The City’s Infancy
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, July 22, 1906 [p. 9]
In the early part of the last century the Tiber creek, which was under the name of the Washington canal, was being walled, but the work had not then reached the line of 11th street. At this point a little stream flowed into it from the north, forming a small basin. The north shore was marshy and the tides and rains made its lines indefinite, sometimes throwing them above C street. In 1816, when the work was nearly completed to 12th street, it was opened from that point to the Eastern branch. In that year the canal company was authorized to construct a basin between 10th and 12th streets, the site of which is now occupied by the wholesale market, and here was located on the west side of the basin what was familiarly known as the 12th street wharf. A lumber yard was established on the west of the basin, extending to 12th street, by Messrs. King and Langley, which in after years was conducted by Ulysses Ward for a long time. With the consumption of wood for fuel nearby, timber came in demand, furnishing employment to boat and team. The canal basin became a lumber and wood market, the business finally extending far along the banks of the canal.
In the thirties there was on C street the tavern of Jonathan Appler and the homes of Hezekiah Langley, T.H. Hooper and George Gibbons nearby. The valuation of the ground, which in 1802 was six cents, had increased to ten cents per foot in 1820.
The shop of H. Aulb & Co. at the canal and 11th street in 1820 was assessed for $250. The home of Mrs. Jackson, colored, at 12th and C streets, was assessed for the same amount. Mr. Appler’s tavern building was assessed $1,800. On the corner of 11th and C streets Ingle & Lindsay, hardware merchants of Capitol Hill, had a branch building valued at $700. G.N. Bayly and William Stewart lived on 11th street near the Tiber, and Josiah Simpson resided at 12th street below C street.
The square now covered by the post office building was valued at 8 cents per foot in 1802 and had appreciated to double that amount in 1820. In 1804 a Masonic hall, valued at $1,200, was erected on part of the lot, 12 by 50 feet, for which $75 was paid by Federal and Columbia lodges. This was used by them and other lodges till 1826, when the hall at 4-1/2 and D streets, opposite the city hall, became the headquarters of the fraternity. The old structure was long after used by the Washington Library and public schools and colored Odd Fellows, standing till the land was condemned for the post office. About 1805 besides the Masonic hall there were on the square the properties of George Moore, assessed for $100, Wm. Fletcher, $300; J. Anderson, $250; John Sessford, $250, P. Deary $300, and W. Fitzgerald , $140. In 1824 the valuations were: Masonic lodge, $800; properties of John Sessford, $250; Thomas Given, $1,000; G. Moore, $900; J.P. Stewart, $250; D. Kiler, $2,200; F. Coyle, $1,800; P. Deary, $1,200; John Sessford, $800; W. Stewart, $550; J. Withers, $1,100, and L.H. McPherson, $800.
Original Property Owners
The square the southeast corner of which is occupied by The Evening Star and the southwest corner by the Raleigh Hotel was an important one in the infancy of the city. There were but two lots fronting the avenue and but fourteen on the four sides, but a subdivision of lots 2 and 3, now covered by the Raleigh, was made by John McClelland in 1811 into lots A to F. The municipal valuation of the ground was 12 cents per foot at the start, but it reached 40 cents in the 20’s. Where The Star is now located was a part of lot 1, with which the names of William Lovell, Albert Joy, Benjamin Stoddert, Thomas Given and William Thompson were associated in 1801. The entire square was included in the lots of Morris and Nicholson, from whose possession they went by their default to comply with the terms of purchase. It is shown that in 1802 William Thompson was taxed on a valuation of $3,000 for improvements, which five years later are charged to Albert Joy, and Mr. Given was assessed $250. The Thompson property was a frame structure on part of the lot west of The Star Building. At the same period the Washington Building Company was assessed $2,500 on three brick buildings on lot 4, fronting 12th street, one of which, in 1812 went into possession of Washington Boyd, then marshal of the District, and he lived here many years. The two others were then owned by David Shoemaker of the general land office. P. Tuel, assessed $350; Shreve and Unthank, $800, and William Thompson, $150, were on 11th street. In 1805 lot 2 was owned by W.H. Dorsey, and in 1808 John McCleland sold part of his possessions, fronting 21 feet on the avenue and 70 feet on 12th street, on which he erected a tavern, a modest two-story building, which later became the Fountain Inn, a hotel covering this and adjacent ground In 1821, sub. B on the avenue was added. Notwithstanding its proximity to Morris’ tavern, it became a famous hostelry. It is stated that the stable yard, which was north of the building, was quite a business mart for auction sales; that perishable gifts of wild and domestic animals sent by foreign rulers as presents to the Presidents and other government officers, which under the law could not be accepted, were auctioned off here to save expense. It was conducted by the Appler’s till late in the 30’s, and in 1838 it was purchased by Azariah Fuller.
