Regarded as Necessity by Old Washingtonians
Building Up The Squares
Public Wells Preceded the Construction of Homes
Settlement Above H Street
Territory Embraced Between 7th and 13th Streets N.W.
Where Wells Were Located

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, December 11, 1909 [pt. 2, p. 3]

In the settlement of that portion of the Capital city above H street between 7th street and 13th street northwest and the wild waste of commons known as the slashes, the location of public pumps influenced the building up of the squares and the conversion of the waste in a growing town.

With 7th street as a thoroughfare to Montgomery county, much used by the farmers en route to and from the old Marsh, or Center, market, this street led in the civic development of the section. The water supply and settlement usually were simultaneous, and ofttimes while material for building was being deposited near the site of a house the owner would start a petition for a pump, in some cases would assume the responsibility and look to the owners of adjacent ground and the corporation for reimbursement.

Some of the pumps noted are now remembered by but few. A number of them were used for only a short time, a new pump with fine water causing those with inferior water to be abandoned. There is no complete record of the pumps, and what follows is based mainly on the recollection of William Tucker and the children of the ward commissioners who were engaged in putting them in and were charged with their supervision.

Orphan Asylum Site
On the west side of 7th street, midway between H and I streets, the Washington City Orphan Asylum, now at 14th and S streets, was located, about the year 1815, in rented quarters, and was there several years. About the same time the lot on the corner above was in use as a building site and a pump of Kernan's door at the corner of H street, described in The Star of November 26, supplied the public. It was a public house under the name of the Farmer's Hotel, was conducted by J. Lyons, in the forties. It became a most popular resort for country people, having a large wagon yard for their accommodation, and was afterward known as the Clifton House. In the fifties, under P.W. Dorsey, it was known as the Hand Tavern, but in a few years it took the name of Dorsey's Hotel, and increased accommodation for teams was provided by extending the yard and constructing a brick building of large dimensions for that day.

South the establishment of Ailer & Thyson had been established, and groceries, paints, oils, glass, crockery, flour, feed and hardware were for sale. Mrs. Ailer's notion and fancy goods store adjoined the other store. On this square were also William Adams, a grocer; A. Bassett, saddle and harness maker; T.A. Wineberger, tailor, and P. Leydane, boot and shoe dealer. Opposite them, in the thirties, was N.B. VanZandt, one of the earliest claim agents, and for many years a Treasury clerk; William Hunter, a clerk in the fourth auditor's office, and M. Hunter, a blacksmith and whitesmith.

About 1840 John Williams was located on the east side of 8th street south of K street, and in the neighborhood were William H. Ward, William Dougherty, George Harvey, painter; D.D.T. Leech of the Post Office Department, S.H. Taylor, bricklayer, and others.

Crandell's pump, at the northwest corner of 9th and I streets, was popular in the fifties.

At the southwest corner of 7th and K streets, there was a pump convenient to the general public, attracted by the location of the Northern liberties market and the fire company on what was but an open waste.

Corner of K Street
By 1845 it was well built up by residences and stores and on the corner of K street the pump in front of Thomas Conner's blacksmith and junk shop had a good patronage. George W. Utermehle was there in the tailoring business, as also Dr. S. Mitchell, A. Martin, John Holt, H.T. Buckley, Mrs. Abercrombe, Brown and Hyatt and E. Deveney, dry goods dealers; A. Wagner, carpenter; J.G. Weaver, confectioner; S. Wise, carpenter; B.F. Morsell, grocer, and at the I street corner A.H. Young, grocer.

North of K street, before 1840, V.E. King kept the grocery long after known as Spignul's. Mr. Spignul was then a dealer in the market, living north of K street. The water supply came from the pump in K street west of the store, and it was known as Griffith's. On 7th street were H.T. Parker, tailor; E.F. Queen & Bro., grocers; C.F. Tastepaugh, grocer; Mrs. Smith, B. Henning, carpenter; Walker Lewis, S.H. White and Mrs. Hillary, at the corner of L street.

A pump of good water at the southwest corner of 8th and L streets was in a neighborhood of frame dwellings, where the footways of red gravel, laid in the forties was provided for by the corporation paying one-half the expense and the property holders the balance. Joseph Downing, Joseph Reeves, John Ferguson and Squire Gilbert L. Gilberson were some of the neighbors; and to judge from its long service, it having been among the last removed, it was a valuable adjunct to the section.

In the neighborhood of 12th street and New York avenue good water was in demand about 1840 as were also brick pavements. John Sioussa was west of the corner, and there are half a dozen small brick houses yet standing there. The grocery of James E. Ager was here for several years, and in the forties the corner site was improved by Michael Talty, who conducted a grocery business and a fruit store on 7th street near this avenue. R. Stoops had a grocery here in 1850. At one time many of the patrons were colored residents, who lived on the north front of the square, but by this time a number of white families patronized the store, as well as the pump, and the shoemaking shop adjoining flourished. A good pump was there for seventy years.

The northeast corner of 8th and I streets was the location of a fine pump convenient to the residences of Michael Reardon, many years a deputy marshal of the local and the Supreme Court of the United States; William Jones, a well-known carpenter; Joseph L. Burnett, proprietor of the pottery east, and George McNeir, a claim agent, and D. McPherson, a carpenter, southward.

