The sell off of the 1700 block of New Jersey Ave NW

So I noticed a difference between the 1920 census and the 1930 census. In 1920 the odd numbered side of the 1700 block of New Jersey Ave NW was 100% white. In the 1930 census it was 100% black, as part of the trend happening in Truxton Circle changing the neighborhood from a relatively mixed neighborhood into one that was majority African American.

1700 Block NJ Ave NW, 1930. Brown= AfAm residents; White= No data
1700 blk New Jersey Ave NW, 1920. Orange= White residents; White= No data










I had all sorts of theories, but never gave it much thought because there were other histories in the neighborhood to pursue.

Now that I am finally getting around to taking a closer look, I see a similarity to the 1950s sell off of the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company rental houses. Those houses were the last hold out where white residents lived and when they went up for sale those renters moved on. It also appears, and the problem relates to the DC Recorder of Deeds and when their records start, that there was single lender who made it possible for African American home buyers to buy.

Searching the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America for DC related post for one NJ Av address revealed the name of M. Harvey Chiswell as the seller. Searching for M. Harvey Chiswell on the LC’s site was disappointing. Let’s blame crappy OCR.

M. Harvey Chiswell, 1924 Passport Photo

So I looked up in Ancestry who was M. Harvey Chiswell (1889-1952). Well apparently that “M” is for Mary. In the city directory around for her and she was a bookkeeper. In the 1940 census she was listed as a secretary and treasurer for an insurance company. I see how she could be in the position to facilitate loans and real estate sales.

Around July 1920 M. Harvey Chiswell purchased 1707-1715 New Jersey NW (lots 14-17) from Charles W. and Amy S. Richardson; 1717-1721 New Jersey Ave NW (lots 18-20) from Ella S. Du Bois; 1725-1731 New Jersey Ave NW (lots 22-25); 1733-1741 New Jersey Av NW (lots 26-30) from Mason N. and Ada F. Richardson, bringing that whole section of NJ Ave under one name, hers.

There was an announcement in the August 28, 1920 Evening Star to repair 1701-1741 New Jersey Ave NW by H. A. Kite.

1701 NJ Ave NW (Sq. 507 lot 10) was sold to Grace L. Jackson around September 1920 based on a deed of trust between her, W. Wallace Chiswell, H.A. Kite for $4,100 at 6%, secured by M. Harvey Chiswell.

1703 NJ Ave NW (Sq. 507 lot 11) was sold to Amelia Green by M. Harvey Chiswell around December 1920.

1707 NJ Ave NW (Sq. 507, lot 13) sold to Susie J.R. Johnson by M. Chiswell around October 1920.

1709 NJ Ave NW (Sq. 507, lot 14) sold to Julia G. Holland by M. Harvey Chiswell around September 1920. She also had a loan/ deed of trust between her W. Wallace Chiswell, H.A. Kite for $2,800 at 6%, secured by M. Harvey Chiswell.

1711 NJ Ave NW (Sq. 507, lot 15) sold to Maria Jones by M. Harvey Chiswell around October 1920.

1713 NJ Ave NW (Sq. 507, lot 16) sold to Frank E, Smith by M. Harvey Chiswell around October 1920.

1715 NJ Ave NW (Sq. 507, lot 17) sold to Fred H.. Seeney et. ux. Hester based on a deed of trust between the Seeneys, W. Wallace Chiswell, H.A. Kite for $2,800 at 6%, secured by M. Harvey Chiswell.

1717 NJ Ave NW (Sq 507, lot 18) sold to Mayo J. Scott et. ux. Sarah by M. Harvey Chiswell around October 1920.

1719 NJ Ave NW (Sq. 507, lot 19) sold to William H, Randall et. ux. Katie by M. Harvey Chiswell around October 1920.

1721 NJ Ave NW (Sq. 507, lot 20) according to a June 1926 release from a loan with W. Wallace Chiswell, H.A. Kite,  Mary L. Tancil purchased the property September 25, 1920.

