Slow Progress Then
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, December 29, 1907 [pt. 2, p. 1]
East of Judiciary Square, in the section partially described in The Star of the 23d instant, the city's progress in the early days was not rapid. It was not until twenty-one years had passed that any perceptible growth was apparent, and then it appeared in spots. Though little of the ground had been taken up for home sites, much of it was put into use through conversion into building brick, and used elsewhere. That some possessed optimistic views is seen by the investments of Samuel Blodget, Solomon Etting, C. Van Mannerick, Benj. Stoddert and others.
The appraised value of the ground of one-half to one cent per foot, which prevailed for more than twenty-five years, with infrequent transfers of title, shows that the early investors did not possess a bonanza.
As stated in a former article, a little farm occupied a portion of this section, the farmhouse being located about 3d and E streets. A small stream coursed southeastward, crossing Indiana avenue to the Tiber east of 1st street, much of it through a ravine. It was south of this stream, near the corner of 3d and D streets, that the initial improvement in the section was made. This was on lot 1, square 532, in the Ben Oden tract, which square in 1792 was platted for sixteen lots and allotted equally to the United States and David Burns.
Edward Burrows bought this lot in 1793 and erected a tavern on it, which after the corporation took charge in 1802 was assessed on a $2,000 value. Mannerick in 1799 purchased six lots, and in 1801 L. Clements had a lot on E street, Benjamin Sharp that at 4th and E streets, and M. Corliss two lots on 4th street.
The Tavern Title
In the thirties the ground was valued at 2 cents only, and the property was listed as follows: Moses Young, $2,200 and $600; J. Bailey, $3,500, and G.P. Maxwell, $500. The original valuation of the ground was half a cent per foot.
The square known as No. 572, laid out in two lots in the lines of Indiana avenue, D, 2d and 3d streets, in 1796, was not regarded as very desirable for building sites, as much of it was in a ravine. One lot went to the United States and the other to Burns and Oden. It is not regarded as singular that for many years it lay idle, borne on the assessment books for taxation at half a cent and one cent per foot.
In 1803 lot 2, the west end of the square, went to W. Simms and in 1820 to Moses Young and afterward to his daughter, Mrs. A.G. Bailey. About the first practical use made of it was by Amon Baldwin, carpenter and builder, about the year 1840 in the establishment of a sash, door and blind factory in connection with his shop at Indiana avenue, D and 3d streets. The southeast corner of the square in the campaign of 1860 came into prominence as the location of the headquarters of the Wide Awakes, as the Lincoln Club was called, and of the printing office of the National Republican. Many threats were made by political opponents, and once or twice was this building stoned during the campaign.
Ample Size for Gardening Purposes
The next transfer was in 1816, when Richard T. Queen bought lot 2, corner 3d and D streets, and nine years after Rafael Semmes and John Pickrell had lot 6, the corner of 3d and E streets, and the latter lot 2, corner of 3d and D streets.
In 1829 John P. Ingle and Gen. Van Ness owned several lots, and Benjamin Pollard acquired the south front of the square, lots 1 and 2. The latter made subdivision lots A to G, which in 1830 were owned by D.W. Middleton, Erasmus J. Middleton, W.G. Deals, Benjamin Bean, V. Camalier, J.G. Robinson and W.W. Lowe.
The improvements were charged at $2,200, $2,500, two at $1,700 each, two at $1,500 each, and one at $200, and the ground was assessed at from 3 to 8 cents per foot. Later the name of "Mechanics' row" attached to the improvements and was so known for fifty years.
In 1833 R.C. Washington and Darius Clagett owned one of the subdivisions, and in 1835 Jerome O. P. Degges owned the brickyards in the square. The next year Andrus Bradly owned subdivision C and Mr. Pollard lot 6 on 2d street. Mr. Degges in 1837 bought at the corner of 2d and E streets and John M. Donn bought subdivision G, as did C.W. Boteler the year after, when Mrs. Hannah Gaither had sublot C.
