Old Washington-Forgotten Streams.
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, January 12, 1913 [p. 14]
In old Washington there were many streams flowing from springs as well as drains, by which the surface water was carried off. All traces of them have disappeared; some of them being included in the extensive sewer system of today. Much of the larger portion of the city within the corporation was drained by the Tiber, which became the Washington city canal. Several streams flowed into this, among them two in the heart of the city, these carrying the spring water as well as the drainage from that section between 9th and 14th streets north of the canal and south of K street. It is probable there are none now living who ever saw that stream, which in the beginning of the century flowed from north of F street down 11th street. This had its rise in a spring northwest of 12th and G streets and it ran through the square north of F street between 11th and 12th streets and crossed down 11th street to the Tiber or canal.
Spanned by Bridges
This was spanned as early as 1808 by several bridges at Pennsylvania avenue and E and F streets, constructed by Thady Hogan at a cost to the city of $150 each. At this time the waters of the Tiber extended very nearly to C street. At the same time there were several buildings on 11th street, including a theater at 11th and C streets and a Masonic hall across the way.
Some of the buildings were Henry Smith's row on the east side of 11th street south of F street; Jake Dixon's, at the southwest corner of 11th and F streets, and Andrew Carothers' famous grocery store at the northwest corner. There also were on the east side of 11th street above F street the two fine dwellings erected by the schoolmaster, John McLeod, who was one of the Irish patriots of 1798, and previously had established a school at the navy yard, but later moved to 10th and G streets, and in the latter part of his life to 9th street between G and H. North was one of the most noted pumps.
The other stream, known as Sluice run down in the last century, has some historical interest. It had its rise in the springs in square Nos. 249 and 284. The waters from the spring of Gen. John Davison, whose house was in the square between K and L and 11th and 12th streets, ran out into 13th street about K street and then southward. On the east side of square 249, now Franklin Park, another stream burst forth, uniting with that from Davidson's flowing down 13th street, and near the corner of I street the small run from the springs in the square united and coursed down to H street passing through square 287, now the site of the New Masonic Temple.
At this point was located the tanyard of George Cover, who had his residence adjoining and conducted the business there for thirty years or more.
Seven Oaks Hill
At the southwest corner of 13th and 14 streets there was a small hill on which there was a grove of trees, and this was known as the Seven Oaks. The stream crossing H street was diverted eastward, bearing south to Grant street between 9th and 10th, where having grown in proportions and taking in a small stream which flowed down 10th street, wended its way to the Tiber, entering the same between 9th and 10th streets. Where this turn was made the square was entirely bare of improvements save the Protestant Orphan Asylum and the Van Ness mausoleum, now the site occupied by the Georgetown Medical School and the school building of Mr. McLeod, over the door of which was the sign, "Order is Heaven's First Law."
G street had not been cut through, and there were many stones near the run. By common consent it became the famous battleground of the "Pinters" and "Nineters," rival bands of downtown, and Northern Liberty boys, who were wont to meet almost every afternoon and engage in a stone battle, which resulted in many scars, some of them borne to this day.
Constable Near Battles
John Waters, a well known constable, lived in full view of these battles on 10th street, but his efforts to command peace were mostly futile. The stream crossed the square with the grounds of St. Patrick's Church and Gonzaga College, then the Washington Seminary on the right, and those of private parties on the left, and on F street it crossed by a small wooden bridge. It was at this point that the colored chef, Snow, whose piece of business was at the corner of 6th street and Pennsylvania avenue, eluded the mob in 1836. It was alleged that while dealing at a butcher's, and in the market, he had made a remark derogatory to the character of the ladies of Washington, and as soon as it became known a mob was assembled, which wrecked his eating house at 6th street and Pennsylvania avenue and started a hunt for him, carrying ropes, pistols and other weapons, and it is safe to say that had he been overtaken "Judge Lynch" would have made short work of him. The city was in possession of the mob for two or three days. It did not entirely disperse until the militia began assembling and order was not fully restored until it was definitely ascertained that he had left the city.
Water for President
The waters of Franklin Square did not all flow into this stream, for in 1819 they were piped in wooden logs to the President's house, and in 1824 the corporation laid pipes down 13th street and along F street to 15th, and water was supplied to hydrants at the street corners. In 1831 the government acquired title to square 249 and further improved the water service, but the square laid open until a few years before the civil war, when it was filled up and improved, and it now is the popular Franklin Square. In early days the square was a famous playground for the boys of that section, and it is related that the late Col. Peter Force frequently told of catching sun and other small fish in the stream above E street. Besides its being utilized by the tannery it was used in the early days of the century by a brewery on the Avenue, which was burned about 1819, and by Thomas Bates' soap factory, which was subsequently removed to a site near the patent office, on G between 6th and 7th streets.
Terminus of Tiber
Before the waters of the Tiber were contained by the walls of the canal 12th street was regarded as its terminus, and the waters then reached to near D street north, in some places, and several hundred yards on the Mall to the south, and it was some time before the adjacent ground was brought into use. In 1816 the canal was first opened from 12th street to the navy yard and boats proceeded to and fro between the Potomac and Anacostia. At 12th street Langley & King established an extensive lumber yard and wood yards. Gradually other business houses and residences were erected. Among those recalled are the machine shops of Rider & McKinstry, who were succeeded by William B. Ellis & Bro., and John McClelland's, at 10th street on the site of the Washington Gas Light Company's first plant, and the flour mill of Coltman & Duncanson, and in the forties there was a broom factory near the canal.
Early in the century Gen. Van Ness erected two houses at the corner of 12th and D streets, taking his bride, Marcia Burns, to one of them and renting the other to Dr. Carroll. At the southeast corner of 12th and C streets Johnathan Appler kept a tavern which was well patronized by boatmen and business men.