1725 NJ Ave NW (Sq. 507, lot 22) sold to George B. and Alice Oliver by M. Harvey Chiswell around October 1920.

1727 NJ Ave NW (Sq 507, lot 23) based on a February 1924 release from a loan with W. Wallace Chiswell, H.A. Kite,  Addie E. Webb purchased the property February 15, 1921.

1729 NJ Ave NW (Sq. 507, lot 24) sold from M. Harvey Chiswell to Ida M. Smith then to Arthur B. Wall around February 1921.

1731 NJ Ave NW (Sq. 507, lot 25) sold to Salvadora E. Smith by M. Harvey Chiswell around October 1920.

1733 NJ Ave NW (Sq. 507, lot 26) based on a July 1926 release from a loan with W. Wallace Chiswell, Harry A. Kite,  James A. and Coralie Whitehead purchased the property November 1, 1920.

1735 NJ Ave NW (Sq. 507, lot 27) based on a January 1925 release from a loan with W. Wallace Chiswell, Harry A. Kite,  Mary S. and Milton C. Keasley purchased the property October 20, 1920.

1737? NJ Ave NW (Sq 507, lot 28) sold to James L. and Mary C. Johnson around September 1920, based on a deed of trust between the Johnsons, W. Wallace Chiswell, H.A. Kite for $2,900 at 6%, secured by M. Harvey Chiswell.

1739 NJ Ave NW (Sq. 507, lot 29) based on an October 1923 release from a loan with W. Wallace Chiswell, Harry A. Kite,  John Holmes Jr. purchased the property September 23, 1920.

I have not reviewed all the houses along NJ Avenue to determine if the buyers mentioned above are the 1930s African American home owners. I do see some familiar names.

1920 to 1930- White to Black- 1707 New Jersey Ave NW

photo of property

I’m continuing down the row of the odd 1700 block of New Jersey Ave NW in Washington, DC.

Why? Because I had a question. And with a few of these type histories, I figured out the answer. But just to confirm if it is true or not, I’ll keep going until I hit the end.

So let’s start with our 1920s White family renting 1707 NJ Ave NW the Troianos. They were there prior to the 1920 census. Joseph Troiano was the 38 year old head of the family at 1707 NJ in 1910. He was a self-employed tile setter from Italy. His wife Wilhelmina (Willie, nee Hurdle) (1881-1932) was a DC native and mother to their children Paul (1901-1904); Viola/Violet (1902-1993); Paul Alfred (1905-1930); Joseph Attilio (1907-1922); and Richard L. (1916-1976). The family also lived with two Italian boarders in 1910.

The father Joseph died in 1917 (1869-1917), so when the 1920 census rolled around Wilhelmina was a 38 year old widow with 4 children. She had one roomer, a 56 year old widowed chamber maid. The roomer and 17 year old daughter Viola were the only ones in the house recorded as to having a job in 1920. Willie’s sons were 14, 12 and 3 and unemployed.

Obviously by 1930 people moved on, to rent 522 7th St NE. Wilhelmina was still the head. She lived there with 13 year old son Richard, daughter Viola, son-in-law Lawrence Zacarin (1900-1989), and two lodgers (one is related somehow). Viola was working as a clerk for the Red Cross and her husband was a marble cutter. Three of Mrs. W. Troiano’s sons had already died by the end of 1930 and she would pass in 1932. Since Viola and Lawrence were still on 7th St in 1940, I assume they raised Richard after their mother’s death.

The earliest land document I could find from the DC Recorder of Deeds is a 1926 loan document for Susie J.R. Johnson with the Washington Loan and Trust Company. She took out a number of loans with trustees and companies including the Perpetual Building Association and the Home Owners Loan Corporation. In 1931 she lost the home to foreclosure but managed to get it back the next year, only to lose it again in 1933.

So she managed to stick around for the 1930 census. During that census she was listed as a 44 year old widow and public school teacher. She lived at 1707 NJ Ave Av with her 17 y.o. daughter Clytie/Clutie G., and 43 y.olds Mr. and Mrs. Oliver and Johnie M. Petway.

There’s some confusion with the 1940 census. It has the Sabbs family at 1707 and Amelia Green at 1705. So I will assume the residents of 1709 are the residents of 1707. That would be a renter, Thomas Mitchell who worked for the post office, he lived with his wife Sallie and sister Mattie.

