Studded With Inns
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, October 14, 1906 [pt. 2, p. 5]
That square of Washington numbered 461 on the original plan, fronting Pennsylvania avenue between 6th and 7th streets, had in the early days somewhat indefinite lines on the south. It is true that there was marked a street, as well as canal, along what is now B street. It was then known as Canal street. But in the early part of the last century the canal, which had been projected several years prior to 1800, had not materialized. In fact, the time limit given to the original company had expired, and the old Tiber was not turned from its course until about 1824. This stream having described from 3d street nearly a circle in its course, flowed northward on the mall in 6th street, thence over the space where the Pennsylvania depot is now located and then coursed westward. The marsh along the stream reached to the building lines, and it was not rare that the waters advanced as far as the avenue.
With the office of the leading local paper upon the square, on Pennsylvania avenue between 6th and 7th streets, and with many government officials and members of Congress making their homes in the half dozen or more boarding houses, for many years that section was the political center. With the market square west and the government reservation east, it was the only square open to settlement between the Capitol and 9th street south of the avenue, and to its position and the fact that a copious supply of drinking water was accessible from the north side of the avenue may be attributed the rapid improvement of the lots.
"South to the Tiber."
In 1800 Jacob Snyder and the firm of J. & C. Flant were the owners of lot 4, while John Cruikshank and George Thompson owned lot 5. On this was erected by them three fine brick buildings, which in 1802 were of an assessed value of $7,000. In the lot east there were improvements of no mean character, made, it appears, by the Flans, for deeds mention the center of the walls of their houses. The corner lot, at 6th street was bought in by Mr. Lovell in 1800, John Gardiner and Harry Buford having leases upon parts. The following year Mark Stockwell, G. Andrews and John Willis became leasees of portions of this property. The latter was assessed for $2,000 and Dr. Willis for $1,690, while Huddleston’s and Somerville’s names appear in the assessment for $800. George Blount was assessed for $4,000, and H. Somerville had a lease on this lot in 1802, and a building of the value of $400. Buras’ heirs were taxed on lot 3, and James Moore in 1807, was an owner of lot 1, John Bassett in lot 2, and in 1800, Samuel Bacon and George Moore bought part of lot 7, the southeast corner of 7th street and Pennsylvania avenue, Old Washingtonians readily recall that here was Bacon’s grocery for more than half a century. The firm of Bacon & Moore was succeeded in a few years by S. Bacon. Then the sons, Samuel Bacon and Peter F. Bacon, becoming of age, Bacon & Co. was the title. Later the business was conducted in the name of Peter F. Bacon. The valuation of the ground, which in 1802 was 12 cents per foot, was reduced in 1807 to 10 cents.
Newspaper Had Fine Home
The presses were broken and much of the type pled, and the books of the library were thrown out, piled on the banks of the canal and burned. Cockburn is said to have personally applied the torch. Fortunately, some of the type was saved through a domestic, and the publication was resumed in a week. It was continued until about 1868 at that place, when more suitable quarters were erected at the northwest corner of 7th and D streets. After fifty years, like its editors and proprietors, it succumbed to old age.
In 1820 the avenue front had been filled by improvements. At the 7th street corner Bacon & Moore had established the grocery business in 1809, and eastward, the shoe store of Walter Clark was established in 1810, Thomas Hughes, grocery, in 1815 and Ingle & Lindsay’s hardware store, about 1818. In that year, among others owning property here were Judge Wm. Cranch, Isaac Clarke, Chas. Glover, Andrew Coyle, John Campbell, William Morton, Samuel Elliot, Joseph Gales, Peter Lenox, Alex. Kerr, Nicholas L. Queen, Seth Hyatt, G.C. Grammer, D. Bates, Joseph Burrows and John Abbott.
Valuation of Land
In the twenties the curbing and paving of the footways on each side of the square had been completed for, as stated, there were business houses on the avenue front, and on most of the lots running to B street, in which the canal was located, warehouses were erected. The principal building was about the middle of the square, and here for a few years the City Hotel was conducted by Rumpff. Mr. Joseph Wood, an artist of local repute, had his headquarters here. There were a number of boarding houses on the square, some of the proprietors of which catered to the congressional element of the population. Owing to the limited accommodations of the hotels and taverns members of Congress engaged portions of private residences during the sessions. Mr. Seth Hyatt, Mrs. E. McArdle, Mrs. Pratt, Mrs. Owen, Mrs. E. Werner, Mrs. Sawyer and Mrs. M. Miller were some engaged in this business. At the corner of 8th street was the grocery store of Daniel Carroll, and west were the like establishments of Seth Hyatt & Co. Thomas Hughes’ store was about the center of the square. That of Bacon & Co. at the corner of 7th street.
