A Noted Section (Chinatown).
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, August 6, 1911 [p. 8]
It is difficult to believe that that portion of the city between Pennsylvania and Missouri avenues and 3d and 6th streets, now the Chinese section, was once mostly swamp land, and that sixty years ago it was a high-toned neighborhood, where, in homes or boarding houses, lived some of the leading men of the nation, among them Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, Jefferson Davis and Jacob Thompson of Mississippi, Preston King and D.S. Dickinson of New York, John Fairfield of Maine, Linn Boyd of Kentucky, George E. Badger of North Carolina and Pierce Soule.
A hundred years ago this section was included in the government grounds, and was more or less a quagmire, which, before it was required for building purposes, was reclaimed from the waste. This was in ante-bellum days. Residents of Missouri avenue particularly were wont to pride themselves on their location. They were convenient to the principal market and the stores on the Avenue, but not the least attraction was the view southward, embracing, as it did, the Mall, through which coursed the old Washington canal, at that time bearing many boats on its four feet of width.
The canal, constructed by a private company incorporated in the preceding century, originally coursed along the Avenue from its turn at 3d street to midway between 4-1/2 and 6th streets, thence due west into B street. The ground adjacent for some distance was low, and by act of May 7, 1822, the corporation of Washington was authorized to contract with the canal company to change the location beween 2d and 7th streets so as to drain the low grounds. The location was changed by running south from 6th and B streets to a point exactly west of the center of the capital and thence to 3d street.
Grounds Filled Up
Reservation or Square A, consisting of thirty-eight lots on Pennsylvania and Missouri avenues between 3d and 4-1/2 streets and reservation or Square B, of thirty-seven lots on the two avenues between 4-1/2 and 6th streets were soon the scene of building operations. In less than ten years on the Missouri avenue front of square A there were $20,000 worth of improvements. Raphael Simms and C. Cox having one house each, assessed at $3,300; M. Jeffers and W. Bird, houses at $2,500 each; John Underwood, one at $5,000, and William D. Waller and Raphael Simms, two at $3,000 each, the latter at the corner of 4-1/2 street. In square B west several buildings were erected at the corner of 4-1/2 street, for which Ulysses Ward was assessed on $6,000 value. Westwood Isaac Riley was assessed on one at $2,500; Gustavus Waters, $2,300; John P. Ingle, $2,000; Gen. John P. VanNess, $1,000, and near the corner of 6th street, Thomas Burch, $400 on a carpenter shop; H.T. Weightman, $1,000, $600 and $2,500.
These were the improvements there in the thirties, at which time the assessed value of the ground was from 8 to 12 cents a foot. On 3d street, west side, there were two small houses, assessed at $600 and $300, respectively, to Thomas Sewall and D. Munroe. On 4th street George Waterson was assessed at $800 and $1,500, and on 6th street Thomas Hughes was assessed on $2,500. In the thirties there were $17,000 in improvements on the Avenue between 3d and 4-1/2 streets, C.E. Eckels being assessed for $1,800; N. Callan, $1,600; George Waterson, $1,800; Robert Brown, $5,000; Daniel Munroe, $1,800; A. McIntire, $800, and J.G. Howle, $1,400. In square B westward on the Avenue the assessments were to Ingle & Lindsley, two pieces at $2,000 each, and one at $400; W. Archer, at $2,700 and $4,800; D.S. Bullfinch, $2,500; W.M. Sawyer, $3,500; A. Preston, $4,200; W.A. Bradley, $5,500, and George Phillips, $7,000, making a total of nearly $40,000.
In the thirties on the Avenue between 4-1/2 and 6th streets, were the boarding houses of Mrs. Corcoran, Mrs. M.A. Johnson and others. T. Alexander's tavern, Hartwig's auction house, W. Keyworth's jewelry store, Jesse Lipscomb's grocery, Ingle & Lindsley's hardware store and William Gardner's coach trimming shop. At the southeast corner of 4-1/2 street and the avenue, Mrs. Blake kept a boarding house and eastward were like establishments kept by Mrs. Ballard, Mrs. Hill, Mrs. F. Cudlip, Mrs. Demonet and others, with F.G. Naylor, tinner; Benjamin Bean, carpenter, and Lee & Espey, cabinetmakers and undertakers.
