col. Caldwell, Maj. Walker and Mr. Beale as residents, there were some well known persons in the community in the twenties, among whom may be mentioned George Watterson, for a long time the librarian of Congress, who resided on 2d street, south of East Capitol street; Rev. Robert Little of the Unitarian Church, on B street or Pennsylvania avenue; Chris Gill and James Hanna, on East Capitol street; L. Griffin, W. Lupton, F. Connelly and James Reiling, on A street; H. Harkins, R. McEwen and William Sutherland, on 3d street.
Among the characters remembered is Jerry Low, colored, who claimed to have been a slave of Gen. Washington, and on every gala day he could be found in gorgeous uniform in attendance on some official or military company.
Twenty years afterward, in the forties, Mr. Beck was on A street, as also were Vandown Mallion and A. Tait, and H. Goodwin at East Capitol and 4th streets. On L street D. Mitchell, a grocer, and James Ownes, post office clerk, resided; on 3d street Mrs. Henning, John Mockabee and Henry Wood, and on 4th street William James, a Treasury messenger, and C. Harrison.