Old Washington
Old-Time Judiciary Square Stream

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, February 23, 1913 [p. 15]

For the larger part of the last century the stream which flowed through Judiciary Square and by Indiana avenue, reaching the Tiber a few yards south of C street, was one of the best known in the city. It had its rise midway between 4th and 5th streets and K and L streets from a spring, but there were more than one of these springs to the westward. One was in the southeast corner of the square, north of L street, between 5th and 6th, and in after years the garden about it was known as the "Garden of Paradise," a favorite pleasure resort. Another spring was located in the northeast part of the Libbey lumber yards, and much of the land thereabout was marshy.

In this marshy land were located nearly 100 years ago the leech ponds of Samuel DeVaughan, a noted "cupper" of his day, who for many years resided at 9th and E streets. Opposite these ponds, eastward, about eighty years ago, there was a spring and also a tanyard conducted by James Moore.

Offered Lot for Lounge Spring
As evidence of the non-activity in the real estate market, it may be stated that a lot in this section, twenty-five feet front, was offered to a carpenter at that time for a lounge spring.

The main spring was eastward of this point, and in after years when medicinal waters came into vogue, a drinking pump brought up what was known as Columbia water, which, for a time, was very profitable to the proprietor. The mainstream flowed from about the center of the square on which a Mr. Howlett carried on a garden for some years through the square and was arched over at G and H streets.

Entering Judiciary Square, about midway between 4th and 5th streets, passing very near the old jail erected about 1804, in the center of the square, and thence crossing 4th street, it entered the square between D and E streets again. For a time it answered for sewerage purposes of the residents of that square. In the days of the old corporation, however, a sewer was laid in 3d street and the cost assessed on the residents.

The jail, in which were confined local offenders against law, as also the insane of the District of Columbia, whose friends could not take care of them elsewhere, did duty as such until about 1838, when a new jail was erected in the northeast corner of the square, near 4th street. Into this stream was conveyed the sewage from the old jail, as also that of the new, and also from the city hall, in the basement of which the families of the janitors lived for many years.

Sewage Made Pump Famous
There was a famous pump in the rear of the city hall, whose waters became known and were much appreciated by many who were afflicted, but it was afterward discovered that the alleged medicinal virtue of the water was due to sewage leaking into the well.

Passing through the square east of the city hall, a few feet from the corner of D street, it passed very near at the end of the latter days of the eighteenth century the City Hotel, which, however, did not have a long life as such. It passed directly through the corner of Indiana avenue and 3d street, where is now located a local drug store, a spot once occupied by A. Baldwin & Brother, as a planning mill. At this point, it received the waters of a spring nearby. This spring was early appreciated for a century ago steps were placed so that the public could have access to it, and it was inclosed in masonry, on which was carved: "Erected during the mayoralty of Robert Brent," who was the first mayor of Washington, from 1802 to 1811. Thence it crossed tortuously down Indiana avenue, crossing 1st street and entering the Tiber a few yards south of C street. The Baltimore and Ohio railroad crossed both streams by bridging them.

Run Deep Enough for Canoes
The Judiciary square stream was fed by a run from the northwest corner off the square, which received the surface drainage from a large area. While normally it carried but a few inches of water, it frequently overflowed, and indeed, in 5th street sixty years ago the water was often deep enough for canoes. In the neighborhood of 7th and L streets there was a spring known as Straub’s, which was much appreciated by the few settlers in that section before pumps were located.

There was also a small spring about one square westward, and another ab out the northeast corner of Mount Vernon square. The water from these found their way across 7th street to Massachusetts avenue.

Drowned at 5th and G Streets
There was another spring in the rear of the Ellis property, on the north side of Massachusetts avenue, between 6th and 7th streets, the waters from which in the 50s were utilized by the pump known as Ellis’ pump. These waters made their way down over the square between 5th and 6th streets to 5th and G streets, joining the former stream a few hundred yards north of the watchman’s lodge in the square.

At the northeast corner of 5th and G streets, F.B. Lard conducted a grocery, and there was some settlement thereabouts prior to 1850. About sixty-five years ago Baalam Burch, a builder, fell off the long bridge here and his body was two weeks afterward found near Indiana avenue and 3d street.