Then what of Mrs. Johnson? When it comes to women with common names, I typically don’t try too hard. The Ancestry algorithm seems to place her in Tallahassee, FL, ironing for a college laundry.  I found her daughter, then a patient at the Glen Dale Sanitarium. They were reunited in the 1950 census, on the 700 block of 4th St.  Susie was no longer working. Clytie had married a radio repairman Samuel Ruffin and they had a son Samuel Jr.

Memory Lane: Kittens on a rug 2006

The internet is for cats.

Taken June 13, 2006

This could be anywhere, but it was my backyard on 4th St NW.  We had a healthy colony of alley cats in the alley between New Jersey Avenue and 4th Street.  Did they do a good job of keeping down the rodent population?


I had mice issues and used poison bait stations inside and outside to deal with the problem with varied results. But the cats were part of the fabric that made the neighborhood the neighborhood.

There were neighbors who cared for the cats, putting out food. I volunteered to try to trap the mother cat so she could get spayed. The kittens were hanging out in my yard anyway. However, momma cat was smart. She would rub up against the trap to set it off.

Eventually neighbors got all the alley cats spayed and neutered or adopted off (for the kittens) and the colony died out.

1920 to 1930- White to Black- 1705 New Jersey Ave NW

photo of property

I began with a question. Why did the block change from 100% White in the 1920 census to 100% Black in the 1930 census?  I have theories now of why. The main theory I have right now is that the 1920 whites were renters and who ever owned the row of the odd side the 1700 block of New Jersey Ave NW got out of the land lording business and decided to sell to African American buyers. Because it goes from 100% renters in 1920 to majority (not 100%, maybe 80-90%) home owners in 1930.

Let’s look at our renters.

In 1920 there were two households renting 1705 New Jersey Avenue. Knowing what these houses are like, there is an English type basement, so one family could occupy the first two floors and the other the 589 sq. ft. basement.

The first household were the Stewarts headed by 40 year old shipping clerk Bertram Franklin Stewart (1877-1940). He lived at 1705 with his wife Lilian May (nee Clarriage)(d.1949) and their 18 year old son Leslie B. (d.1938) who was an apprentice at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. In 1910 they were at 1705 New Jersey Av NW.

By 1930 the family moved to a home they purchased in 1925, 3611 17th St NE. Bertram was still a clerk. Leslie was a fireman with the DC FD, married a clerk typist Esther (nee Perry) and the couple lived with the elder Stewarts. Tragedy had struck the family in 1938. Leslie, concerned about his health, committed suicide in his father’s basement. The next month the family lost the home to foreclosure.

Moving on to the next family, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Reed Scott. Paul (1893-1950) was a 23 year old Chauffeur. His wife Stephenie worked as a cashier at a drug store.

In 1910 Paul was a 16 year old living with his widowed mother, Mary G. Scott, a government charwoman, and his three brothers in a house on Minnesota Ave that she owned. In addition to the pension from their late father’s infantry service, Paul and his older brother helped the family by having jobs. Paul was a typewriter for a tabulating machine company. In 1915 Paul married Stephenie A. Randall in Baltimore. By the time of the World War I draft, 1917, he was at 1705 New Jersey Ave NW.

The Scotts purchased 840 Delafield Pl NW in Petworth in 1925. They were there for the 1930 census living with an elderly roomer. They were there for the 1940 and 1950 census. In 1950 Paul died. In 1953 his widow Stephenie sold the house. They had no children.

Now that I’m done with the renters, I can get to the Black home owners, Joseph W. and Juanita M. Sabbs (nee Robinson) (Dabbs in the census). The first document from the DC Recorder of Deeds database (that sorta starts in 1920) is from 1926 and is a loan document with the Perpetual Building Association to borrow $2,600. The next are two other 1926 documents but releases from 2 September 25, 1920 loans with trustees W. Wallace Chiswell and Harry A. Kite. This is more evidence that there was a sell off in 1920 to African American home buyers. Between that and 1950 there are numerous loan documents. In 1953, Juanita, the surviving spouse  transferred/sold the house to Runice Hines who immediately sold it to a Thema E. Holland.

