Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Susan E Berry

According to the 1920 census Susan E. Berry owned 237 O Street NW, an address that no longer exists. It does not exist because the Armstrong school ate it, then the second Dunbar building ate O Street. So I have to look at the old Baist map at the Library of Congress site to guess which lot was Mrs. Berry’s.

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According to land records she owned lot 3, or lot 11 or lot 58 on Square 553. Let’s just go with lot 58. I’m not sure how it’s lot 3. When I search for lot 3 I get records for Mrs. Schools, Mrs. Forrest, and Mrs. Berry’s son or late husband Hillard Berry. She could have owned another lot on Square 553 but this post will look at lot 58, or 237 O St NW.

To deal with the property history, we will have to look at the Berry family.  Susan E. Ruffin was born in South Carolina in 1865 and she married Hilliard J.C. Berry in 1884. This was the same year their son Hilliard or Hilyard Berry was born in South Carolina. In 1887 their 2nd son William Berry was born in the District of Columbia. Their youngest Alethya was born in DC in 1889.

In the 1900 census Hillard was a hotel porter and listed as the head of the family and the property owner of 237 O St NW. He lived there with Susan and their 3 school aged children. In the 1920 census, Susan was a widow living with her son William J, her daughter Athethya or Alethia Henrietta Williams, her son in law Alfonse Williams, and their son, her grandson, Berry Williams.

Just searching the name Susan E. Berry in the land records brings up lots 3, 11, and 58. So she sold lot 3 to the District of Columbia in 1922. Susan died in either 1925 or 1927 and in her will left lot 11/58 to Alethya. In 1934 Alethya borrowed $800 from trustees. She paid that date later that year. She borrowed again in 1949 from the American Security and Trust Company for $20,000. Alethya died in 1951 and her son Berry Williams (along with his wife Aretha) sold the property to the District of Columbia in 1966 for $10,400.00.

I should note that in Susan’s will she also left 239 O St NW to Hilliard Berry. It appears that he sold that property in 1937. She also left property in South Carolina, which was to be sold and divided amongst the two surviving children.

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