The city post office occupied the building from June 29, 1839 to September 1841, when the structure became the office of the Madisonian, the democratic organ of Tyler’s administration, which had been started on E street near 10th street. The printers were Fiske & Dow and the editor and proprietor was Thomas Allen. Though a paper of influence, it finally failed as a business enterprise, much to the regret of the public, for many were the admirers of the contributions of “John Jones of the War Office,” whose identity was a mystery. Mr. James Clephane owned a building which occupied the corner as a book and fancy store for a few years and was succeeded by E.K. Lundy in the book and periodical business. The building was a two-storied brick and for a time it was partly used as Joseph Hedrick‘s flour depot. In 1848 T.G. Conlay bought the property, tearing out the old structure, and Fuller’s took the place of Appler’s Fountain Inn. For a time it was the starting point of Fuller’s stage lines. By good management, though modest in size, it became a noted hotel and at different times housed many of the leading people of the nation. In the fifties it became the Kirkwood House and continued as such through the civil war.
In 1810 part of lot 1, corner of 11th street, went into possession of Walter Hellen. Washington Drane bought part of lot 1 with brick and frame house occupied by Bailey Washington and Mrs. Edmonston. In 1824 there were property valuations as follows: W.L. Cupps, $350, on 11th street; Joseph Gibson, grocery, $700; John Allen, dry goods, $450; Walter Jones, $4,000; Judge Buckner Thurston, $3,200; Wm. Wood, $3,000, and D. Appler, $3,900, on the avenue. Ten years later Walter Hellen was taxed $600; Walter Jones, $4,500; B. Thurston, $4,000; W. Wood, $3,600, and D. Appler, $1,400. In the thirties Appler was taxed $600; J.S. Edwards, $400; J.A. Wilson, $450, on 12th street; P. Tuel, $550; J.M. Hoster, $1,200, and Walter Jones $200, on 11th street.
In 1824 Simon Frazier bought part of the corner lot at 12th and E streets, and later, in 1833, sold to David Munro, who built a carpenter shop on the corner, where for many years he carried on business, finally possessing one fourth of the square, which he improved. In 1830 Andrew Noer of Noer & Kraft, bakers, on F street, bought the lot at 11th and E streets and established a bakery. In the following year J.J. Dermott bought on E street. J.M. Hosar owned lot 11 with a frame house, in the thirties, as also did W. Hayman, a brick house on 12th street, and W.J. Stone, a brick residence on the avenue. In the forties W.M. Cripps bought a lot and erected the cabinet-making shop, long a landmark.
The Star Building Site
In the twenties there were the grocery store of Joseph Gibson, the book store of Pishey Thompson, the shoe store of James Lymington, the boarding house of Mrs. Arguelles, the residences of Gen. Walter Jones, with his law office, and J.B. Gorman, painter, and near 11th street some small buildings. North of the avenue on 11th were the houses of John Williams, colored, T.J. Mudd, carpenter and Mrs. R. McKenna, and on 12th street, John Tucker, bill hanger; John Rawlings, carpenter; William Young, saddler, and D. Cotes, tanner.
After Mr. Gantur came S. Calvert Ford, druggist; F. Freund, confectioner, and H. Hoods, jeweler. Miss Alice Pilling in 1848 leased a part of Mr. Gantur’s lot and erected a book and stationery store, and the adjoining property in which was the Garrett Anderson book and stationery store was in the fifties conducted as such, as also a music establishment by W.C. Fischer. Other property owners in the forties were: G.F. Allen, dry goods; H.G. Ritter, tobacconist; J.H. Edwards, lace store; W.B. Lewis, clothing, after auction house; P.B. Fenner, tailoring house; E. Maynard, dentist, and about 1850 Capt. H.N. Steele, watchmaker. On 11th street were Mr. Cupp’s cabinet establishment, S. Clark’s office, F. Lombardi’s tailor shop, Mrs. Grant and Andrew Noer, baker, at E street.
Ground Worth 8 Cents
The original ground valuation was 8 to 10 cents and in the 20’s, 12 to 15 cents. Jacob Dixon, who was a well-known horseman, lived at the southwest corner of 11th and F streets when this had been two frames, which gave way to a brick dwelling and store. In the 30’s, on the corner of 12th and E streets, G.C. Grammar was assessed at $1,800; T.B. Sprigg’s property, adjoining on the north, $2,200; Jonathan Seaver’s property, at the corner of 12th and F streets, $1,800, and J. Willis’ house, $1,500, on F street. On 11th street in the 40’s lived Judge W.F. Purcell of the Probate Court, Mrs. Norris, J. Griffith, tailor, and M. Laporta, printer. Mrs. Tuel’s and Miss Ann Young’s school was on the south side of F street.