Joseph William Sabbs, aka “Old Bill”, started a newspaper selling business at 15th & G St NW when he was 15 years old. As he got older he went from a pushcart to a newsstand. He built up a clientele that included Presidents McKinley  and Theodore Roosevelt,  bankers, and other businessmen. He was an established businessman, late in his forties, by the time he and Juanita purchased their home on New Jersey Ave NW.

Prior to New Jersey Ave they lived with his mother Olivia Sabbs and their son Fred, in 1910 on 24th St. In 1912, Olivia Sabbs died at 1603 4th St NW. In 1920, the Sabbs weren’t too far, living at 208 R St NW, with son Frederick, daughter Mamie (later Stewart and Greene) and brother Fred.

After 62 years of selling newspapers, with rarely a sick day off, Mr. Sabbs died at Freedmen’s Hospital on January 8, 1949. Being in the newspaper business, he got a nice write up in the Evening Star.

After selling 1705 New Jersey Ave NW in 1953, Mrs. Sabbs bought 101 Rhode Island Ave NE. Less than a year after that she transferred/sold the property to her daughter Mamie Sabbs Greene.

Conclusion, 1953 was the year to sell your house. I put my theories at the top of this post so, that’s what I got.

Memory Lane: Buses Only January 19, 2009

I’m just going through old photos.

Taken 1/19/2009

There’s the old 7-11 before it’s facelift not too long ago.

Comparative White DC Home Owner- Capitol Hill- Catherine B. Hough- 228 South Carolina Ave SE

To get an idea to see if what I am seeing with the Black Homeowners of Truxton Circle is normal, or not, I am comparing them with white home owners.  It helps to look at blocks that were over 90% white in 1950 but also in the same “red lined” zone, which was F1.

photo of property

Looking at the Library of Congress map this sits on lot 78 on Square 765 in Capitol Hill. It could also be lot 804, but the earliest the info goes for 804 is 1949, and the Houghs had sold their property by then. Document 1943031037, for lots 78 and 79, has the only instance where Catherine B. Hough appears. The document noted that Catherine B. Hough was the surviving tenant, when her husband William I. Hough died June 17, 1928. The document was a deed where Mrs. Hough sold the property to Therese S. Merrill.

With a search of the Hough name on Sq. 765, lot 77 pops up. However, that appears to be a different house. The first is a 1925 document to release Emma V. Hough and William H. Hough from a 1915 loan from trustees Henry H. Bergmann and George M. Emmerich. December 1944, Emma V. Hough Baker sold the property to Frances, Levi T., and Levi T. Wellons Jr.

William Ira Hough married Katie Bertha Dice in 1887. In the 1900 census, they lived at 600 E St (SE?). William was a machinist and Catherine was a home maker raising their three children, William, Arthur and Helen. In the 1920 census, only two of their adult children lived in the home, Arthur, also a machinist at the Navy Yard, like his father, and Helen, a government stenographer. In 1928 William I. Hough died at home from asphyxiation in the bathroom. Mrs. Catherine Hough died in 1945, after a long illness at Leland Memorial Hospital.

It appears the owner of neighboring lot 77 was the son William Hiram Hough, born in 1891. In 1914 he married Emma V. Speiden.  Apparently the daughter of Charles Speiden, who I profiled earlier, and lived a few doors down at 232 SC Ave SE. In the 1920 census they were at 230 South Carolina Ave SE. They had no children. Something must have happened with their marriage because in 1937, William H. Hough married Frances Alice Hall in Fredericksburg, VA and listed his home address as 5414 2nd St NW. He died a few years later in 1940 from an illness. In the Evening Star his obituary noted that his widow was Frances, and they lived at 256 18th St SE. At the time of his death he was a senior engineer aide at the Navy Yard.

1920 to 1930- White to Black- 1703 New Jersey Avenue NW

photo of property

The odd side of the 1700 block of New Jersey Ave NW went from 100% white in 1920 to 100% Black in 1930.  I was wondering why, but after doing two of these, it seems obvious. I’m going to fast forward to the answer, people move on, and it appears that around 1920-1921 this row of houses were sold to African American families. By the time the 1930 census enumerators came around Black families had been there for years.

