In Old Washington
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, October 10, 1908 [p. 4]
Although there is little to show in the way of old and historic buildings in that part of the Island, or South Washington, in the lines of 7th to 9th and D to G streets, there is evidence that in the squares 411 to 413 and 435 to 437 others than the original owner, Notley Young, occupied portions of it for homes or gardening purposes before 1820. Though platted into building lots very slowly and houses appeared after some interval, the first to appear in the records was one on the north side of F street between 7th and 8th streets, in the thirties. In the previous decade, however, as early as 1816, a well known resident family was represented in the square south by one ancestor, but if he then had a residence here it was a lonely one on the commons, in which there were some patches of corn, oats, etc., grown with no attention to street lines. That these conditions existed sixty years ago is proven by the fact that boys who formed acquaintance with hoe and plow thereabout still live there; nor have a number forgotten how they drove home their cows from the commons.
The fact that within these lines the improvements prior to 1850 were mostly of frame indicates that the great middle class, the wage-earners, predominated, and in the main owned their homes. Even now the scenes and incidents in the quiet, orderly neighborhood in which the younger portion enjoyed the frequent parlor entertainments, the serenades of amateur musicians, are recalled with pleasure.
In Days of Troubadours
Near by lived a couple, the male member of which was well up in years and the wife a mere child, and though, to all appearance, they were happy, the neighbors predicted that they could not overcome the disparity of age and would separate in time. In a year or two the expected happened. The man failed to return one day from the place of his employment. The wife was distracted. A hat was found the next day on the banks of the canal. It was identified as belonging to the missing hubby. Thereupon the wife came to the conclusion that he had committed suicide by drowning and that she was a widow.
Some time later she returned to her parents in the country with her young child. A few years after it was found that her husband had gone to his old home in southwest Virginia and was living with his first wife and family.
Appreciation in Values
The square known as 411, bounded by D, E and 8th and 9th streets, was laid off for forty lots, facing east and west, and though in the division in 1797 it was placed in the name of Notley Young, the original proprietor, four years before it had been sold to George Harrison and Samuel Sterritt.
The latter became the sole owner in 1803, and, in 1804, J. Crawford owned five lots, and the next year J. Gardner and C. G. Polake had the same number. James Delaney, in 1806, and William Read and R. Dale, in 1809, owned lots. Thirty years after John N. Trook leased four lots on 8th street and here planted a garden. L. O. Cook, in the forties, owned property in this square.
Site of Episcopal Church
The square opposite 435 figured in the transactions of James Greenleaf, and in 1823 it was bought by George Sweeney of S. Elliott, jr., and a subdivision was made of its twenty-four lots. Samuel Hamilton bought one of these in 1823, and in 1829 John Varden secured one and J. and W. Sawyer and L. S. Beck two each. John D. Boteler bought three lots in 1830 and John Farlan one. In 1838 Mrs. Elinor Sheriff bought a lot and in 1839 C. W. Boteler owned one. These were nearly all on 7th street, and it is known that number of houses were erected. Mr. Farlan lived here in 1830. Mrs. Sheriff, the mother of the well known George L. Sheriff, for years in the wood and coal business, and H. Harvey, a carpenter, were residents here in the thirties. Later in the forties were John Chancey, carpenter, the father of the well known Capt. J. T. Chancey; George P. Maxwell, plasterer; William Cropley, printer; Thomas Brashears, shoemaker; James McDonald, hackman, and John Angel, a cabinetmaker. James Burch resided on E street.
In the fifties, with others, there were George Garrett, a carpenter; Craven Ashford, many years the clerk at the penitentiary, and a justice of the peace, grandfather of our building inspector, and John Sheetz, one of the best known hackmen of his day.
Rather Tardy in Progress
Mr. Greenleaf’s contract with the commissioners for city lots included the sixteen in the lines of 7th, 8th, E and F streets, square 436, which was apportioned in 1797 to the proprietor, Mr. Young. No transfers appear until 1829, when the title passed from the trustees of the estate of S. Eliot, Greenleaf’s years after W. A. Bradley owned it, and there were living on 7th street at that time John Heighton, a stonecutter; John M. Donn, a carpenter, and Mrs. Ann Hutchins. At the same time T. S. Doniphan was listed for $450 improvements on lot 4, on F street, and in 1839 owned lots 7 and 8, and he erected a frame residence on the northeast corner of 8th and F streets.
In 1842 Mr. Bradley made a subdivision of all the square except Mr. Doniphan’s lots, in parcels lettered A to P. John Clarvoe, in that year, bought on 7th street north of F street, erecting a frame house, in which he had a home and grocery for many years. Mr. Clarvoe had kept a tavern opposite the market for a long time, which was burned about 1840. The property descended to the son, the late John A. W. Clarvoe, who was a well known detective of Washington.
Some Early 7th Street Residents
Between F, G, 8th and 9th streets the fourteen lots were in 1797 vested in Mr. Young, the proprietor, and they were in the family until 1823. Two years later J. C. Hunter acquired lots 9 to 12, corner of 8th and F streets, and later J. S. Peabody secured lots 1 and 2, the corner of 8th and G streets, which, in 1840, he sold to W. N. Davis, Peter Hepburn and others of that family were on the square later with Ephraim Bird, carpenter; Daniel Fenton, for years a pressman, whose grandchildren are now connected with printing; John McDevitt, then in the china and crockery business, and Capt. Peter Jones.
In the fifties the late Crosby S. Noyes, editor of The Star, purchased a home next to the corner of 8th and G, and W. H. English, once candidate for Vice President, owner the corner property. Shortly afterward the corner property was purchased from Mr. English by George L. Milton, who at that time was an employe of the navy yard. Mr. Milton resided here in the little frame cottage for twelve years.
Square Leased in 1813
John Croggon, for years a produce dealer in the fifties, erected a frame residence at 8th and G streets, and for some years the grocery business was conducted by the family. This family remained in this section of the city for years. One of its members became famous as a doctor and his practice covered practically all of the Island. William Croggon was the last survivor of the family, who resided for years at 7th and E streets.