In Old Washington
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, January 5, 1909 [p. 16]
It is difficult to the present generation, now that most of the ground within the old corporation lines, as well as much in the district lines and beyond, is built over, o single out sections which were in old times of tardy growth.
There are some localities where water course, marsh and configuration of the ground operated adversely to improvement. Within a short distance of Pennsylvania avenue, on which were first-class improvements--used a hundred years ago as public offices, business houses and residences--was a section in which a stream and the unevenness of the ground somewhat retarded improvement for over half a century. Indeed, when the board of public works, nearly forty years ago, took control, much of the primeval conditions were in the lines of 19th, 22d, K and M streets.
Through the space ran, in serpentine course, Slash or Shad run, cutting through four of the seven squares and into L street. Though this stream, having its rise above the head of 18th street, drained much territory, it was of but six or eight feet wide and three or four deep. Some years before the civil war it was arched over at 20th street, long used as the thoroughfare to Holmead's graveyard, and a wooden bridge was at 21st street.
Many boys in that part of the city found amusement about the stream, fishing and bathing in it. A few butchers had their slaughter houses and pens convenient to it, and these were but three squares from the West market.
John Pfeaster was probably the first. His slaughter house was near 22d street, hog pens adjoining. At 21st street John Berry slaughtered cattle. William Linkins for many years had his slaughter house on 20th street.
This section laid mostly in Gen. Lingan's tract. Though Greenleaf, Uriah Forrest, Stoddert, Peter and other prominent people were interested in the early days, few improvements followed. Possibly the first was the small house on L street, east of 21st street, assessed to Israel Cope for $300, who bought there in 1809.
Unimproved for Years
In the thirties Albert Parris settled on K street near 22d, establishing hack stables. Here was ex-Fire Chief Joe Parris born and reared. The father's stable being twice burned when he was a small child, he had an object lesson in fire fighting. The Pfeaster family came on the scene about the same time.
In square 71, formed by the lines of New Hampshire avenue, M and 22d streets, three lots were plotted, of which the original proprietor, Robert Peter, was in 1796 vested with lot 1; the United States with the others. Morris and Nicholson owned lots 2 and 3, which were mortgaged to Uriah Forrest in 1802. Charles Waymon was the owner, and George Murdock bought them the following year.
The lot of New Hampshire avenue and M street in 1829 went to L. Boyle, and after to W.W. Billling. Two cents was the assessment in 1802 on the ground and it decreased to 1 cent, ½ cent and to 3 mills by 1830.
Square 72 of eighteen lots fronting on New Hampshire avenue south of M and 21st streets, in the division of 1796, went to Mr. Peter and the government equally. There were included in the Greenleaf contract, nine lots. In 1812 the others were portioned by the heirs of Robert Peter and the square laid idle for years after. Clemont Cox in 1834 and lot 11; in 1839 J. Dibbey owned 16 and James Thompson 17 on 21st street. The same early valuations as above were here, but in 1850 ½, 1 and 1-1/2 cents per foot were assessed.
Between K, L, 21st and 22d streets was square 73, platted for twenty-four lots, which in 1799 were allotted Uriah Forrest and Benjamin Stoddert being vested with that at the corner of 21st and K streets, the government with lots 2 and 24 adjoining and Mr. Peter with the others.
Greenleaf was interested here early. The Peter property was partitioned between the heirs in 1812, William O'Neile owned lot 1, corner 21st and K streets in 1815. The first valuation of 3 cents per foot in 1802, soon after reduced to 1 cent, was regained by 1850. Soon after there was a demand for lots.
Mary Dick was listed for a $250 house at the corner of L and 22d streets. James Mason for one at $150, corner of 21st and L streets and on other parts of the square were two buildings owned by Thomas and George Peter, rated at $150 and $100 respectively. In 1830 R.P. Dunlop owned these lots on K street, William Jewell lot 18, L street, and Thomas Conner 12 on 22d street.
The next year James Thompson had part lot 12 and in 1832 Mr. Campbell and W.S. Nichols owned on L street and on the Thompson and Nichols lots are frame houses noted. William Jewell then had lots 11 to 20 on the north and part of the west front of the square. Albert Parris in 1832 bought lot 6 and part 7 on K street; Ann C. Smith, part 12 on 22d street; S. Burch 20 on K and R. Sewall 21 on L street.
Conditions in 1834
Square 76, east of the preceding square, between 20th, 21st, K and L streets of thirty lots, was in 1791 apportioned as the property of Stoddert Forrest and Lingan Mr. Peter, being a joint owner in 1796, there was a redivision. Stoddert and Forrest's portion had, however, through Greenleaf assed to Morris and Nicholson. They with Forrest and Lingan, agreed to the reapportionment by which Gen. Lingan and the United States were vested with fifteen lots each.
