IN OLD WASHINGTON
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, March 18, 1911 [pt. 2, p. 2]
"So you want to know something about the Washington of my childhood?" said an eighty-year-old lady resident to the writer.
"Well, it was a most pleasant place to live in, in spite of the absence of the conveniences which we enjoy in these days. There were no skyscrapers or palatial dwellings, no asphalt streets with stone trimmings, and the homes of the people were mostly two-story brick or frame, the latter predominating. Three-story structures were scarce, and he who lived in one was regarded as prosperous, and the few who could boast of a four-story were then considered in the same light as the millionaire of today. No impassable barrier between the middle class and the more fortunate ones existed and character was placed above mere financial or business ability.
"My infancy and youth," continued she, "was spent near The Star office. I well remember the Nailors, who owned what is now the site of the municipal building. Allison had a coach factory, blacksmith shop and livery stable on that place. Thompson, who was a coachmaker, resided on the south side of D street opposite that site, and Dickenson kept a grocery at the west end of Nailor's row of small two-story bricks extending east on D street from the corner of 13-1/2 street. Mrs. Rabbit, Richard Downer, a well known carpenter, John Glover and Miss Hess were nearby. Miss Hess was a fortune teller, and in those days she had a large custom.
Early 11th Street Home
On the west side of the street at F was the dwelling and grocery of Jacob Dixon, who was well known in the District as a trainer of race horses, having charge of those of Dr. Thornton, and he also kept a stable south of his house on the site where he later built houses for his two daughters. Joseph Peck lived about midway of the square and south of him lived the Laporte family. There was then a gulley running down the street, where a stream had run. It would not do to give the names of eloping parties from this section, as I knew several girls to walk off to a minister's.
On the site of the present Star building, at Pennsylvania avenue and 11th street, was a two-story frame occupied by Charles gautier, a noted French confectioner and chef. North was the cabinetmaking shop of William McL. Cripps and at the E street corner Andrew Noerr had his bakery and residence. At the northeast corner of 11th and D streets the Madisonian office was located during the Harrison campaign in 1840, and later Robert Farnham established a bookstore there. Above Daniel Hauptman had his tinshop and dwelling. Old Mrs. Barry had a small shop known to the boys for the "cent-a-stick" taffy. Mrs. Langvoight lived north of this and had a number of goats who gave the boys much sport; sometimes more than they bargained for.
Goat Attacked Henry Clay
"I well remember," continued the old lady, "the 'fantastical parade' in 1835. The major-general of the militia was impersonated by a well-known plasterer, mounted on a scarecrow of a horse, and my brothers participated therein. I witnessed also the Indian war dance in Franklin square about the same time and well remember the campaign of '40 with its log cabins, hard cider, 'coon skins, etc. At the inauguration of Harrison, with a companion, I was in the Perseverance engine house, corner of the Avenue and 8th street, and on the market sheds in the rear there were crowds. When the procession appeared and the people were waving and cheering, I missed my handkerchief. For a time that of my girl companion's was used alternately by us. Soon my chum got so excited that she would not give me a chance to wave, and determining to wave something, I unbuttoned one of my pantelettes and used it in unison with the handkerchief. We scampered up after the procession to the White House, where the crowd was pressing to shake the hand of the President, and I succeeded in wriggling between the legs of the crowd until I almost reached him. A man who was engaged in keeping the crowd from pressing was very tall, and, watching my chance, I dodged between his knees and got hold of the President's hand.
Burning of Post Office
"We had our pleasures in those days, among them the parties of school children. It is difficult to believe now that we held picnics is what is now Franklin Square, then the 'public lot,' and in other places not half a mile from F street. I saw the laying of the corner stone and the opening of St. Matthew's Church, at 15th and H streets, in 1839, I believe, and I also heard the celebrated Lorenzo Dow, though I was a small child at the time. He was conducting revival services at what was known as the Radical church. This was a frame building erected by the Methodist protestant congregation on the west side of 12th street, south of H street, Sluice run being on the side of it. The proper name of this church was the Tabernacle, and the congregation moved to 9th street near the patent office and is now the Rhode island Avenue congregation. There were but four Methodist churches in the District, and the Foundry, then on the site of the Colorado building at 14th and G streets, was the one I attended in my younger days.
A Foundry Church Episode
Cost of Living Lower
"Military and other companies for parades, balls, etc., secured the services of Williams & Warren's band of colored musicians, for there were no other bans outside of the Marine Band. The pleasure of the balls are yet remembered by some of us old women. Then it was customary not to make any lavish display in dressing, all the ladies appearing in white tarlton or book lawn, and it was universal for unmarried women to appear in white in the summer season with a crimson shawl. I well remember that ball of the Walker Sharpshooters at odd Fellows' Hall in 1840, and it was a great affair. And, by the way, do you remember the camps at the city hall and back of the patent office when the First Baltimore Sharpshooters, Maryland Cadets and other companies took part in the laying of the corner stone of the Washington Monument July 4, 1848?"