On Missouri avenue were the boarding houses of Mrs. Lunt, Mrs. H. Woodside and Mrs. Reed and the residences of Mrs. Conners, W.G. Snethen, W.E. Randolph, Daniel Wilson, W.A. Williams, Ulysses Ward, Rev. Mr. Sprole of the First Presbyterian Church, S.A. Houston, Mr. Delany, Mr. Jeffers, Henson Barnes, P.W. Browning, M. McDermott, Isaac Bartlett and M. Isherwood. On 6th street was W. Berry's Columbian Tavern.
Boys Form Company
The name of the organization was the Washington Junior Artillery, and it included the following: F.H. Williams, captain; B.F. Beers and Louis Beeler, lieutenants; James Tucker, pioneer; John Foy, ensign; John Buckingham, James West and Frank Benter, sergeants; William West, Alfred Bladon, William Gibson, William Frazier, Richard Hyatt, James Harrison, Frederick Cunningham, James Sinnott, Thomas Mount, John McDaniel, William Faithful, Thomas Haitt, William Speiden, Laurance Fowler, Francis German, Charles Beeler, Monts Fletcher, Cutts Preuss, Robert Handy, J.M. Lindsley, A. Enish, Greg Ennis, James Lowe, John Cox, Frank McDermott, Samuel Hamilton, Thomas Larner, Edward Force, David Waters, William Wood, William Wineberger, James Porter, William Prout, Daniel Prout, John Hunt, Jack Robinson, R. Dorsey, Marion Fenwick, Douglas Burch, Raymond Williams, James Kramer, T. Sanford, H. Carver, James Luxon, George Sheriff, W. Dant, T. Ashton, R. Brooks, B. Ashton, J. Watson, T. Sutton, G. Cooper, M. Johnson, John Pegg, Jerry Columbus and Tom Harvey, privates.
Many of these became prominent in civic as well as military affairs, not a few becoming real soldiers in the civil war. The captain was for some years consul at Havana. Needless to say but few of them are living, Capt. Williams and F. German being the only two survivors.
In the Forties
On Missouri avenue east of 4-1/2 street were the homes of Charles Tilley, Mr. McDermott, P.W. Browning, T. Young, M. Jeffers, Mr. Tyler and John Youngs, and the boarding houses of Mrs. M.E. Morgan, Mrs. Scott, ,Mrs. Woodside and Mrs. Sophia McCormick. Westward of 4-1/2 street lived Ulysses Ward, D. Wilson, Mrs. Conners, Mrs. Wilson and others. Near the corner of 6th street was Mr. Burch's shop, Farrer's bowling alley and a stable. On 3d street was Robert Patterson, blacksmith. On 4-1/2 street were Henry Wilson, dyer; Charles Miller, tailor; John Newton, shoemaker; Joseph Thompson, tailor, and James O'Brien, and on 6th street Isaac N. Winston, Pilling's leather store and J.T. Towers' printing office.
By 1850 there was still vacant ground on the Avenue and the neighborhood had become a busy place. Stage offices were at Peck's, near 6th street, the Waverly House, West's and other taverns, and the Adelphia Theater was running. The telegraph office was near 4-1/2 street.
There were nearly fifty members of Congress here in the fifties some of them keeping house. Senator Andrew Johnson, Senator C.E. Badger of North Carolina and Pierre Soull of Virginia kept house on Missouri avenue, and other senators and representatives were at Mrs. Tilley's, Mrs. Topping's, Mrs. Duvall's, Mrs. Walker's, Mrs. Stone's and others on Missouri avenue, and at Mrs. Scott's, Mrs. Stetson's, Mrs. F. Cudlip's, Mrs. Taylor's, Mrs. Harrison's, Mrs. Davis', Mrs. Wimsatt's, Mrs. Parker's, Mrs. Williams' and others on Pennsylvania avenue, and at Mrs. Venner's on 4-1/2 street.