In 1920 renter Harry Somersett Aubinoe (Aulinae in the census) (1882-1968) was a 37 year old auto repairman. He lived at 1703 NJ Ave with his wife Hattie E. (nee Randall) (1890-1959), their two children Randall S. (1909-1969) and Mae/May Estelle (later Fajardo)(1916-1994), Hattie’s sister Ethel O. Poole,  their brother-in-law Charles Dewey Poole (1897-1964) and nephew Charles (1918-1997).  Harry and Charles were both automobile repairmen, and sister in law Ethel was a telephone operator.

In 1910, Ethel and Hattie were teenagers living with their parents in a very crowded house at 1829 6th St. Harry, lived there too, as he was married to the 19 year old Hattie at the time and working as a metal worker. Son Randall was just a wee babe. I cannot locate Charles Poole in 1910.

In 1930 the Aubinoes were at 905 Buchanan St NW, still renting. The Pooles were difficult to locate for this year. Harry was still working with automobile repair and 20 year old Randall was a US government messenger. Later for his WWII registration in the 1940s, he worked for the US Department of Agriculture and the family was living at 1446 V St SE. Fifty-nine year old Harry had to register and was listed as working for the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 102.

According to the 1930 census the owner of 1703 NJ Ave NW was a widowed African American school teacher Amelia J. Green (Greene in the census). The earliest document they have is a 1926 loan document for Amelia Green and Grace V. Carroll. When the house is sold in 1953, Amelia Green Magowan is the surviving tenant and Grace V. Taylor had died, but no date was given (September 29, 1935).  Grace Taylor was Amelia’s daughter on the 1930 census.

There’s very little information about Mrs. Green, her daughter and son in law Herbert Taylor. In the 1940 census Mrs. Green is mistakenly listed as living at 1705 NJ Av NW with 3 lodgers. Looking in the newspaper was no help either as there was a young lady, also named Amelia Green of Seat Pleasant, MD who was part of an organized thieving ring. However, I found an Amelia Magowan, who lead me to a Noah W. Magowan (1869-1945), who died in 1945 at 1703 New Jersey Avenue. For most of the time Noah was married to a woman named Mary, it’s unclear when Amelia came into his life.

There was an Amelia Magowan (d. 1961) at 1703 NJ Ave NW in the 1950 census.

In conclusion, the white renters remained renters, but renting elsewhere. The African American home owners, Mrs. Green-Magowan and Mrs. Green-Taylor, owned and resided at 1703 NJ Ave NW from roughly 1920/1923 to 1953, a good thirty years.

1920 to 1930- White to Black- 1701 New Jersey Avenue pt 2

photo of property

In part one, we looked at two of the three white families who lived at 1701 NJ Ave NW (in Washington, DC) in 1920 before the African American Benjamin Johnson family purchased it.

The third 1920 household were the Saxtys.

Because names get misspelled in the census, the Saxty family show up as Saxtey. It was headed by Lawrence Spalding Saxty (1879-1922), a Navy Yard machinist. He rented their part of 1701 NJ Av with his wife Mary Emma (nee Burton)(1875-1945), his minor children Florence (later Thompson or Thomas) (1914-1993) and Edwin R. (1918-1979), and stepchildren Samuel B (1895-1925) also a Navy Yard machinist, Earl S. (1904-1968) and assistant operator, Howard (1905-1982) and Mildred Virginia Fitzhugh (later May)(1907-1983).

In 1910 Lawrence Saxty was a single man living with his uncle at 630 15th St NE and running a pool hall. Mary was married to a salesman Samuel S. Fitzhugh (1859-1911) living at 1410 D St NE with their children Samuel Burton, Earl, Howard and Mildred. After Sam S. died in 1911, Mary married Lawrence in 1913.

