GROWTH WAS SLOW
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, January 20, 1909 [p. 12]
One of the sections of Washington the remarkable growth of which in recent years evidently was not anticipated by the early inhabitants of the District of Columbia is that lying to the southeast of Dupont Circle, bounded on the north by P street, on the south by L street, on the east side of 16th street and on the west by 18th street. The present condition of this section need not be commented upon, and every one familiar with its advancement during the past twenty years knows of the rapidity of its development. Yet individual and municipal improvements were long conspicuous by their absence in the locality.
When other sections of the city were beginning to grow old this section was almost a wilderness. In 1830 a straggling village was beginning to appear on the land which is now bounded by L and M and 18th and 19th street, but elsewhere in the neighborhood the houses at that time were few in number and isolated. All the improvements of half a century's growth represented the expenditure of but a few thousand dollars.
It is difficult to realize the conditions of the past, when much of this land was open, whole squares being unoccupied. Old Slash run was of little use except for carrying off the rainfall and the offal of a few slaughter houses.
The most of this section, when the ground was planned for the city, was included in the Blodget tract, and the tracts of Samuel Davidson and Gen. Lingan also contributed. In the platting a public reservation or square larger than Lafayette Square was contemplated, centering on the site of the Scott station, 16th and N streets, and Massachusetts and Rhode Island avenues. By the lines of 17th, 18th, M and N streets and the avenues a number of squares were made, some of irregular shape, but since new streets have appeared increasing the number old natives have witnessed the conversion of the run into a sewer, the streets from dirt roads to broad, smooth carriageways and the primitive frame home sites replaced by palatial buildings.
Section Long Neglected
In 1830 the following were listed for assessment: William Linkins, $150; John Sibley, $400; Josiah Lamar, $100; T.C. Moore, $300; James Walker, $200; G. Beale, $900; Sarah Bateman, $50; --- Sutton, $100, and Ann James, $50.
Some Early Owners
The twenty-one lots in the square east number 102, between L, M and 17th streets and Connecticut avenue, were apportioned in 1797 to the United States and remained until 1851, when they were conveyed by the commissioner of public buildings to Nathaniel Carusi. In all this time the ground through which the stream wound its way was unprofitable, for the United States paid no taxes, though the assessors rated it at half a cent per foot.
The thirty-two lots in square 183, between L, M, 16th and 17th streets, in 1797 was divided, one lot going to Mr. Blodget, sixteen to the United States and thirteen to Samuel Davidson, two of the latter for improvements. This was vested in 1801 in Mr. Stoddart, but William O'Neale owned at the southwest corner of 17th and M streets, in 1819, two years after William Simmons succeeding, and Joshua Pearce bought here in 1840. In that decade W.W. Corcoran had nine lots in the north part of the square, and John P. Heiss eight in the southwest quarter of the square. In square 182 north of the above the seventeen lots in 1795 were vested in the proprietor, Mr. Blodget. In 1800 T. Kebbard had title, to which R.S. Beckley succeeded in 1807.
Owned by the Government
Between the lines of Rhode Island avenue and 17th street square 160 of four lots went to the government in 1796, in seven years passing to Nicholas King, long the surveyor. In 1821 Margaretta King and J. Thorn were owners.
First Summer Garden
Square 159, between Rhode Island and Connecticut avenues, 17th and N streets, of sixteen lots, was in 1795 apportioned, the government taking title to nine and Mr. Blodgett to seven. The same year Sabret Scott owned lots at the corner of Connecticut avenue and 18th street, which in 1806 went to J.H. Stone. R.S. Beckley had the Blodget lots in 1807, and in 1843 Thomas Corcoran bought them. The square bounded by Massachusetts avenue, 17th, 18th and N streets, 158, of 22 lots, went to the United States. In 1802 William Dougherty obtained four and William Simmons a like number. In 1806 Raborg & Taylor had bought from Charles Love four on N street and they had a building midway of the square, which in the thirties was taxed for $250 value. In 1809 Mr. O'Neale owned at the corner of N and 18th streets. In 1834 Grafton Powell bought a lot which he sold to W.W. Corcoran, and in 1840 B.F. Moxley owned a lot. In 1830 Ann Shorter was listed for $50. The square north 157, of twenty lots, fronting Massachusetts avenue, 17th and P streets, in 1798 was assigned Mr. Blodgett, and in 1801 Mr. Stoddert held title for the Washington Association. Six years after it was in the name of R.S. Beckley. Thomas Corcoran bought it in 1843.
The triangle formed by P and 18th streets and Massachusetts avenue of one lot, N. 187, was assigned Mr. Blodget in 1799 and long laid in the open. In 1847 it was purchased by Maj. Heiss, editor of the Union. The square south, between Connecticut and Massachusetts avenues and 18th street, 137, of four lots, was assigned to the United States and in 1847 went to Mr. Heiss.
Quarter Cent a Foot