Divided Into Sixteen Lots
In square 568 were thirty-three building lots, laid out in 1796, all vested in the United States. These fronted 2d, 3d, E and F streets, and about 1800 were in the names of Benjamin Stoddert and Walter Hellen. In 1804 William Faltwell had leases at 3d and E streets, and in 1820 John A. Wilson had two lots corner of 2d and E streets, engaging in the brickmaking business. Ten years after, William Degges was on the square in the brick business, which he in 1839 sold to Jerome O.P. Degges. While no improvements were listed, there were on the ground quarters for the laboring men in the brickyards. In thirty years the valuations of the ground had risen from half a cent to one and a half cents per foot.
The square between F, G, 3d and 4th streets, known to the older Washingtonians as Mt. Etna, and officially as No. 530, was laid off into twenty lots and in 1796 vested in the United States. In 1800 it was bought by Solomon Etting, and five years after it was held in trust for the Washington Tontine, at which time half a cent per foot was the ground valuation. To 1827 there was no movement in sales of lots. In that year eleven lots went to J. Eyre, three each to H. Hunt and H.K. Randall, and one each to Fielder Magruder, G.W. Campbell and Semmes & Pickrell. Absolem Rodbird in 1828 bought lot 12, near the corner of 4th and G streets, having a carpenter shop here, and the following year J. Barry had lot 1, corner F and 3d streets, and Mr. Magruder an additional lot on 3d street. In 1830, Mary A. Wall owned [a] lot on F street and J. Bowen on 4th street.
In 1833 Thomas Magill bought lot 10 on 4th street, which passed to G. S. Noyes, and then to James A. Kennedy; C. Cox bought lots 8 and 9 on 4th street, and Mrs. Magruder lots 16 and 19 on 3d street. In 1836 J. T. Walker had lot 3 on F street, and in 1838 James Weber had lot 3 on 4th street, and 19 and 20 on 3d street. Sarah A. Griffin [had] lot 10 on 4th street. In 1842 G. Eichhorn had lots 19 and 20 on 3d street.
Opposite, between 2d, 3d, F and G streets, square 568 was laid off as one lot, which was vested in Mr. Odin in 1796. Fifteen years after it went into the hands of David Shoemaker and James McCormick and thirty lots were platted. About 1820 lots were purchased by S. Johnson, Hugh Dawson, J. Rowley, C. Johnson, O.B. Brown, J. Burthron, Nathan Cook, R.R. Burr, C.W. Boteler, R. Isherwood, T. Webb, Margaret Herrity and others.
Building commenced, and it will be seen that such was not of great value. In 1828 there were T.W. Cope, A. Harper, Jonathan Seaver, James Bowen, Philip Mohun, carpenter shop; W. Dowling and Bernard Parsons. Two years after Eliza Fielding and J. Ward were on the square.
The valuation of the ground per foot was about 1800 half a cent, but in thirty years a cent had been added. In the thirties the property was listed: J. Pierce, $150; R.R. Burr, $400 and $1,200; P. Mohun, $400; J. Bottomley, $200; Matthew Cook, $400; C.W. Boteler, $200; T. Herty, $150; Catherine King, $150; Margaret Herrity, $100; J.B. Gundmore, $400; P. Bradley, in trust, $150; C. Darden, $125; R. Isherwood, $250; Hugh Dawson, $200; J. Burthron, $600; W. Dowling, $100 and $3,000, and A. Harper, $600.
Known as 567
In the squares south, Nos. 569, 571 and 573, progress was slower than in those described. The transfers in 569, between 1st, 2d, E and F streets, though averaging one per year for thirty years, do not indicate much improvement. John A. Wilson's ownership of a dozen lots in 1827 is suggestive of brick kilns, and the names of G.G. McDaniel on E street in 1804, Isaeher Scofield in the interior of the square in 1813 are known to have been residents before the twenties. In 1820 Clarissa Bruce and Catherine Madison were on the square assessed for $300 and $400, respectively, and one cent per foot on the ground. In the squares south, 571 and 573, the only improvement charged in 1830 was one to Moses Young of $700 and the ground was assessed at one cent.