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Full text of "The history and development of Maryland Avenue in the nations’s capital : a thesis / prepared by Raymond F. Bartelmes"

THE HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT OF MARYLAND AVENUE 
IN THE NATIONS CAPITOL 



A THESIS PREPARED 
BY 
RAYMOND F. BARTELMES 



FOR INITIATION INTO THE 
BETA CHAPTER OF MARYLAND 
OF 
TAU BETA PI HONORARY ENGINEERING SOCIETY 



may 3, 1935 



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PLAN OF MARYLAND AVENUE 



SUMMARY 

Maryland Avenue, as planned by L'Enfant, was to be one 
of the principal avenues of the city radiating from the Capitol 
building. After the avenues and streets were laid out, the Gov- 
ernment disposed of the land along them not to be used for pub- 
lic buildings. 

One of the first property owners on Maryland Avenue 
was Robert Brent, first mayor of the city, who erected a fine 
mansion at 12th and Maryland Avenue, S. W. Mr. Sewell, an early 
resident, built a large brick house at 2nd and Maryland Avenue, 
N. E. It was from this house that a shot was fired that killed 
the horse Gen. Ross, commander of the British land forces, was 
riding up Maryland Avenue after the Battle of Bladensburg August 
25, 1814. 

Land in vicinity of Maryland Avenue, S. W. , was very 
swampy but with the draining of these swamos , settlement came to 
the Avenue and it was here that some of the finest houses in the 
city stood. When the railroad tracks were laid along the avenue, 
this section was cut off from the rest of the city and developed 
less rapidly. Maryland Avenue in Southwest was first graded in 
I85O, Later It was paved with sections of cobblestone, wood and 
granite. It was first paved with asphalt in the period lSSJ- 
1902. Within the last 3 years most of the k venue in Southwest 
has been resurfaced. 

Maryland Avenue, N. E., developed slowly and it was not 
until IS72 that it was first graded and graveled. A few years 
later the whole avenue in Northeast was paved witn asphalt blocks. 



Practically all of this paving was replacing with a sheet asphalt 
paving in recent years. In 191^ a center parkway was constructed 
in the middle of the Avenue from Stanton Park to 15th Street at 
the time the Avenue was being resurfaced, making it one of the 
most beautiful in the city. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

THE EVENING STAR OF WASHINGTON, D. 0. 

JAMES CROGGON and JOHN PROCTOR 

WASHINGTON EVENING STAR 

MAJOR DAVISON 

MAINTENANCE ENGINEER FOR D . C. 

CLIFFORD LANHAM 

SUPERINTENDENT OF TREES AND PARKING IN D. C. 



i^ffeiA^«!|~~^ 



CAPTAIN WHIT El 

DIRECTOR OF HIGHWAYS IN D. C. 

SAMUEL HARRISON 

RELEASE ENGINEER IN CHARGE OF RECORDS IN D . C 

REPORTS OF THE COMMISSIONERS OF D , C. 1S71-193**- 



THE HIS TORY AND DEVELOPMENT OF MARYLAND AVENUE 
IN THE NATION'S CAPITOL 

L' ENFANT '3 PLAN 

"The Congress of the United States on July 16, 1790, 
established a permanent seat of government and authorized com- 
missioners to be appointed by the preptident to purchase land 
for the site. The agreement was executed, delivered and en- 
trusted to Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant to prepare plans for 
laying out a city.* L'Enfant, a native of France, had always 
been impressed by the broad, tree-lined avenues of Versailles 
and Paris, and it was with these in mind that he undertook to 
plan the city. 

By L' Infant's plan the Capitol building was the grand 
centre from which streets and avenues radiated like the spokes 
of a wheel. The streets radiated at right angles and the 
avenues diagonally. The avenues were twice the width of the 
streets or one-hundred sixty feet, which width they are to the 
present day with a few exceptions. 
EARLY HI3T0RY OF PROPERTY ALONG- MARYLAND AVENUE 

Maryland Avenue extended from Boundary Avenue, now 
Florida Avenue, to Fourteenth Street west. The portion of Mary- 
land Avenue in the eastern part of the city was slow to develop, 
but Maryland Avenue Southwest developed rapidly and soon became a 
section of the city in which the finest houses stood. 