Many Mercantile Firms
It was in the thirties that the sparsely settled 7th street side began to fill up. In 1833 Richard Lackey started another tavern about midway of the square. Others followed some in a small way, and by 1840 that portion of the square was well nigh a solid front of small taverns. For some reason or other the name of “Cat Tail Row” was given and explanation of its origin is that the shape of the public alley in the square on which some of the lots in the subdivision bordered, suggested it.
Canal’s Course Changed
In the thirties each of the original lots had been improved, and most of them by two or more buildings, few of which were less than three stories in height, the lower portions being devoted to business. The ground at the corner was then valued at $1.50 per square foot, and on the avenue at $1.25 and $1. In 1833 the owners and the valuations of the buildings were as follows: C. Andrews, $900 on a two-story frame on 6th street; J. Moore, $3,800; Tucker and Thompson, $3,200; John Underwood and G.C. Grammer, $5,000, and John Willis, $2,700 on lot 1; Willis’ heirs, $1,500, and Lindsley and Ingle, $3,000 on lot; Joseph L. Clarke, $3,300, and Seth Hyatt, $3,500 on lot 3; Bank of the United States, $7,300, and J.W. & E. Jones, $3,000 on lot 4; Cruikshank’s heirs, $3,300, and the Thompson heirs, $3,000; Walter Clarke, $3,200, and Peter Lenox, $1,000 on lot 5; Thomas Hughes, $4,000; A. Coyle, $5,000; N.L. Queen, $4,500; S. Bacon, $3,500; W. Benning, $300; S. Holtzman, $2,800; J. Burrows, $2,500 on 7th street in the subdivision of lots 6 and 7.
Were Established Early
Known as "Cat Tail Row"
"I reckon he has," responded the fellow traveler, "for I hear that this is a very slow old town." That was, however, when the gait of Washington’s progress was an easy-going one.
Was a Famous Tavern
In this decade the well-known shoe dealer, Robert Cohen, and Thomas Purcell engaged in the china trade, came from Alexandria and spent long years in business on the avenue. The former was succeeded by his son; Robert Cohen, still in the business on F street, and the son of the latter, C.C. Purcell, is in the book trade.
In the forties the once popular Congress Hall tavern or hotel of P.H. King had been established on the avenue, and the boarding house of Seth Hyatt had then become an old one. Jeremiah Bronough, Mrs. A. Williams, Mrs. Thorp and Mrs. Mary Adams conducted other boarding houses; the grocery store of Bacon had then been thirty years in existence, that of Hyatt quite as long, and those of Jackson, Murray and Semmes, and George and Thomas Parker had been established, as had also been the hardware stores of Campbell & Coyle, Ephraim Wheeler and J.W. Baden & Co., the latter successors of R.W. Waring; the shoe stores and shops of M.T. Brashears, A. Coyle & Son, A. Hoover, James Jack, S. Philips, Robert Cohen and Wm. Whitney; the dry goods stores of Wm. Egan & Son and W.G. White & Brother; the china and crockery store of Thomas Purcell; Joseph Peck’s stage office; the leather store of W.B. Kibbey; the store of the Misses Jack, dressmakers.
Pioneers in City’s Trades
Many of those residing on this square or in business there were averse to changing their locations. Messrs. Ingle & Lindsay, who owned property on New Jersey avenue in early years of the century, spent almost a lifetime as pioneers in the hardware trade in this section. Joseph S. Clark, one of the earliest merchant tailors, was also in the dry goods business for many years near the corner of 6th street. Isaac Clarke, located at the corner of 7th street, conducted a hat and shoe store and was the agent of the old Union line of stages. Seth Hyatt was as well known for his grocery as for his boarding house from about 1829 till near 1850.
It was in this decade that the well-known Amon Green, long in the auction and commission business, took up his residence here, and for some years carried on the business at the corner of 6th street. Mr. Green is remembered by many for the pertenacity with which he stuck to the stereotyped phrase on his advertisements for the sale of houses. This phrase was "at this sale the property will positively be knocked down." There is no telling how many times successful bidders would tell him that they wanted the property as it stood, and that they were not buying for him to knock down, finally he changed the phraseology to "Positively sold to the highest bidder." His success as an auctioneer for over a quarter of a century is evidence that his knocking down was appreciated. Later in the forties another auctioneer appeared in this square, but their interests did not conflict, for wile Mr. Green usually cried off real estate and furniture, John Robinson, the newcomer, was a master hand at selling watches, jewelry and small articles, and at the same time he carried on watch making and repairing at the rooms.