Old Seventh Street
Reminiscences of the Early Growth of That Highway

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, July 24, 1915 [pt. 2, p. 2]

Seventh street, in the fourth decade of the last century, was discarding its country road appearance as the march of improvement continued northward. By 1830 there were a number of frame and brick houses north of the ridge (F street), and mostly of two stories. Many frame houses built for residential purposes were of the salt-box style, intended eventually for back buildings, and but only a few of such were on 7th street, for the settlers there had an eye to business.

Pennsylvania avenue and Market space had been the principal business mart in the drygoods and grocery lines, but business was then extending up 7th street. The Patriotic Bank and Franklin Fire Company had removed from west of 9th street to about the corner of 7th and D streets, and the Baqnk of Washington, originally on Capitol Hill, removed from the National Hotel to its present site, at Louisiana avenue and C street, facing 7th street.

The firm of Ailer & Tyson, from near Pennsylvania avenue and 4-1/2 street, located on 7th street above H, where they conducted a grocery and general store, in which it was stated no order could remain unfilled. John F. Callan removed his drug store from 4-1/2 street and Pennsylvania avenue to the northwest corner of 7th and E streets, where he conducted the business, and inaddition to dealing in drugs, paints, oil and glass, he traded in seeds, plants and agricultural implements. He had on the 7th street front several greenhouses, and in the upper part of his building were a number of offices.

Many Family Dwellings Erected
It was a long time, however, before any considerable portion of 7th street became strictly business street, and, in fact, to this day family dwellings are not uncommon. It is not surprising that there were so many places where liquor was sold, and, in fact, merchandise in general.

In either direction from 7th street dwellings were being erected mostly for residential purposes, for there was a goodly number employed in the post and patent offices, flanking that street, and a number of manufacturing establishments were on the cross streets. Among such was Thomas Bates, soap and candle manufacturer, who moved from C street between 9th and 10th, to the north side of G street, east of 7th, where Bates & Sons and J.E. Bates & Bros. continued so many years in business. This gave rise to the name of Soap alley, attaching to the center of the square.

Agency for Street's Upbuilding
The improvement o fthe street as a business thoroughfare was not only owing to the country trade, but to the permanment increase in population, especially that portion settled conveniently on either side. The number of taverns, grocery stores and shops seemed out of proportion, and this is explainable in part by the fact that at taverns three bedrooms for guests were required and to meet the demand for the "accommodation of man and beast" it was not difficult to find stabling for the latter.

The regulations under the license law for the sale of goods, wares and merchandise, and especially liquor, were not stringent, nor was the amount required high, nevertheless there were some "speak easies." When the capital invested was not over $500 and liquor was not included, $5 was the license fee, and there were a number of such licenses issued to women and their shops were popular in some localities. For the sale of liquor of not less than a pint with other commodities, the annual license ranged from $ 20 upward.

Rating of Tavern License
The tavern license was rated according to the numnber of rooms from $60 per annum for all not exceeding twenty rooms, and a license to sell liquor in the shops was the same.

It was not uncommon, therefore, to runacross places in which the tavern was associated with the grocery, confectionery, fruit or other business. Indeed, there was one place on Pennsylvania avenue not more famous as a congressional boarding house than as a tavern and fruit store and for its fine flower garden.

Between B and C streets there were the taverns of E. Holtzman, M. Laskey, the Steamboat Hotel, kept by Thomas Lloyd, and th eLongboat Hotel, nearby, kept by Mrs. Dan Black. The latter had been conducting such a house on Union street, near the 6th street wharf for many years. R. Sheekells, L. Gannon and M. Powell were in the tavern business, some of them in connection with groceries.

Incident at Tavern Fire
In this decade John H. Clarvoe conducted a tavern called the Mechanics' Union, which was burned, with other buildings in 1839. At that time, in throwing the bedding out of the windows, the contents were scattered. The bedticks were filled with the down of the wankepin, or "cat tail," which contents, being loosened, were carried over much of the lower part of the city by the northwest wind. From this incident the name of "Cat Tail row" became attached to that locality for near half a century. Mr. Clarvoe later enterd the grocery business in South Washington.

Isaac Beers kept a hotel on 7th street and was afterward well known for keeping a temperance house on 3d street near Pennsylvania avenue. The Kernan Tavern at the northwest corner of 7th and H streets, had passed to the management of John Hillard. S. Lusby had the management of the third Kernan Tavern on the east side of 7th below H street. John Lowery conducted one in connection with his grocery nearby, as also did C. Byrne.

Tavern Over Print Shop
Robert Berry had a tavern and grocery above the Intelligencer office, and next to that office P. Kennett had a tavern, which passed to the management of P.A. DeSaul, which was known as the "Retreat." This and the coffee house later known as Baker's at the corner of 8th and D streets, were well patronized by the printers and bookbinders of the neighborhood for some years, and were not far from the printing house of the Gideons, successors to Way & Gideon, on 9th street, and that of Mr. DeKraft, corner of Louisiana avenue and 7th street.

Capt. John H. Goddard had not then organized the auxiliary guard in 1842. He was at that time conducting a tavern and grocery on 7th street between F and G streets, and when he became a magistrate and the captain of he guard he had his office here. In the latter part of the '30s John A. Donahue, an ardent politician of the loco foco faction, established a grocery store which became a very popular one. His activity as a politician drew around him not only the local politicians, but man of hose of national reputation. During the campaigns of these times he employed field music to play democratic mottoes and emblems.

Many Grocery Store Sites
At the southeast corner of 7th and G streets Thomas McGill conducted a grocery, and nearby were like places of R. Golden, R. Chaney and A.G. Emack. On the northwest corner of 7th and G Hugh Prather conducted a grocery, and on the opposite corner Mrs. Mary Dougherty also kept a grocery. A. albert was in the same business in this neighborhood and on the Avenue. S. Washburn carried on a grocery business at 7th and E streets. Beall & Stevenson were located below E street, S. Brereton between F and G streets, afterward at the corner of F; Mrs. McNerhanny between G and H streets, and Joseph Hoosier at the northeast corner of Louisiana avenue and 7th street.

A wine store was located at the northwest corner of Market space and 7th street. T. Sinon had a flower and fruit store just northward and Mrs. Stephens an oyster house nearby. Mrs. Peckham conducted a school about the southwest corner of 7th and F streets. Mrs. Gaudmore had a coffee shop near the corner of 7th and G streets.

Wore Knee Breeches and Queue
John Leech, one of the last to wear the oldtime knee breeches and the queue, had a cooper shop near the northeast corner of 7th and G streets; M. Higgins had a wheelwright shop nearby, and W. Emmons, familiarly known as "Pop," had a picture store north of the Intelligencer office.

There were some wagon yards in that section, that at the "Crossed Keys Tavern" and Williams', between R and S streets, being the oldest. That known as Lyons' Farmers' Headquarters and later Dorsey's Hand Tavern, at the corner of 7th and I streets, was the first large frame, but a brick building was erected by Mr. Dorsey. In the '30's Henry Oshman was keeping the Farmers' Headquarters. These were not the only wagon yards, however, for there were other convenient ones at 8th and D streets and elsewhere.