Land along the Avenue was acquired as a gift from the 
Government or bought for a small sum. Much of the undesirable 



-2- 



land in swampy sections regained in the hands of the Government 
for many years. 

The square south between 11th, 12th and Streets and 
Maryland Avenue, No. J26 of ten lots, was, in 179 1 *-, assigned to a 
Mr. Young but in 1797 h at * passed to the name of Jacobus Merson. 
The appraisement in 1S30 w 9 - 8 from seven to twelve cents per 
square foot. In that year it was owned by H. T. Weightman and 
John Webb under tax deeds; three years afterward it went to 
Joseph Gales, and later the heirs of Merson redeemed it. In the 
forties much of it was used in the lumber trade. Mr. Church, a 
lumberman, acquired the square and erected a number of houses and 
the square is now the site of many family homes. 

The triangle formed by Maryland Avenue, 9th and D 
Streets, square 3^6, was a plot which in 1797 went to the Govern- 
ment. Later it was owned by Thomas Law; in IS17 it went to 
Samuel Elliot; and in 1832 Elizabeth Brannan owned the plot. 

Square 327, bounded by Maryland Avenue, E, 11th and 
12th Streets, was made into eleven lots and in 1797 t* 9 - 8 assigned 
to Mr. Young, father-in-law of Robert Brent, first mayor of the 
City of Washington. It was then valued at one cent per square 
foot. Mr. Brent acquired title in 1S09, and he made a sub- 
division of thirty-two parcels. 

On the Southeast corner of this block Robert Brent 
built a fine old mansion. It was a substantial two-story and 
attic brick structure and in that house he died on September 7, 



-3- 

1819* In recent years after the house had become considerably 
decayed, it was torn down and replaced by an apartment house. 

In the houses that extend eastward from 12th Street on 
Maryland Avenue, have lived a number of the old and aristocratic 
families of Washington. The next house east of Brent's home was 
built by the mayor for his son, Robert Young Brent, and later it 
was occupied by Dr. James E. Morgan. Next east live Mrs. Roland, 
aunt of Judge Robert E. Mattingly. In the next house lived John 
Knight, an engraver of the Coast Survey. 

In square 726 near the Capitol grounds, Aaron Van Horn, 
in 1820, owned property facing Maryland Avenue, on which he had 
an imposing house for that day. The house stood in the midst of 
a beautiful garden and was valued at $1,900, a high value for 
that time. 

In the forties, Ignatius Mudd , afterward Commissioner 
of Public Buildings, resided on Maryland Avenue between First and 
Second Streets, Southwest. In this same block, early in the 
fifties, a lager beer saloon and gardens were established. Be- 
cause of its proximity to the Capitol, it was here that many of 
our lawmakers met to discuss problems of state over steins of 
beer. 
EARLY MER PRINTS AND TRADESMEN ON MARYLAND AVENUE 

Benjamin McQuay, in 184-5, had a home with feed store on 
Maryland Avenue, Southwest. John Elvans, the well known hardware 
dealer of that day, resided on this Avenue, as did W. C. 
Bamberger, a wheelwright. John Sinclair, a machinist; George 



-iU 



Hercus, a pumpmaker; George Crandell and one ox two other trades- 
men also resided on this historic avenue. 

HISTORIC SEWELL HOUSE 



A, big house, 
with heavy walls and an 
entrance that can be de- 
scribed as having an 
aristocratic look, stands 
at the Northwest corner of 
B and 2nd Streets. Mary- 
land Avenue, pursuing its 
slanting course from the 
Capitol grounds toward the 
northeast, cuts across 2nd 
at B, so that the house 
faces on Maryland Avenue 
and on B. Today this 
house is mentioned as "The 
Barbour House" because of 



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the 


fact that it 


was the 








home 


of John S. 


3arbour, 




SEWELL HOUSE 




railroad builder 


and manager 


, also representative and 


senator 


from 


Virginia. 


He lived there from 


1S71 to May, 1892, 


when he 


died 


Men whose 


memories go 


back to 


a much earlier time remeai- 


ber 


this as " Sewell House". 


