Upper Seventh Street

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, August 21, 1915 [pt. 2, p. 2]

Seventh street north of G street was after the year 1846, the recognized main thoroughfare of that locality, known as the Northern Liberties, whose boundaries north, east and west could only be described as indefinite. With some it took in all the space south of Boundary street, now Florida avenue, between 15th street on the west and English Hill on the east, and this latter hill was, like the Liberties, difficult to describe. As before stated, the name came from a saloon on 7th street just below G street, conducted by a former resident of the Northern Liberties of Philadelphia. There was some settlement on 7th street previous to the 40s, and there is yet living at No. 1111 M. J. Sauter, whose parents settled there in 1839, starting the confectionery business. Mr. Sauter is a genuine "oldest inhabitant," being an octogenarian. There is also living in the neighborhood Joseph Plowman, now eighty-five years old, who was born on Massachusetts avenue near 7th street. These gentlemen take great pleasure in relating incidents of the early days in the neighborhood.

Truck Farm on Two Blocks
It is learned that early in the 40s lived Francis Ward, blacksmith, and Mrs. Ward kept a grocery at the corner of M street, and on the opposite side of the street lived Thomas J. Beit, a blacksmith and horse doctor, and he had about all the ground between L and N streets to 9th street under cultivation. At that time the duties of a blacksmith and horse doctor did not interfere very much with farming. Henry Horskamp kept a tavern north of Mr. Sauter's, and Mrs. Christina Hillard a shop, the latter selling groceries, notions, etc., at the southwest corner of 7th and L streets, which a few years later became a dry goods store.

The organization and location of the Northern Liberty Fire Company at the intersection of 8th street and Mount Vernon Square, in 1840, helped to build up the neighborhood, and the organization soon numbered a hundred or two membership. The company was under the leadership of John Y. Bryant some years, and many of its members later formed the Walker Sharpshooters, a crack company named for Maj. S. H. Walker, who, after serving in the first months of the Mexican war as a Texan Ranger, raised a company of mounted rifles here and returned south and was killed in battle. As the neighborhood was settled up the house not only became the gathering place of various associations, but also the meeting place for the company and a rallying point.

McKendree Church Is Started
A division of the Sons of Temperance met here some years, and meetings called for religious purposes Sunday afternoons, were the nucleus for the organization of McKendree M. E. Church later. The hall having been closed to the worshippers one afternoon, an invitation was extended by the late Jonothan T. Walker to occupy his carpenter shop, on 8th street north of K street, which was accepted. They met there and a Sunday school was organized, followed by the organization of the church.

The neighborhood from now on grew up so rapidly that a number of market people, the Hoover and Shreve families being included, projected a permanent market place from the existing improvised one.

In March, 1846, an appropriation of $2,500 was made by the corporation, and President Polk gave his assent for the location of the market house on the east side of what is known as Mount Vernon Square. A simple brick structure at about half the distance between 7th and 9th streets, facing K street, was erected at a total cost of about $1,800. In the following July the stalls were rented, those of the butchers being fixed at $20 annually, but subsequently the rental was reduced to $15. The market was a success from the beginning, several additions being constructed, and before it was demolished by order of the board of public works in the 70s the stall holders were valuing their holdings at $1,000 and upward per stall.

Impetus to Dry Goods Trade
Before the establishment of this market there had been an increase in business, and numerous establishments downtown had found new quarters on 7th street northward. An impetus was given especially to the dry goods trade, which before was confined to the stores of Charles Deveney and some small shops and a local building boom soon followed. George W. Utermehle erected on the west side of 7th street between I and K streets several three-story brick buildings, with commodious showrooms. Messrs. Brown & Hyatt and R. B. Hall were located there in the drygoods business for some years. A grocery had been located at the northwest corner of 7th and I streets, conducted by A. Holmead and later by A.H. Young, and above it, in 1826, were the groceries of B. F. Morsell and E. F. Queen & Bros. J. G. Weaver, confectioner, was located nearby, and later Jacob Fussell of local ice cream fame commenced his successful business career here.

Colored Man a Mexican War Hero
Nearer the market was the metal and tin establishment of Thomas Connor of the first ward, who was familiarly known as "Tin Connor," because there was another Connor by the same name known as "Hack Connor," from his business of hack driving. Mr. Utermehle, a tailor, two or three butter merchants and carpenters lived on the square, at the north corner of which William H. Jones kept a grocery.

On the east side of the street lived D. S. Mitchell, a physician, and a local minister of the Methodist Church; Andrew Rothwell, a well known printer, who was long collector of taxes; Samuel Wise, carpenter; James Shreve, Mrs. T.P. Jones, and later W. J. C. Du Hamel, who was well known in military circles as in the medical fraternity.

A colored man, a slave, belonging to Mrs. Shreve, and a porter at Queen's grocery, was as well known as any one on the square. He went later to Mexico as a servant of an officer, and in one of the battles, becoming separated from his master and getting possession of a musket, he fought heroically and won the commendation of officers and men. For the balance of his life, after his return, he was regarded as a hero in that neighborhood. On the square north of the market, on the east side of the street, there was James Straub's pottery, which was in operation a number of years, and three private residences. On the west side of the street there was located William Spignul, a dealer in the market, and later a grocery at the corner of K street; Mrs. Barker, a fashionable milliner of that day; John Shreve, a market man, and a half dozen private residences.

Store Popular Gathering Place
On the west side between L and M streets Jacob Barber was located as a shoemaker and dealer in shoes, and two of the Shreve family, Caleb and Samuel, dealers in the market. Samuel Hoover, butcher and Henry Walker, painter, also had their homes there. Besides Mr. Sauter, confectioner, and the Wards and the Horskamp tavern, there was also the grocery of R. J. Falconer, with food supplies, on the east side. Further out there were D. Elmbrod, grocer; Mr. Belt and a few others, including Joseph Fugitt and William Johnson.

Between G and I streets there had been some settlement before this time, and in the early 40s the west side of the street contained a number of business places and there were several public-spirited residents.

At the northwest corner of G street Valentine Harbaugh had established a drug store. Mr. Harbaugh was prominent in public school interests and very popular as a citizen. His store for many years was the gathering place for those interested in local affairs.

At the north end of the square, at H street, Hiram Richey was engaged in the stove and tinning business, and he, too, was popular and was long prominent in military affairs.

Did Congressional Printing
John T. Towers, who did much of the congressional printing in those days and also served in turn in the city councils and as mayor of Washington in the 50s, was also a resident of this square.

On the east side of the street there were three groceries, those of Mrs. Moran, John Lowry and Mrs. Randolph, Nearly facing Sam Magee's Bakery was that of H. Nicholas, and nearby Dr. Johnson Elliot had his residence and office.

On the square above the Atler & Tyson store was an attraction, as was Mrs. Ailer's fancy store adjoining. Nearby was Wes Adams' grocery, and the tavern at the corner of I street, known once as the Clinton House, was then known as the Lyons House. It was a large frame structure, which later gave way to P. W. Dorsey's brick hotel. On the opposite side of the street was M. Hunter's blacksmith and wheelwright shop and A. S. Martin's carpenter shop.