From the northeast corner of 9th and I streets came the water supply by pump in the forties to John Scrivener, clerk; Thomas Lewis, bricklayer, and W. Flenner, merchant tailor.

At the northwest corner of 10th street and New York avenue, prior to 1840, Pickrell's store had a pump in front, and the water being regarded as containing magnesia, there was even a great run upon it. After Mrs. Pickrell, George Seitz, baker, moved there, and it took his name. In later years, when a drugstore was located there, it became Dr. Cissel's pump. It was condemned about 1890 and removed.

Among the Best Known
One of the best known of the old-time wagon yards for country people was that at the northwest corner of 12th and H streets, George W. Stewart having this as an attachment of his grocery and feed store from about 1835. Conveniently in front of the store the old corporation well and pump were taxed for water supply. Besides the country people, with their teams, the flower garden of Bulat, on H, 11th and 12th street, opposite, and the neighbors depended upon it. It was a popular corner, known far and wide as "George Stewart's," and was a rendezvous for the boys of that section. Many an exploit of "the gang" was planned at Stewart's pump. A little south, across 12th street, flowed the Sluice run from Franklin Square, and in the thirties the frame chapel of the Tabernacle congregation of the Methodist Protestants was erected south of the run. This in after years was the school of Wethebee & Pugh.

When 11th and K streets were graded in 1840 a hill of gravel twenty feet high was left northeast. Here had been erected by a Mr. Garrett three small frame houses, which were occupied by Mrs. Chase, George Johnson and another colored family. The cutting down of this hill lessened the depth to water, for the pump was placed on the new grade, and the well was used by the congregation of Asbury Church, the Posey family in the northwest and Mrs. Turton's store, E.H. Bates and others, south.

In the forties from the northwest corner of Massachusetts avenue and 12th street the neighborhood was supplied by Wilkins' pump, and it continued in service for sixty years, noted for both the quality and quantity of its water.

About 1858 a well and pump were demanded on the north side of L street between 12th and 13th streets, though but few families had settled near this point. Fred Siousa, a plasterer, afterward a messenger of the Bank of Metropolis, was the first settler, and Charles Baker of the adjutant general&39;s office moved from the southwest corner of 12th and L and, building near the pump, his name attached.

Pettitt's Pump Here
At the northwest corner of 10th and K streets th pump was known as Pettitt's pump from the strenuous fight made by the late C.W. Pettitt against its removal. Mr. Pettitt lived on Massachusetts avenue from the forties till his death, in his octogenarian days, a few years ago. He drank this water exclusively and ascribed his health and longevity to its use. There was but scant settlement when it took the place of the spring on the square east, and it is supposed that it was from the same font.

The square northwest was then a gravel bank twenty or more feet above grade on the summit near 11th street, small frame buildings appearing subsequently. South of K street, however, resided W.C. Goddard of the Treasury watch; Aaron Gartrell, a butcher, Capt. H.N. Steele, a watchmaker; Thomas F. Harkness, tailor, and others.

From the southeast corner of 9th and K streets the neighbors were supplied with pump water for about forty years, among them Thomas and Michael French, shoemakers; Charles Croggon, shoemaker, and Thomas Mustin, fifth auditor of the Treasury.

Henry Greer early in the fifties erected a row of frame dwellings on the north side of M street and opened a grocery at the corner of 8th street, in the fifties, a pump was set which supplied more truck gardens than dwellings, and helped to irrigate the former. It was in service until a few years ago.

From the southwest corner of 10th and M streets, not far north of the little grocery of J. Russell Barr, the neighborhood procured pump water, and there were settled here George Vonderlehr, stonecutter; George Dice, M.R. Coombs and others. William Durr, a well known carpenter was at the northwest corner.

Another pump at the southwest corner of 11th and M streets, opposite Stobert Farnham's, was an incentive to settlement in the forties. Near the corner on M street was Arthur McIntire of the patent office and on 11th street Edward Murphy in a typical country home, with garden attached; and at the northeast corner Mr. Barr in the fifties erected a three-story frame residence and removed his grocery from 10th street. The pump there was among the last removed.

Incentive to Home Building
About the corner of 12th and M streets by 1845 Giles Dyer of the sixth auditor's office was the first settler. Late in the fifties Leroy Edwards erected the brick building at the southwest corner of those streets, establishing a grocery, and with the convenience of the pump south and west homes were erected. Edwards' pump was appreciated for half a century.

King's pump at the southwest corner of 12th and N streets supplied the colored settlement on the east side of 12th street in the fifties and was handy to Morrison's large garden the square north of N street, and until about 1900 its water was the favorite drink for many.

On Gassaway's Hill about 10th and N streets the pump at the northeast corner about the year 1830 supplied a number of colored families, albeit some preferred the water of Jerry Crown's spring in the square south.

Dickinson Nailor by this time had erected a two-storied frame building and a pump was put in at the corner, which was ever after known by his name. On the west side of 10th street above N street the square formed the garden attached to the residence of William N. Nourse, erected some years before, but north and east of the pump there were some small frames. Before the civil war a pump was called for on the same square, located on the east side of 10th street, midway between the cross streets, and this for years was a rival to the corner pump.