Old Washington – Goose Or Tiber Creek

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, March 23, 1913 [p. 17]

That portion of Washington now covered by the many railroad tracks leading into Union station, as also by dwellings and business houses north of Massachusetts avenue, through which once flowed the old Goose or Tiber creek, now obliterates entirely the old conditions.

Probably the earliest settlement near this creek was that of Mrs. Anna Cazanave, the daughter of Notley Young, one of the original proprietors, who about 1789, before the laying out of the city of Washington, was married to Peter Cazanave, then a merchant in Georgetown. Quite a portion of Youngsborough, the paternal estate, was given her, and the house was erected in the middle of what is now Delaware avenue between M and N streets, the spot then being a hill, which sloped down to the banks of the Tiber, on which there was a mill, known to the old residents of Washington as Logan’s mill, and afterward Pearson’s mill.

The house was a frame structure, a fine old colonial building, facing south, and it was so built as to have had an existence of fully a century and a quarter, being still remembered by some not very old men. In early days a large room in the eastern part of the house was fitted up as a Catholic chapel, and here may of the residents came from a distance and worshipped periodically. Before the war it was occupied by a congressional mess for several sessions.

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Mr. Logan, the miller, lived on New Jersey avenue near E street in the early days of the city, and Mr. Pearson, who succeeded him, on N street between 1st and 2d streets. The next building anywhere near was that of Samuel Burch, then a clerk in the office of the clerk of the House of Representatives, which was erected on I street near 1st street northwest, about the year 1808, which is still standing and in good condition. Prior to the civil war it was occupied for some time by Stephen A. Douglas, who subsequently moved to one of the new houses in Minnesota row, opposite, which had been erected by Senator Henry M. Rice of Minnesota.

Prior to 1820, Mr. Ignatius Boone, then a clerk in one of the departments, whose descendants now reside in this vicinity, lived near the corner of North Capitol and I streets, Benjamin Orr, once mayor of Washington, owned property, including a dwelling on K street east of 1st, assessed in 1800 for $600, and on H street between Delaware avenue and 2d there was a large brick building owned by Daniel Carroll, valued at $1,000. Mr. Burch in 1811 became the proprietor of square 628 between H and I, North Capitol and 1st streets. These constitute about all the improvements in sight of the creek prior to about 1840.

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About 1840 there was some little settlement in the square east of the present location of the government printing office by families from the Emerald Isle, and this was the beginning of the famous “Swampoodle” of ante-bellum days. Ten years later there was some settlement on North Capitol street above Massachusetts avenue, and also on that thoroughfare. During the days of “Know Nothingism” there was much excitement occasioned by a murder which took place in one of the first rough-cast houses erected in the District on North Capitol street near G street. A torch-light procession of the Know Nothing (or American) associations was in progress that night, and when the news reached the marchers that an Englishman had killed one of the “Know Nothings” and seriously injured another, a rush was made for the locality and threats were made to hang the perpetrator.

The known proximity of the Irish settlement added to the excitement, but the officers of the law had hurried the man, whose name was Edwards, to the station house, and gradually the excitement died down. Edwards was subsequently tried and sentenced to the penitentiary, serving out his sentence, afterward returning to England.

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Tiber creek passed directly under what is now the site of the new city post office. When tests of the ground beneath the foundations for the structure now under way were made two years ago the boring machines brought up quantities of blue mud and sand from the original stream bed, now more than sixty feet below the surface of the ground. The creek then crossed into North Capitol street, and a marsh on its banks reached the present northwest corner of the Continental Hotel. There were several branches of the stream, the principal one being that which had its source in Abraham Young’s spring, nearly a mile eastward, near the boundary of the city.

This stream formed a pool in the locality where the Columbus memorial statue is now located, and it was utilized at one time as a hog yard by William E. Clark. Running a little north of D street, the Tiber emerged into New Jersey avenue just north of the square occupied from 1852 to 1905 by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company. On New Jersey avenue, close to the stream, a frame tavern was built in the 50’s, known as Foy’s Hotel, which during a flood in the creek in that decade was washed away.

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The creek then crossed into the square now occupied by Smith’s lumber yard and into Indiana avenue, which reached that portion of the city heretofore described. In some places the Tiber was quite deep, but not more than a few feet in most parts. In the neighborhood of the Continental Hotel was a swimming pool, and about K street one known as Bluecork, which was a popular gathering place for the boys. At Indiana avenue there were stepping stones for the use of pedestrians in crossing the creek, and these stones were a portion of the favorite road from the upper part of the city to the Capitol, known as the “Ridge Route.” It is said that in the early part of the century there were few pedestrians who did not prefer that route to walking down Pennsylvania avenue.