Blocks Once Fields
Acres of Growing Crops Near Capitol in Early Years.
Buildings Were Scarce
Streets in Northeast Only Wagon Tracks and Roads.
Lots Sold Under Agreement
Government Sought to Build Up City – Building Inducement.
Land to Georgetown College.

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, November 7, 1909 [p. 15]

Eleven building squares constituted that portion of the city lying between B street north, East Capitol, 6th and 11th streets east, on the lands on William Prout and George Walker, when the city was planned. Though they now form a thickly settled section, to many it seems only yesterday when acres of corn and fields of other crops were growing there, and but two or three homes were to be found. Prior to 1800 these conditions existed, and when the civil war brought thousands of troops to the capital there were any number of camp sites accessible. Although Lincoln Hospital was located at that time on the public reservations now known as Lincoln Park, it was not because other places could not be secured, but simply because it was government ground.

It may be said that it was not until this period that there was settlement for home and business purposes, for then the buildings could be numbered on one hand and none bore evidence of long standing. The streets were unpaved, and scarcely was there a wagon track to be found, and, as a rule, lots, squares and streets laid in the open, while in a few instances crops were inclosed by “worm” fencing, some of it taking in the street beds.

It needs, therefore, no assertion that there was grand sport here with dog and gun; that there was pasturage for the many cows kept by the old families of Washington, and ample territory for the rambling boys of old.

Agreement With Greenleaf
Under the agreement with Mr. Greenleaf in 1794, for the sale of lots to him for $80 each, he is to improve every third lot and the building regulations requiring the erection of substantial houses of brick or stone, much of this ground passed to him. Many were optimistic then that through him, Morris J. Nicholson, Pratt, Francis J. Miller and others, such buildings would appear, but they were doomed to disappointment. Of such lots, sixty-eight were sold at public sale in 1800 to Moses Young of the State Department for $85. These contained 5,265 square feet each, and the price was a little over 1.5 cents per foot, while the corporation values ranged from 1/2 to 1 cent per foot. Not a single improvement was listed in this section until the twenties, and the ground first listed at 2 cents, between 6th and 7th streets, was then 1 cent; that between 7th and 10th, 1 cent, reduced to 1/2 cent, and between 10th and 11th, 1/3 cent cut to an eighth and a quarter.

On East Capitol street between 6th, 7th and A streets north were twenty-six lots of square 868, in Prout’s land, which in 1795 was vested in the government. These in 1800 were included in Moses Young’s purchase of Morris J. Nicholson’s interests.

Some Early Owners

In 1829 E. S. Burd et al. had several; in 1838 S. Lewis and Charles Miller others, and, in 1845, John Owens owned near A and 6th streets.

Eastward, square 897, fourteen lots on East Capitol, A, 7th and 8th streets, the property of Prout and Walker, was divided, Prout taking the east half of lots 1, 2, 10 to 14. The history of the west half is the same as that of square 865 down to 1820. In that year William Prout gave Noah Brashears a lease of 1,360 feet of ground on East Capitol street for ninety-nine years at $10 per year. In 1838 S. Lewis had lots 6 and 7 on 7th and A streets, which went to Peter Little the year after, and in 1845 to W. H. Gunnell.

Between 8th, 9th, A and East Capitol streets, square 919, of like plat, the lots were divided, 3 to 9 to George Walker, and those in the east half of the square to the United States. The latter has similar history to the above, with the exception of T. Law being associated with Morris J. Nicholson.

Joint Ownership With Uncle Sam
In 1815 John Goulding had lots 1, 2, 10 and 11, which he transferred to J. Fry. In 1820 R. Gilmore had 1 and 2, and E. Burd 13 and 14. In 1838 S. Lewis had 10 to 12, to which P. M. Pearson succeeded to, and in 1840 Thomas Smith.

George Walker, in 1795, was vested with title to lots 3, 4 to 9, and the United States to the other of the ten lots in the lines of 9th, 10th, East Capitol, A street and Massachusetts avenue, forming square 941. Greenleaf and assigns were associated with the government in those latter lots. In 1820 Alexander Kerr owned lot 4, and 1822 George Callard, 5 and 9, which George Adams afterward owned, and then W. and J. Willink.

All the square between Massachusetts avenue, East Capitol, 10th and 11th streets, square 966, was vested in Mr. Walker, but Greenleaf was also interested for years. In 1822 James Read owned the three lots, and 1839 W. T. Baldwin was the owner.

The square north, 965, west of Lincoln Park, of fourteen lots, on Massachusetts avenue, 10th, 11th and B streets, was partitioned between Mr. Walker and the government, who took the west and east halves, respectively.

A $200 Improvement
In 1800 Messrs. Shaw and Birth bought lot 1, corner Massachusetts avenue and 11 street. J. S. Lewis had lots 3, 4, 9 to 12, in 1816, and in 1840, in the partition of A. Karr’s property, lots 5 to 8 were included. In the 20s a two-hundred-dollar improvement on lot 11, on B street, was listed to W. T. Baldwin.

Eight lots on Massachusetts avenue, 9th, 10th, and B streets constituted square 940, of which lots 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8 were vested in Mr. Walker. In 1800 J. S. Stephenson owned lots 4 and 5, and Shaw and Birth lot 3. R. Parrott, in 1818, owned the Walker lots, and in 1817 J. Pickrell succeeded. In 1821 parts of lot 1 were owned by J. Miller, Michael Delany, W. Good and F. Golding. George P. Atwood, the same year, bought of Mr. Delany part lot 1, 35 by 100 feet, on Massachusetts avenue, for $35, and three years later sold it to Mr. Standley for $100. In 1828 W. W. Lowe leased lots 2, 6, 7 and 8 for the legal interest, 6 per cent, on 23,403½ square feet at one cent per foot. In 1831 W. Davidson owned in lot 1, as did William Dewees in 1836. Mr. Lowe was a resident here as a master bricklayer for many years.

Col. Tayloe an Early Owner
George Walker was vested with title to lot 2, square south of 917 and the government with lot 1 of the same, these being on the lines of Massachusetts avenue, B and 9th streets; square 918, formed by Massachusetts avenue, A and 8th streets, was divided similarly. James Davidson owned the Walker lots in 1813 and in 1839 E. S. Burd et al. had the other. In 1839 Michael McDermott and W. G. Clark were owners of lot 2, as was W. T. Baldwin two years later.

In the division of the eight lots fronting Massachusetts avenue, A, 7th and 8th streets, square 896, the government took those forming the east half of the square, Mr. Prout the southwest fourth, and Mr. Walker the northwest quarter. Greenleaf was interested in the government lots which had the same history as those in squares above noted. In 1812 Col. John Tayloe owned lots 5 and 6, the northwest quarter of the square, which the consideration was $117.92. In 1827 Julius Forrest owned them. In 1820, E. S. Burd et al. owner the northeast fourth, 7 and 8. S. Lewis in 1838 owned lots 1 and 2, the southeast corner, and Peter Little owned them the year following.

Between A, B, 6th and 7th twenty-six original lots formed square 867, and title to those forming the east half was in Mr. Prout. In 1823 E. McWilliams bought in lot 3 on A street and soon after there was a house here listed at $200. In 1828 Matilda Warthan was an owner on this square and in 1837 the government lots were included in the donation of Congress for education and charitable purposes and vested in Georgetown College.