The old 


house and the site on which 



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it stande have several claims to a place In local history. 

Lord Baltimore built the first house to occupy the site 
sometime in the ISth century. 8ome of the walls and rafters in 
the basement still remain.* The rafters were rough cut by axeB 
as can be seen by examining them, Sewell built the house that 
Btands there today early in the 19th century. 

Perhaps chief among the historic claims of this house 
is that from within, and from the garden adjoining the house, a 
shot or fusilade was fired which killed the horse on which 
General Roes, Commander of the British land forces, was riding 
while he and his troops were marching through the eastern part 
of the city late in the afternoon of August 25, 1S14-, after the 
Battle of Bladensburg. In some of the British accounts of the 
incident, it is alleged that this attempt to kill the British 
commander caused the issuance of the order for the burning of 
the public buildings and other property. 

On the northeast corner of Maryland Avenue opposite 
Sewell House, General Dearborn, Secretary of War, erected a 
house. At the time General Ross 1 horse was killed this house 
was unoccupied, but some of the snipers were shooting from in 
and around the house; so the General had the house immediately 
burned to the ground. 

♦NOTE - Told to author by member of National Woman's Party, who 
occupy the building. 



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MARYLAND AVENUE SOUTHWEST 

Land in the 
vicinity of Maryland Avenue, 
Southwest, was swampy and 
was never intended for build- 
ing purposes in L*Enf ant's 
plan. Because of this swampy 
condition the locality became 
known as M Swampoodle rt and 
••The Island". This latter 
name because Tiber Greek, St. 
James Creek and the Washing- 
ton Channel surrounded the 
district. In ISlb, the Wash- 
ington City Canal was built 
and drained the swampy areas. 
After this settlement along 
Maryland Avenue was more 
rapid. 

A port ion of Mary- 




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MARYLAND AVENUE, S. W. 



TODAY 

land Avenue from lM-th to 11th Streets was a link in the great 
southern mail route and consequently was much travelled and well 
worn. 

During the Mexican War, a section of Maryland Avenue 
was used as part of a race track. A turn in the track was at 



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7th and Maryland Avenue and here the sporting gentry gathered to 
urge on their favorite horse. 

Prior to the Civil War there was a considerable 
traffic of slaves through Washington. While awaiting favorable 
opportunity for "running " the slaves, they were held in dark 
cellars known as "pens" . Such a "pen" stood near 7th on Mary- 
land Avenue. Conditions were such in these pens, that many of 
the slaves died and were buried on a lot at 7th and Maryland 
Avenue. 
THE RAILROAD UP MARYLAND AVENUE 



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About IS7O, railroad tracks 
were laid along Maryland Avenue, 
Southwest, and the railroads came to 
use that noble street as a freight 
and a switching yard. That section 
was not only blockaded against the 
central business section of the city 
but grade-crossing casualties were of 
frequent occurrence. Because of 
these accidents the railroad had to 
dig a deep cut down below the former 
bed of the Avenue. This cut is stone walled and is eight tracks 
wide. The streets cross the cut on concrete bridges. The 
tracks extended from 14th to 1st Street on Maryland Avenue. The 
Pennsylvania Railroad ran as far as 6th Street, thence up 6th to 




-S- 



the depot. The B. & 0- Railroad ran the whole length of Mary- 
land Avenue, Southwest, and at First Street turned off to the 
New Jersey Avenue station. 

The Avenue ran between the tracks from First to 
Seventh Streets and thence to Water Street, being split into two 
roadways thirty feet wide with the tracks between. 
EARLY DEVELOPMENT. 

City improvement of streets ^nd avenues was not at- 
tempted for fifty years after the founding of the City. Until 
I860 Maryland Avenue and East Capitol Street alone were the 
thoroughfares in the eastern section of the city, although there 
were some zigzag wagon tracks in evidence in the neighborhood. 
Though Maryland Avenue was in the route of travel early, East 
Capitol Street improved more rapidly, 

Maryland Avenue, Southwest, for a long series of years 
remained a dirt road, though then there was considerable travel 
by Long Bridge. About IS50, however, by an appropriation made 
by Congress it was graded and graveled. 