By 1930, Lawrence Saxty and Samuel Fitzhugh were dead. Mary, Florence, Edwin, and Howard managed to avoid the 1930 census. Earl was living with his in-laws at 717 3rd St NE, and working as a rail road station news dealer. Mildred is a little harder to pin down. Ancestry points me to her marrying Edward Delehanty in 1925. But her mother’s obituary has her last name as May, as well as a notation on her brother’s Find a Grave bio. This other route has her married to John James May. So I am going to ignore Mildred going forward. By the 1940 census, Howard was living in the College Park, MD area with his wife and children. Mary, Edwin, Florence and Earl (divorced) were living together with Florence’s two sons at 454 Maryland Ave SW. Edwin was working for the W.P.A. and Florence worked as a waitress.

In 1930, the residents of 1701 New Jersey Ave NW were 57 year old African American USPS postal clerk Benjamin S. Jackson and his wife Grace B. Unfortunately, I hit a dead end. Benjamin does not appear anywhere in the land records. The first document is a 1923 loan document with only Grace L. Jackson’s name. She borrowed … $20? (that can’t be right) at 7% interest from trustees Edmund Hill Jr and Thomas Walker. Usually this is where I would see a mention that the spouse died and when. Here. Nada.

Then I looked at where Grace L. Jackson’s ownership of 1701 ended. It’s interesting, but not helpful. In 1955 the house was sold to Watha T. Daniel…. yes, that Watha T. Daniel for whom the Shaw Library at 7th and Rhode Island Ave NW was named. But the person who sold it was Leonard S. Hayes acting as a trustee in relation to civil action 576-55. Hunting down court cases is a PITA for me, and I’m sure there are answers there.

The last document with Grace L. Jackson’s name is a June 1939 loan document with the Washington Loan and Trust Company (for the Equitable Co-operative Building Association. The loan was for $2,900 and she was released from the loan the next month in July 1939. And there is no mention of anybody else.

Ancestry doesn’t help either.

Jackson is a very common name so I get pushed towards too many false positives. Ancestry wants me to go to Silas Benjamin Jackson. However that man is married to a gal named Bertha, who also has an “L” for a middle name. But that couple is in Free Union, VA and had a boatload of children who were minors in 1930.

But the Library of Congress’ newspaper website is helpful. Benjamin S. Jackson died January 9, 1944 at his residence at 1701 NJ Ave NW. He was a mason and member of the John F. Cook lodge. There was a “session of sorrow” at the Elks Lodge at 301 Rhode Island Ave NW. He left behind Grace L. Jackson and nieces and a brother in law in Ohio and Indianapolis. There was no mention of any children. There was a wake at his home and the funeral at Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church.

Grace L. Jackson died in 1953 at her home on New Jersey Ave. There was no mention of any relatives or loved ones in her small obituary. The funeral home handling her arrangements, Melvin & Shay, were at New Jersey and R, so across the street. I wonder if the funeral home was the same building her husband protested the classification as commercial of 414 R St NW, where the daycare Home Away from Home sits? In 1936, Benjamin S. Jackson was the named representative of a group of Black residents objecting to the commercial classification. He and his neighbors were concerned that the classification change would bring in a liquor store. Ah protesting possible liquor stores, things never change…..

So in conclusion with this change from white to black, it is the same as with 1735 NJ Av, people move on. All three of the 1920 households were renters, and renters move around.  They weren’t at 1701 NJ Ave in 1910 so why would they still be there 10 years later? Several of the 1920 girls grew up, got married and started families. A few residents died, never making it to 1930. Besides sometime between the 1920 census and 1923 when Grace L. Jackson took out a loan, the house was sold to the Jacksons so the Saxtys, the Smiths and the Comelys had to vacate anyway. The idea of blockbusting doesn’t apply here because the three renting households weren’t owners, so they could have been pressured to sell what wasn’t theirs.

Heads Up for Black History Month: First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School

Usually I recognize Black History Month by looking at the father of Negro History Week ( which became Black History Month), Dr. Carter G. Woodson and his most famous book The Mis-Education of the Negro.


I’m not doing that.

Instead I will do some Truxton Circle based Black History and look at a very interesting book, First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School by Dunbar alumna Alison Stewart. I first listened to the audio-book and was so blown away, I bought the dead tree version.

So that’s what’s in store for February 2024.

That and more of the 1700 block of New Jersey Ave NW.

In March I’ll get back to WSIC houses.