In 1802 James Gray had the fifteen lots allotted to the United States, the east half of the square. Isreal Cope owned the others in 1809 and Jasper Cope in 1818. In 1819 Col. W.B. Randolph became owner of four lots on 21st and L streets on the partition of Gen. Lingan's estate, and sold to John Siousa. William O'Neale bought at the same time lots 4 to 7 on K street.
In 1831 Margaret Pfeister owned lot 16 and part 15, including the corner of L and 21st streets, and John Gadsby bought the government's portion of the square.
The corporation values were in the early years the same as on the preceding square, but in 1830 3 and 4 cents per foot was the ground value, and Jasper Cope was listed for a $300 house on lot 17, L street.
History of Square 100
In 1829 W.W. Billing owned lot 3, on L street, and the year after John Pickrell of Georgetown owned nine lots and R.P. Dunlop five lots. Mr. Pickrell afterward conveying to Joseph Libbey of Georgetown. In 1831 W.W. Corcoran owned lot 25, on M street, and in 1834 N. Frye owned a lot on L street and one on 21st street; F.B. Lord, lot 20, on M street; James Thompson, 36, on 20th street; S. Redfern, 13, on 21st street; William Jewell, 28 or 29, on 20th street; Thomas Corcoran, 12, on 21st street, and W.W. Corcoran, 35, on 20th street.
In 1838 Dr. W.B. Magruder owned on 21st street lot 13, and the next year the Farmers and Mechanics' Bank had lots 11 and 13, on 21st street, and Mary Williams 20, on M street.
In the original valuation one cent was the rate on the ground, but it was below that for thirty years, when it increased to the original figure, but no improvements were listed up to 1830.
Between 19th and 20th and L and M streets there was a division into thirty-two lots of square 117 between the United States and Gen. Lingan in 1792, but five years later was redivided into thirty lots as the ground of Gen. Lingan and Mr. Peter and title to half the lots vested in Gen. Lingan. In 1817 lots 10 to 25, on M and 19th streets, were bought by John Hough, and W.P. Gardner bought lots 4 to 11 on L and 20th streets.
In 1819 George Beall bought lots 19 to 25 and the next year H. Simms had lot 23, John McDuell 24 and 25, which soon after were bought by John Little, the price being about 3-1/2 mills per foot. In 1821 H.C. and S. Scott had lot 23; William Cole lots 19 to 22, including the corner of 19th and M streets, and Robert Leckie 5 and 6, the southwest corner of the square on which was a one-hundred-dollar improvement. In 1826 Dorcas Lovell bought in lot 4 on M street, having a fifty-dollar improvement; William Brown lot 11 on 20th street and Arthur McIntire lots 7 to 10 on 20th street.
W.W. Corcoran acquired lots 12 to 18, including the corner of 20th and M streets, in 1830; W.W. Billing 16 and 32 and S. Redfern lot 13. Mr. Jewell had lots 12, 13 and 18 in 1834 and F.F. Wood bought lots 19 to 20 in 1836, which he transferred to J.T. McConchie. In 1839 John Boyle had lots 7 to 10; Grafton Powell lots 5 and 6, and in 1842 William Linkins had lot 7.
The square south, No. 85, of twenty-two lots, fronting K, L, 19th and 20th streets, was first apportioned in 1791, and again in 1796, when Gen. Lingan took the west half of the square, the United States the east half. In 1799 Samuel Smith bought lots 4 to 14, the Lingan portion and the next year Solomon Etting had lots 15 and 19. In 1802 J. Gray had lots 1 to 3 and 16 to 18. In 1824 Col. John Tayloe bought the west half of the square, lots 4 to 14, and the next change was in 1843, when Samuel Stott bought lots 16 to 18, the corner of 19th and L streets.
One cent was the first value, but in thirty years two to three cents per foot was the taxable basis on the ground.
The well known Shorter family of colored people, of which Joe Shorter, now about ninety years of age, survives, came on 20th street about 1837. Joe is known to all the old-timers for having made Shorter's tonsorial emporium on 9th street near the avenue famous. Alfred Jones, colored, about the same year built a home and feed store on K street between 21st and 22d streets. Colored families named Pompey, Tinney and Logan were there in the forties as was Jerry Campbell, who settled in 1832.
In the forties Mrs. Beedle, a dressmaker, lived on M street, and other residents were the Caddes and Sewalls, colored families; Henry Gosh, who kept a dairy, and Joseph Mason, dealer in smoked fish. Thomas Conner in the thirties built two small houses on 22d street above L street, which was the nucleus of Connaught row, so called from most of the residents being from that county of Ireland.