BACK IN THE FIFTIES
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, August 8, 1909 [pt. 7, p. 10]
There was slow development in the settlement of that part of Washington which was referred to ove fifty years ago as "down by the Tiber," or "past the engine hosue," for the roundhosue of the one railroad then entering the city was so known. To be more explicit, between G street on the north, C street on the south, North Capitol and 1st street, at that time and years before was a barren section, if we except one solitary dwelling, that of John Logan, erected just south of the site of the government printing office about 1820, and the engine house of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, built near the corner of New Jersey avenue and D street about 1840. the Tiber, or Goose creek, flowing a short distance east of North Capitol street, crossed it between E and F streets and flowed over parts of the squares south.
The adjacent ground being mostly low land, in times of freshets being overflowed, little of this territory possessed sites attractive to the home building. Indeed, it was regarded a hazardous undertaking to build near the stream, especially about North Capitol above D street, where a feeder from the eastward added a generous quantity of water.
Prominent Property Owners
It is not surprising that the settlement came slowly and much of it remained unimproved until later years. For nearly half a century the figures on the assessor's books against the lots were in fractions of a cent per square foot, the maximum rate in the thirties being but half a cent.
Most of the ground was included in the Ben Oden and Carroll tracts, the line being near the Tiber. Two entire squares were allotted to the first named, one to the government, and half the lots to the government and the balance to Oden and Carroll.
Agreement With Greenleaf
Geofroy et al. succeeded Greenleaf in square 625 between Massachusetts avenue, North Capitol and G streets, until 1827, when John F. Ingle owned it for two years. It then went to Mr. Oden. In 1842 John S. Cabot became the owner, later making a subdivision. In 1842 J.N. Weber bought two sublots. Two years after William Ball bought two others for $97.
In 1848 Tittolson Brown bought on Massachusetts avenue, and in the fifties a fine frame dwelling for that day was erected on the north side of Massachusetts avenue, which, in the midst of a well kept garden, was an attractive place.
In 1809 square 636, between Massachusetts and New Jersey avenue and F and G streets, passed into the possession of Moses Young, who then lived near the corner of 3d and D streets, after long years spent in the consular service in Europe. John Logan, before noted, bought the square, built and lived there after 1820, being assessed for $400. Walter C. Johnson, then a grocer at 9th and L streets, in 1834, bought the square and subdivided it into thirty parcels, afterward erecting the row of three-story brick dwellings on New Jersey avenue yet in service.
Tiber Cut Through Square
Two years after E. Burd owned lots 3 and 7. In 1838 Saunders Lewis acquired 1 and 5, and in 1839 W.G. Cranch owned all except lot 3. Tiber creek cut through the southeast quarter of this square from the square opposite.
There were six lots in square 630, facing New Jersey avenue, North Capitol and D and E streets, in which this title was vested, as in the above square. The Tiber covered nearly a fourth of the ground, running diagonally across the center of the square. Here Greenleaf was interested in 1796, and Pratt, Miller et al. in 1803. In 1815 Mr. Young owned three lots, and between 1835 and 1840 John Kedghi bought four. In the fifties a substantial brick dwelling near the southwest corner and a planning mill were the first improvements of note.
In this square between New Jersey avenue, North Capitol and C and D streets, on which faced eleven lots owned by Mr. Carroll, the United States took title in 1796, and there was no change either in ownership or the appearance of the ground itself for many years.
B & O Erects Roundhouse
The latter were at the corners of 1st and C and 2d and B streets, and here were erected the freight-house and stables, for at that time the railroad had use for horses. As above stated, the roundhouse was in square 632, in which later on a small repair shop was installed. About 1853 the railroad company located its depot on this square, where, after a service of over fifty years, on the recent opening of the Union terminal station it was razed. Since then many thousand yards of earth have covered the square completely obliterating all signs of the depot that was once familiar to thousands of visitors and Washingtonians.
West of New Jerssey avenue, between C, D and 1st streets, the eight original lots were apportioned between Carroll and Oden, who took the odd numbered lots, and the government the others. In 1797 Messrs. Dunlop and Carlton, then and many years after leading builders bought three of the government's lots, and W.S. Chandler another. Benjamin Stoddert, trustee for the Tontine Company, in 1805 obtained the Chandler lot.
Officials Buy Land
The creek, crossing New Jersey avenue ran over the southeast corner of this square and the surface 9f the balance of the land being low and uneven, it laid bare of improvement until the depot was located opposite.
The triangle formed by New Jersey avenue, D and 1st streets, square 639 was of but two lots, and in 1796 Oden and Carroll were vested with title to the larger one fronting D street. Dunlop and Carlton had title to this in 1797, and four years later it was held for the Tontine by Mr. Stoddert. In 1815, Mr. Young had lot 1, and four years later John Biley owned the other. In 1820, a subdivision having been made, one was conveyed to William Enders. In 1829 John Hoffman owned in lot 2, and John Burch and Alfred Heitmuller in lot 1 in 1846.
The small triangle north of the above, formed by New Jersey avenue, 1st and E streets, square 627, forming but one lot, was vested in Mr. Oden till 1839, when it was bought by Col. Peter Force, In 1858 it was owned by Nicholas Acker, a prominent stonecutter and contractor.