Historic Interest In Cleared Section
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, September 27, 1913 [p. ?]
The two squares between New Jersey and Delaware avenues and B and C streets, north of the Capitol, the buildings on which are now being razed preparatory to parking between the Capitol and the Union station plaza, have much of interest other than that mentioned in the history of the Washington House, published in The Star of Saturday last. Historically and topographically, it is behind no other section of Washington.
The place described last Saturday was the only improvement in the square for fourteen years, in the beginning of the last century. In 1818 William Elliott came to this city, and on lot 17, south of the Washington property, settled with his family, building a frame cottage, planned somewhat after Mount Vernon. In the rear he also built an observatory, probably the first erected in Washington, and gathered around him many persons of scientific taste. It is related that Dr. Thornton and the priests from Georgetown College, with others, gathered there frequently and witnessed the movements of the stars. He had much ground attached, on which, like the adjoining grounds of the Washington House, fruits, plants and flowers engaged the attention of the family and friends. The carriage house was on New Jersey avenue. Mr. Elliott was for a long time under Dr. Thornton the only clerk in the patent office, Dr. Thornton being the superintendent.
Some idea of the topography of these squares may be had when it is remembered that at the corner of C street and New Jersey avenue the natural grade was ten or twelve feet below the present grade, and that eastward at North Capitol street the hill was twenty feel higher than the present grade.
On the Original Level
It was provided that at the end of forty years the lessee would be allowed $450 for the improvement on surrender of the lease. The Brookses lived here many years, as did the Stevensons, but before the civil war James M. Bucher, long a court bailiff, was the occupant of the Brooks house, and a long time after came Charles R. Campbell, and recently a Chinaman.
Buildings Erected in the 40s
In 1845 William Wurdeman, a mathematical instrument maker, who had resided on B street east of Delaware avenue, bought lot No. 1, square 685, at the northwest corner of B street and that avenue, on which he first erected a handsome frame cottage and later the corner was occupied by a three-story brick factory in which Mr. Wurdeman manufactured many instruments for the observatory and the coast survey, as well as for private parties.
About 1845 James Crutchett came to this city and took up a residence in the house lately occupied by the National Herb Company and Kretol Company, north of No. 1 truck house, and lived there for some years. This house had been occupied by Mrs. Bacon and owned by George Scott, who sold it to W. W. Stewart, and these houses constituted all the improvements up to that time. Mr. Crutchett subsequently bought much of the property in adjoining squares, and moved to the house at the northeast corner of North Capitol and C streets, and the house was later occupied by N. M. McGregor, a dealer in furniture, and Mrs. Murray as a boarding house.
Mr. Crutchett was an ex-purser of the English navy, and always wore more or less of its uniform, the deep-visored cap especially. He was reported to have been very wealthy but met with reverses before his death.
B. & O. Station Gives Impetus
On the site of the truck house in the fifties were two frame dwellings, one occupied by John Hollihan, a stone carver at the Capitol, afterward a government detective, and the other by a Mrs. Kelly.
The ground north of the truck house, in ante-bellum days over twenty feet above the present grade, was not permanently improved until 1890, and before the war there was a pond in the midst of a playground. During the civil war a small hospital was in the line of C street. In digging for a foundation at North Capitol and C streets, after the hill had been cut down, the petrified bow of a small boat was unearthed, much to the mystification of the workmen and others.
Probably First Brewery Here
About 1859 the Turners, organized some years before at Schafer’s, on 9th street near Louisiana avenue, and who met at the old Capitol, 1st and A streets northeast, erected a hall a short distance north of Juenemann’s , and it was here that the Turner Rifles were organized and had their armory.
Though being near the depot, and a fine location for hotel and saloon purposes the northwest part of the square remained unimproved until near the civil war, a pond existing on the site of the Hotel Engel, but after war time the pond was filled in and building followed.