Early Plan Failed
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, March 5, 1910 [p. 15]
Within the lines of South Capitol street, 1st street west, M and N streets south, a heroic attempt was made as early as 1793 to convert that portion of Carrollsburg to one of the best improved sections of the capital of the nation, but from various causes it was a failure. This attempt, however, resulted in furnishing much business for the Circuit Court of the District soon after its establishment in 1801, and for a number of years there were suits over the buildings erected on South Capitol and N streets, in which the interests of Daniel Carroll of Duddington, the proprietor; James Greenleaf, Morris and Nicholson, Thomas Law, W.M. Duncanson, Pratt, Francis Miller et al., the English Building Company and others were involved.
It appears that some of the houses were completed and occupied in the infancy of the city. Dr. Frederick May lived in one of them before his settlement near New Jersey avenue and C street southeast, a few years after, Hugh Densley, Isaac Reed, John Stearn, Alexander Davidson and William Lovering owned and lived in some of them.
The corner may be regarded as the birthplace of Washington Methodism, for here was a class meeting organized in 1802. The present Trinity M.E Church, on Seward square, Capitol Hill, traces its lineage from this class. Seven or eight buildings as late as 1830 were occupied and were listed by the corporation for $3,000 each, and the ground at 4 cents per foot.
After this time the houses gradually went to decay, down to the fifties, when some were occupied by colored people, but with the first municipal improvements, the free grading of South Capitol street by Richard Wallach and others, about 1850, for the clay which was made into bricks, they were left twenty feet or more above grade and soon disappeared. As stated in The Star of February 26, there were no more beautiful sites for residences than in the lines of Carrollsburg. Even now when the grades have been lowered, the view therefrom is so commanding as to cause surprise that there has been so little development. In early days it was alleged that the ground was held at too high a figure and some who settled there in after years charged that it was the tardiness of the corporation in fixing the grades. In fact, many years ago a brick house was erected and to make it safe the owner had to purchase lots on either side and terrace from the natural to the established grade to save it.
Assigned to Mr. Carroll
Francis Scott Key, Trustee
In 1822 Mary McNantz conveyed a lot with two buildings, listed for $6,000, to Harriet Brent, the consideration being love and affection and a prayer book. In 1830 James McCormick acquired part of the square assessed to Dingley's heirs through tax title. Ten years before the assessed valuation of the land was reduced to 1-1/2 cents per foot on the improved property, listed to Mr. Stern, W. Lovering, I. Keed's heirs and H. Bradley, $3,000 each, and Harriet Brent, $6,000. By tax title, Samuel D. King, William Gunton and R.E. Reed had interest, and in 1844 William G. Cranch obtained title to the ground on which the twenty buildings were erected. In the meantime much of the clay had been converted into brick, and the houses left high and dry. At present, however, there is little improvement, but the valuation of the ground runs from 6 to 20 cents per foot.
In square 650 there were twenty-four lots platted in the lines of Half, 1st, Canal, M and N streets, of which title to all except the four fronting N street was given Mr. Carroll. Lot 1 was given Mary and Elizabeth Carroll, 2 to Peregrine Tighlman, 3 to Henry Bradford and 4 to Henry Hill in 1796. Other than being listed first at a value of 3 cents, then for forty years at half that sum. It figured little in public records. In 1827 William Harper had part lot 1; corner N and 1st streets. In 1825 Tibbs, Weightman and Wallach, as trustees had the Carroll lots, most of them by tax title passing to James Owens in 1832. There were no improvements then listed, and the ground was rated at 1-1/2 cents per foot. In 1839 John Evans held for Elizabeth Mills, 3,000 feet, the consideration being $200, and in 1844 by tax title W.G. Cranch had 178,774 square feet in the square.
St. James creek marsh, in old times a favorite resort for the gunner, encroached on the west, and early in the last century a bridge in N street spanned the creek. Well settled is this square, small houses covering it, and from 4 to 20 cents being the assessed value of the ground.