Away Back In 1796
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, March 15, 1908 [pt. 7, p. 12]
The square number 286, between New York avenue, I, 12th and 13th streets, laid off in thirteen lots in 1796, was vested in the United States. In 1800 Solomon Etting had all the lots excepting lot 10 in the name of Benjamin Stoddert and 12 in Samuel Blodgett. In 1802 Dunlap & Charlton owned lot 3 on New York avenue and the names of Morris & Nicholson appear. In 1804 Dr. Thornton had the Blodgett lot and James Ross lot 10, the latter in 1812 going to William Wheelock.
There is no record of any improvements prior to 1820, though one of the lots had passed to a firm of carpenters and builders and one lot was held for a building company. The ground then was valued at but a cent per foot. With a gentle decline west and south to the stream in 13th street which turned eastward near H street there were eligible building sites, particularly in the east part of the square, but it was a long time before there were near neighbors.
There was then little call for public improvement and the adjoining streets were not even graded. The stream in 13th street remained open till the fifties.
John Sioussa's House
In 1828, lot 12, corner of 12th and I streets, passed to Statria Elliott, and shortly to Count Demerou, and lot 10, on I street, went to R.H. Douglas and W.W. Billing. On lot 12 were David Jones, John Hunt, Jemima Moulder and Richmond Posey in 1829. C. Hagon owned part of lot 11 and C.L. Coltman part of 10 in 1830; James Dant, part of 11 in 1831; Basil Shorter, part of 10 in 1832, and R. Brown the same in 1834. In 1836 Michael Caton had lots 1 and 13, the southeast corner of the square. In this decade the ground was valued at 3 to 10 cents per foot and the improvements listed to W.W. Billing, $150 and $300; C.L. Coltman, $200; S. Elliott, $180; Demerou, $100 and $200; G. Etting, $75, and John Sioussa, $700.
Andrew Small, in 1840, owned lot 1, corner of New York avenue and 12th, four years later selling it to Michael Talty. Here were erected two or three frame houses, with a store on the corner, conducted for several years by Mr. Talty, who also had a store on 7th street. After him came a Mr. Weeks and then it became Stoops' grocery. Thomas Allen, a carpenter, long resided over the store, and adjoining the grocery was a shoemaker's shop, occupied by Eli Davis and others.
Improvements in 1844
Mr. Plant became prominent in the building world as the inventor a few years after of the first automatic blind hinge. Among the early occupants was a Hoffman family, a Mrs. Richardson and John Gaither.
Col. H. Hungerford bought the west half of lot 5 in 1847, and long resided in the large frame house erected thereon. There were on New York avenue also Jesse E. Dow and Charles S. Jones, both well-known printers and writers, the former on the Union; James F. Halliday and __ Marsh, printers, and Mrs. Thaw. Sixty years ago there were a number of colored families on the E street front, and on 13th street the Hutton family, prominent in bricklaying, was living.
A Place for the Boys
One day he was seen approaching, and the boys, seeing that a number of people were in the shop, prepared for him by going down the cellar and letting down the door to within a few inches. As the old gentleman came opposite the boys, a volley of calls of "All Over," etc., greeted him and the door was closed. No one being in his sight but the men in the shop, he soon was heard on the door pouring a tirade on them, and, not being choice in his language, he narrowly escaped a good drubbing at the hands of the shoemakers, the boys in the meantime enjoying the battle of words.
One of the workmen in the shop was first known as "Lame Joe," but when his penurious habits became known he was called "Miser," "Close Fist," etc. He made his home in the shop, sleeping on boards laid on his bench, and his meals were of dry bread, bologna, or dried fish. He therefore was a subject for the boys. After some years he suddenly left the city and in a few weeks the shopmates learned that he had returned to his old home several hundred miles away and had paid off an indebtedness left by his parents on the old home, having earned and saved sufficient funds by his self-denial. This news caused a revolution of feelings toward the old man, and his tormentors, who had known of his mode of living, spoke of him after as a hero with an iron constitution.
Stones for Oysters