In Old Washington
The Tiber or Canal

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, January 25, 1913 [pt. 2 p. 2]

What is now known as the B street sewer, south of the Washington market, built by Samuel Strong shortly after the civil war represents a portion of the ancient Goose creek, or Tiber, which, during the greater part of the last century, was the Washington canal. This stream appears in the old maps of Maryland, and in its course northward, near the Botanic Garden, bounded on the west the tract patented to one Pope in 1663 by Lord Baltimore, on which the Capitol is now located. The story is that Pope built his home on the hill and called the place Rome, and the creek the Tiber. The portion west of the Botanic Gardens was several hundred yards wide and the shallow waters originally covered nearly all the land now occupied by the Washington market. At the west of the Botanic Gardens was a morass along the banks of the stream, through which the branch coursed southeastward and westward.

Almost as soon as the city was laid out a canal was projected, in the interest of trade and the public health, by uniting the Potomac and Anacostia, or Eastern branch, through drainage of the low grounds, especially east of 6th street. In November, 195, the legislature of Maryland passed an act for opening and completing the canal already begun--and making the same navigable as a measure of great public health. Under this act Notley Young, Daniel Carroll of Dudington, Lewis De Blois, George Walker, William Mayne Duncannon, Thomas Law and James Barry were appointed commissioners to raise by lottery $52,500, and after paying the prizes, to use the same to complete the canal.

Company is Incorporated
It appears, however, that the work was not completed, for on May 1,1802, a company was incorporated to finish it. Those concerned were Commander Thomas Tingey of the navy yard, Messrs. Carroll and Law and D. Carroll Brent. In this act was a provision that in case it was not completed within five years it should revert to the government. In 1804 wharves were established by the city at 17th and 12th streets, and rates for landing were fixed. But the canal was not then completed, and in February, 1809, an act was passed incorporating a new company. In this company were Robert Brent, mayor; Mr. Carroll, John Law, William Brent, Dr. Frederick May, Elias B. Caldwell, clerk of the Supreme Court; James D. Barry, Griffith Coombe and George Blagden, and they were authorized to raise a capital stock of $100,000.

In May, 1812, an act was passed giving force to the Maryland act of 1795, which authorized the holding of a lottery, and in this act it also was provided that all in excess of expenses and the payment of not over 18 per cent dividends on the stock should go the corporation.

Under the acts of 1809 and 1812, the work was resumed, and, as stated in a former article, boats passed through in 1816. That part of the city in the neighborhood of the market had become the scene of much activity, being then regarded as the business center of Washington. The market house then extended, on paper, from 7th to 9th streets, but actually it took in only one square that next to 7th street. From the surrounding country came much produce by wagon and boats, the landing for the latter being at the wharf established west of 7th street. The market hours were from 4 or 5 o’clock to 9 or 10 am, Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays. Few were the butchers and small was their supply of fresh meats, much of it being brought from the slaughter houses on wheelbarrows, in one case only a few squares, for a slaughter house was on the present site of the patent office,

Bacon’s Grocery on Corner
At the corner of 7th street and the Avenue, the grocery of Samuel Bacon had been established, and it was continued there by his sons, Samuel and Peter, during the greater part of the past century. North of the Avenue the widow Cana, and Rapley and Avery were located in the grocery business. The Hughes grocery was a few doors east of Bacon’s, and south of Bacon’s corner was Mrs. Myers boarding house the groceries of John Conway, M. McDaniel and Thomas Murray.

East of 7th street subsequently became known, when tavern and eating houses were established there, as Cat Tall row. In the neighborhood was Mrs. Tucker’s boarding house, where Saks’ store is now located; Rumpf’s City Hotel and the National Intelligence office, on the south side of the Avenue, opposite Keowin’s Hotel, afterward Davis’, which in 1819 became Brown’s Indian Queen Hotel, and is now the Metropolitan. The stores of J. S. Clark, dry goods; Isaac Clark, dealer In shoes, were near by.

So far as draining the adjacent grounds was concerned, the canal did not in its then location (B street, until it struck the line of Pennsylvania avenue, midway between 4 ½ and 6th street, thence to 3d street), accomplish its purpose, and the public generally as well as the corporation and canal company, studied means for more effectually draining the grounds, As a result, in May, 1822, bill was passed by Congress authorizing the corporation to agree with the canal company to a re-location of the canal.

An agreement was made by which the public grounds reclaimed were to be sold by the corporation and the proceeds used to improve the canal and the grounds. This commission as composed of Thomas Carberry, Gen. R. C. Weightman, George Waterson, James Hoban and Adam Lindsay, and they superintended the work; had the ground subdivided into building lots and disposed of the same.

Course Is Changed
The course was changed from the corner of B and 6th streets south to a line in the center of the Mall, thence east to 3d street and southward to Canal street. It is needless to say that these lots soon were disposed of and the section became the site of an important part of the city.

The building lines were extended on the south side of C street from 2d to 4 ½ street; on the north side of the Avenue to 4 ½ street and on the south to 6th street; Maine and Missouri avenues were laid off, the new divisions being known as reservations 10, 11 and 12 and squares A, B, C, and D.

The depot of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad was located at 2d and the Avenue from 1835 to 1852; business and boarding houses sprang up along the Avenue, and some, for that day, pretentious residences were on the adjacent streets. Interspersed were the St. Charles Hotel, northeast corner of 3d and the Avenue; William Gabdy’s, on the opposite corner; Beers’ Temperance House, northward; the United States, west of Gabdy’s, and the National, at the corner of 6th street.

The Adelphi, Odeon and Athenaeum, on the Avenue, and the Olympic on 6th street, were theaters or places of amusement. The Olympic, about 1840, became John P. Tower’s printing office, and later was occupied by Buell and Blanchard, publishers of Dr. Bailey’s National Era. Michael McDermott, near 3d street, and John Young, near 4 ½ street, operated coach factories.

On Missouri avenue, facing the canal were mostly dwellings, but at the corner of 6th street was Brown’s livery stable, which was destroyed by fire in the forties. East of this S. T. G. Morsell had a carpenter shop early in the forties. One the opposite of the Mall, Maine avenue, George F. Rider & Co. had an iron foundry and machine shop, and other manufactories sprung up near by.

The canal company continued in possession until the corporation under the act of January 8, 1831, purchased all its rights and property for $50,000. This act provided for a width of 150 feet between 17th and 16th streets, 80 feet to B street south and 40 feet to Virginia avenue, and for the deepening of the same to four feet. About this time the branch of the Chesapeake and Ohio canal was completed from Georgetown to 17th street, and boats were locked there from into the mouth of the canal and were enabled to pass to the terminus at the foot of 2d street southeast on the Eastern branch.

Mall Is Inclosed
The Mall between 3d and 6th streets, through which the canal passed, was not inclosed until after 1850, and it then was improved by leveling, planting trees, etc. Then it was that the Missouri avenue residents appreciated more their location, being only a short distance from the heart of the city, but with countrylike conditions at their doors.

Until after the civil war the canal was operated by the corporation, two commissioners collecting fees for wharfage, etc., but it proved a large undertaking and filled up so rapidly that mud machines were unable to keep it dredged to the required four feet in its length. Once of twice the sediment was removed by hand, and in the last years of the corporation an attempt was made to improve it by a floodgate device. This failing, it was converted into a thirty-foot sewer.