The cost of improvements made in IS7I was 5210,322 and 
the residents along the Avenue were assessed on an average about 

In IS72, Maryland Avenue, Northeast, was graded and 
gutters and curbing put in from 1st to 15th Street. Gravel foot 
walks were made between Sth and 15th Street and in IS75 these 
were replaced by brick footwalks. In thi3 year a flagstone foot 



-9- 



way was laid from 1st Street to the Intersection of Maryland 
Avenue and D Street . 

In IS73 , Maryland Avenue between 9th Street and 
l4th Street west was graded, curbs were set and brick: and blue 
rock pavements were laid by Albert Gleason, contractor. From 
1st to 3 r <* Street the first curbs were set and a wooden pavement 
put down. 

By July 1, I879, the average width of the carriageway 
was sixty feet and the total width of the Avenue was one hundred 
and twenty feet from property line to property line. The whole 
of Maryland Avenue east of the Capitol was covered with gravel 
and had been graded. This grading caused the houses on the 
south side west of Stanton park to be left standing on high 
terraces. At this time in southwest, the Avenue from First to 
Third Street was covered with 4,3^ square yards of wood paving; 
from yvA Street to 7th Street was covered with cobble and blue 
rock; and from 9*k "to Water Street was covered with granite. 
RECOLLECT IOHS OF At? EARLY RESIDENT ON MARYLAND AV ENUE 

Clifford Lanham, Superintendent of Trees and Parking 
in the District of Columbia, lived at 329 Maryland Avenue, N. E. , 
about 65 years ago when he was a boy. Mr. Lanham recalls that 
all of the Avenue in northeast Washington has been paved for the 
last sixty years. He said, "the first paving was an asphalt 
block which made a durable paving but settled in spots because 
of lack of binding between blocks and unevenness in the base. 




GOING EAST OS MD. AVE. 
TOTARD STAHTON PARK 



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This made the street rough and led to 
the removal of the blocks which were 
replaced by better paving material. 
There never has been any central 
parking west of Stanton Park." Mr. 
Lanham farther said that he and his 
father before him supervised the 
planting of most of the trees in the 
District of Columbia and there have 
been trees lining this Avenue as long 
as he can remember. 

DEVE LOP MENT SI NCE IggR, MARYLAND AVENUE , N. E. 
1ST TO 4-TH STREETS 

In ISS7, an asphalt 
block paving was laid on the 
original gravel base from 1st 
to M-th Street on Maryland 
Avenue, by contractor, 
Patrick Maloney. The area 
covered was 12,000 square 
yards and cost $2 per yard. 
The Avenue from 1st to 2nd DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE BLDG. 
Street Is still paved with asphalt block and is the original 
aBphalt block except for minor repairs. The section between 
2nd and 4-th Street was removed in 1933 and replaced with a 




-11- 




standard aspnalt pavement on an 
eight inch concrete base. Five 
thousand square yards were 
paved at a cost of $1.66 per 
square yard by contractors, 
Corson and Gruman. 
l+TH TO 1BTH STR EETS 

In 1SS9, the Avenue 
from 6th to 11th Street was 
paved with asphalt block on a 
gravel base by the W. A. B. & T„ 
Company. This company laid 

15,000 square yards at |2 per VIEW SHOWING ASPECT 

yard. Patrick Maloney laid PAVING BLOCKS 

asphalt block paving from 11th MARYLAND AVENUE,N.E. 

to 13th Street in IS90 and from ljth to 14-th Street in IS91. 

The section of paving from 6th to 15th Street was torn 
up and replaced in 1914- with a standard asphalt pavement on an 
eight inch concrete base. 27,000 square yards were thus paved 
at $1.66 per square yard by the Cranford Paving Company. 
CENTR AL PA RKING 

A plan was made prior to 19I 4 - to have a parkway 
approximately ten feet wide down the center of Maryland Avenue 
east of Stanton Park. Work had already started on the 1914- job 
when it was decided to build the parkway; so curbing was con- 



-12- 



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^ 



struct ed, on an extra order on the original contract, in the mid- 
dle of the Avenue. Seven thousand linear feet of S" x lj" con- 
crete curbing was laid at a cost 
of 00-52 per lineal foot. This 
concrete curbing was the first 
of its kind in the District of 
Columbia- It has held up re- 
markably well and because of 
this fact has led the District 
to use concrete curbing almost 
exclusively in recent years. 
At the present time it costs the 
city $0.^5 per lineal foot for 
this type of curbing. The park- 
way itself is one of the best VIEW SHOWING 
kept and most beautiful in the CENTRAL PARKING 
city; it is under Federal Highway supervision. 
PUBLIC C OMFORT STATION AT 15TH STREET AND MAR YLANE AVENUE. N. E. 

