On Bay of St. Thomas
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, June 15, 1907 [pt. 3 p. 1]
On St. Thomas bay, as it was known in colonial days, near where the Washington navy yard was established about the year 1800, some investments were made a few years after the plan of the city was adopted, but not until after the government offices were moved here and the yard opened was there actual settlement. The bay was a portion of the Eastern branch or Anacostia river, between the foot of 3d street and the navy yard, extending to about L street, and it then covered much of the present inclosure. The original reservation for the yard was within the lines of 7th to 9th streets south of M street, but in 1800 squares 883 and 884 on the west were purchased by Commissioners Gustavus Scott and W. Thornton for $4,000 and added. At that time the squares were almost entirely covered by the water of St. Thomas bay.
A small stream from the neighborhood of 7th and G streets made its way into the bay down 6th street, and marshy were its shores, as were also those of the bay. Later it was crossed at M street by a bridge which did service for fifty years or more and as late as 1850 fish were caught there. Much calamus was found in the section and chewing the root was almost universal among the boys. Though west of 7th street the development was not rapid, the Eastern branch market was established as early as 1805 on reservations 15 and 16. There was south of K street, between what was known as Market alley and 4th street and from south of the market to the river, a short canal. The market house was of brick piers supporting a substantial shed, and though not of large dimensions was regarded as a fine one, especially in antebellum days. In addition, to the resident butchers and trade people there came from across the branch the gardeners and truckers. It is said that in no market was there ever more good feeling shown between dealer and customer. Indeed, it was not only the place for business, but a tri-weekly meeting place for the patrons, and it is said that what with the gossip heard here and information posted on the flag staff of the yard, the people desired little else in the way of news.
Covered Market Baskets Unknown
The square east of the market, between K, L, Market alley and 7th street, number 881, was in the Prout tract, and platted for fourteen lots in 1797. Morris and Nicholson that year took those vested in the United States and there was nothing doing till 1801, when John Templemen bought lots 1 and 14, corner 7th and L streets. James Fry leased the corner of Market alley and L street, and William Prout bought lot 2 on L street. W.S. Chandler bought on 7th street south of K street in 1802 and the following year S. Parry had a lease of property on L street, and Jesse Brown owned lots 3 and 4, the southwest corner of the square. In 1804 James A. Burford, John Hall and Adam Lindsay owned in lot 1, corner of 7th street, and John Vent the corner of K and Market alley. Joseph Costigan, Thomas Crandale and Dr. John Bullus in 1805 owned lot 1 and the next year William Radcliffe, a grocer, had a lease from Fry at the corner of Market alley and L street. William Nevitt bought in lot 13 on 7th street, Notley Maddox lots 10 to 12 on K street, including the corner of 7th street and George Cox, a lease in lot 6 on 7th street and Market alley. In 1802, at the time of the first valuation, James A. Burford was assessed, $1,000 on lot 1, at the corner of 7th and L streets, and four years later Dr. John Bullus was on the lot with a $2,500 improvement. On lot 3 was Joseph Fry in a $350 house, and later W. Radliffe, grocer, was assessed on $800, James Green $100, and later $600, and George Green $300 on lot 5, W. Rutherford $200 on lot 8 and Notley Maddox $2,000 on lot 12.
In the twenties James Spratt was on L street in an $1,800 house. B. Kinley took a lease on lot 11 on K street. At that time Mrs. Bullus was assessed on property valued at $2,500; Mrs. Burford, $1,000, and others were: J. Vint, $900, lot 10; A. Fowler, $700; H. Crittenden, $750; Jere Perkins, $1,200, lot 12; B. Kingsley, $1,500; J. Costigan, $1,200, and Adam Lindsay, $1,500. In the thirties Matthew Trimble, for many years a popular grocer, bought the Burford stand on L and 7th streets, and in the same decade Catherine Newton had a lease on lots 7 and 8 on the northwest corner of the square. L. Newman owned east, B. Milburn owned lot 12, 7th and K streets, and James McGill had a lease on 7th street.
In Square South
The first valuation was from 3 to 6 cents for the ground, and in 1802 improvements were listed as follows: John Cannon, lot $1,000; James Cook, lot 22, $1,800; George Duckworth, lot 23, $1,500; Thomas Vint, lot 25, $1,500; Armstrong & Carlton, lot 26, $600. In 1811 James O'Brien owned lot 9, and no further transfers were made until 1815, when William O'Neal bought property on L street. Robert Bates owned on M street and William Easby, S. Drew and C. Cassell were afterward owners there.
A "Fip" or the sixteenth of a dollar was the ground valuation in 1825, when the improvements of Cannon's heirs were valued at $1,800; Duckworth, $3,700; T. Files, $1,000. The names of Cook, Armstrong and Chandler are missing, but other valuations are: Costigan's heirs, $400; J. Costigan, $1,600; R. Jones, $600; W. Easby, $800; B. Winder, $900; Files & Middleton, $300, and MacKimm's heirs, $1,700. Duckworth's grocery was a landmark for at least half a century on 7th street. Armstrong & Carlton established a tavern south of 7th street, the latter soon after drawing out. It was a tavern stand till the twenties.