The square north of F street was one in which Samuel Blodgett was largely interested in. About 1802 the valuation of 10 cents was placed on the ground and in 1820 it reached 15 cents. Among the early settlers were A. McDonald, valuation of land, $70; Joseph Dove, $600, A. Wilson, $600, on lot 3, fronting F street; R. Brown, $1,500, and W. Cocking, $1,800, on lot 4, corner of 12th street. Through this square the small stream came from northwest of the corner of G and 12th streets, and it is still told that one of those settlers chose a long lot to get the advantage of the stream to carry off waste material. By 1820 there had been considerable improvement on F street charged to J. and L. Stott, $500; J. Dove, $1,400; W. Drake, $800; J. Wilson, $1,600 and W.A. Bradley at 12th; James A. Kennedy, $650, on 12th street and Henry Ould, teacher of the Western Public School, $650, at the corner of 12th and G streets; T.F. Anderson of the treasury, $900, at the corner of 11th and G streets, and Edward Holland of the Senate, $1,300, and Mrs. Bowan, $300, on 11th street. Robert and Archibald Brown had a stoneyard about the middle of the square on 12th street. In the 30’s the improvements were assessed to J. Breckenridge, $500, at the corner of 11th and F streets; T. Dickson, $300; J. and L. Stott, $150, and near the corner of 12th street, on F street, Mary Grant, $600; C. and E. Cammack, $600, on 12th street; Henry Ould, $700 and $2,300, at the corner of 12th and G streets, G. Crandall, $2,500; James A. Kennedy, $800; Shoemaker’s heirs, $1,000; R.P. Edelin, $100; A. Lindsay, $100. On G street Thomas F. Anderson lived many years, as also did James A. and John Kennedy. There were here the properties of Mrs. E. Wilson, who kept a boarding house; Jilson Dove, in like occupation; Mrs. Wells, Willard Drake, who afterward lived on 11th street between E and F streets; Ezekiel Young, a tailor, and Mrs. Mary Hughes, milliner, on F street.
Old German Building
In the square north between G and H streets the original valuation of 4 cents was reduced to 2 cents and the improvements in 1820, when the valuation had advanced to 4 cents were as follows: Susan Baltzer, $850, at northwest corner of 11th and G streets; C. Buchanan, $150, at the corner of 12th and G streets; Susannah Palmer, $200, corner 12th and H streets; Eliza Smith, $350, and Mary O’Neale, $350; Wm. Lenman, $1,300, 11th street between F and G streets. In 1830 additional improvements were made on property owned by the following: J.A. Wilson, $800; C. Longdon, $600, on G street; J.A. Wilson, $1,400; G. Crandall, $2,800, and Gen. Van Ness, $200 and $300. On 11th street lived N.P. Causis, judge of the Orphans’ Court, and his son, a clerk; Dr. H.F. Condict, J. Dodson, Clement Woodward, stove dealer, and James Lenman and at the corner of H street there was erected in the forties St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.
In the square north of H street the early lot holders were J. Laird, G. Andrews, E. Fox and T. Farrell, but in 1830 there had been but two houses erected, these valued respectively at $900 and $100. In this decade Wm. Brust owned about the south half of the square, which he converted into a flower garden and greenhouse. Eli Davis, a well-known shoemaker; George H. Plant, a master bricklayer, and John Wilson, who had filled every grade in the second office to commissionership, bought on 11th street and on I street, erecting houses and living there from the forties.
About 1840 the colored Methodists attached to the Foundry Church, who had before worshiped in the galleries, had their own place of worship at the corner of 11th and K streets. The laws then required the presence of white people in the assemblages of colored persons, and for a number of years they were supplied by the junior preacher appointed to the Foundry Church, and white class leaders from that body. Under the name of the Asbury it long ago became attached to a conference of their own color. Today their fine building houses a large congregation.
On the 12th street side of this square lived W.J. Douglass, a painter, and one or two other persons in frame houses, and at the corner of I street lived Mr. George Seitz in a substantial brick house.
N.B. VanZandt lived at the northeast corner of Massachusetts avenue and 12th street in a fine frame house, which, remodeled, is standing today, and east of him were William H. Clampitt, carpenter; William Pope, then employed on the National Era, and John R. Nourse, near 11th street. Thomas B. Griffon, a shoe dealer, lived on the east side of 12th street between K and L streets, and back of him were the Poseys, a colored family.
In the forties Jerry Crown, employed at the Treasury Department, lived on 11th street above L street and later moved farther out. Robert Farnham, a bookseller, owned the square north of M street, living near the corner of 11th street. Arthur McIntire of the patent office had his home opposite. Farther out there was little settlement other than the homes of a few colored people in the square north of N street, beyond which was a market garden and cherry orchard known to the boys as Cherry Hill.
The home of Presley Simpson, then a grocer on the avenue and superintendent of the Foundry Sunday school, was at 12th street between G and H streets. At G and 12th streets was the home of John H. Smith, a clerk. Below F street was Mr. King’s gallery of paintings and Mrs. E. Mulloy’s boarding house.