In 1917 a public 
comfort station was built 
in the intersection of 
Maryland Avenue and 15th 
Street. For a few years 
after it was constructed 
it served its purpose; 





SITE WHERE COMFORT STATION STOOD 



-13- 

however, automobiles continued to increase until it was running 
a big risk for anyone to try to reach the place. Also the 
building obstructed the view of automobile drivers and caused 
many accidents. By 1933 it nad become such a traffic hazard 
that it was torn down. 

DEVELOPME NT OF MARYLAND AVENUE. S . W.. SINCE lggQ 
1ST TO 3R D STREET 

In 1SS3 , the Avenue from 1st to 3rd Street was paved 
with an asphalt paving on a six inch conrete base. Four Thousand 
square yards of paving were paid at $2.29 P e r square y^rd. The 
Concrete was made with the old type "hydraulic" cement. This 
asphalt pavement was one of the first and probably the first 
asphalt pavements in the District of Columbia. After" fifty ye?rs 
of service this paving was replaced, in 1933, by Corson & Gruman, 
contractors, with a standard sheet asphalt pavement on an eight 
inch concrete base. Seven thousand square yards of this type of 
paving were paid. 
3RD TO H STREET 

In 1902, three thousand square yards of paving similar 
to that laid from 1st to 3rd Street were constructed by the 
Warner Quinlan Company, predecessors of Corson and Gruman. The 
cost was $1.72 per square yard. This paving was replaced, in 
193^, under the National Industrial Recovery Act with Public 
Works funds, with a standard sheet asphalt pavement on a nine 
inch concrete base. Five thousand square yards ware constructed 
at a cost of $1.5& P er square yard. This street has one of the 



-liu 




thickest bases of streets to date 
in the District of Columbia. The 
cost, considering the quality of 
the work, waB very low. The job 
was done by the Highway Engineer- 
ing & Construction Co. 
4- fr TO 6TH STREET 

In 190M-, the Cranford 
Paving Company constructed a sheet 
asphalt pavement on a six inch 
concrete base from 4-^ to 6th 
Street, a' total of 2,000 square 

yards being laid at $1-51 per VIEW SHOWING- N£W ASPHALT 

square yard. This section of the PAVING LAID WITH P.W.A. 

Avenue was given a thorough FUNDS 

heater repair in 1926, 5,000 square yards being repaired at $0.65 
per souare yard. 
6 TH TO 7TH STRUCT 

Maryland Avenue from 6th to 7th Street, in 190S, was 
repaved with a six inch concrete base over which was laid an 
asphalt sheet. The job was done by the Cranford Paving Company; 
3,000 square yards at $1.69 per square yard. 
9TH TO 18TH STREET 

In 190S, the Avenue from 9th to 12th Street was resur- 
faced oy the Cranford Paving Company with a similar surface as 
from 6th to Jth Street; the cost was the same per square yard 



-15- 



except for the section between 
11th and 12th Street, which cost 
$1.4-8 per square yard, at which 
cost 1,000 square yards were con- 
structed. 



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GARFIELD STATUE 
ON MARYLAND AVENUE 
FUTURE E XTENSION OF MARYLAND AVENUE 
In 1393, the Highway Plan was established for all 
territory in the District of Columbia outside of the Original city, 
This plan provided for the ultimate extension of Maryland Avenue 
from 15th and H Street to the Anacostia River, the roadway to be 
the same width as the original Avenue; i. e., one hundred and 
sixty feet. The Avenue will cross Anacostia River on a bridge 
and join with Oklahoma Avenue and the route will continue to in- 
tersect with the Defense Highway.