WSIC- Owners of Sq. 552 in 1902

In my last post about the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company I noticed that the WSIC owned Sq 615 but not 552, yet. By 1909, it looked like they took 552 over, with a few holdouts. In 1903, there were 32 lots.

In the 1880 census there were about 11 households on the whole block. Then in 1900 there were about 25 households, nine of those were home owners.



Lot                Owners
1                 William R. Riley
2                 William R. Riley
3                 Jos. E & Sallie B. Roach
4                 William R. Riley
5                 William R. Riley
6                 William R. Riley
7                  Mary E. Hess
8                  Baptist Home of D.C.
9                  Louise Eustis Hitchcock
10                Louise Eustis Hitchcock
11                Louise Eustis Hitchcock
12                Louise Eustis Hitchcock
13                Louise Eustis Hitchcock
14                Louise Eustis Hitchcock
15                Marie  Clarice Eustis
16                Marie  Clarice Eustis
17                Marie  Clarice Eustis
18                Marie Clarice Eustis
19                Marie Clarice Eustis
20                Marie Clarice Eustis
21                Marie Clarice Eustis
22                Marie Clarice Eustis
23                Marie Clarice Eustis
24                Louise Eustis Hitchcock
25                Revere R. Gurley/DeWitt C. Chadwick/ Mollie Phillips/ Alice L. Wyckoff Trust/ Phoebe Hamilton
26                 Lycurgus & Sally Adams/ George Adams/ Levi Adams/ Edmund G. Hines
27               Frederick B. Jones/ Jas. B. Nourse & C.M. Jones Trustees
28               Robert A. Golden
29                William R. Riley
30                William R. Riley
31                William R. Riley
32                William R. Riley

It appears the main owners were William R. Riley, Louise Eustis Hitchcock, Marie Clarice Eustis, and the Adams family. Other owners of interest are the owners of lots 3 and 28, the last lots to be divided and developed. We’ll look at these people and see if there is any connection with the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, the organization that will eventually own their land.

WSIC Did Not Own Square 552 in 1902

So enough procrastinating, let’s get into the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) role in making the blocks that are bounded by Q, North Cap, P and 3rd Streets NW. Those would be Squares 552 and 615. Because of George Kober’s The History and Development of the Housing Movement in the City of Washington, DC ( 1907) we know they were building housing in the early aughts.

But the WSIC didn’t own all of the block, so in order to figure out which lots on those two blocks to look at I went to the General Land Assessment Files, 1902-1938, and looked at 1902/1903 Assessments. Because 552 comes before 615, I looked at that first. I did not see WSIC mentioned, at all. I was confused. If I had just looked at the Sq 552 map at, I would have seen why.

Hopkins Map, 1887 of Square 552, bounded by 3rd, Q, 1st and p Sts NW.

Bates Street did not exist in 1887 nor apparently 1902.

Source- Baist, Library of Congress. 1903 map of Sq. 552

I also compared the 1902/1903 assessments to the 1933/1934 assessments and there were a whole different set of lot numbers. For Square 552 in 1902/1903, there were lots 1-32, as you can see from the images above.

1909 Color-Source- Baist, Library of Congress.

By 1909, when the above image was mapped, the whole character of the block changed. There appears to have been a few hold outs, with lots 3 and 28. By 1933 they had been absorbed.

In the back of my head, I am wondering if any strong arming was involved to convince owners to sell. Well, that would be something to explore in my next post, where I look at the 1902/1903 property owners.

A Program for Bates Street 1968

Although this does not mention the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, it is about the houses the WSIC built, plus another block. Below is a 2008 post where I misremembered the name of the 1968 report, which I have below the fold. The report, A Program for Bates Street, is just 12 pages with a few pictures of residents, has mentions of rehabilitation and new construction.  Fast forward, this was under Marion Barry’s tenure so it got halfway done.

I have the 1968-1974 (the dates I’m unsure of) brochure of “A Plan for Bates Street” in PDF form. It’s a big file and because it is so large, I’m not posting here. However, I will mail it to folks who ask (offer expires in 30 days). Basically, like the title says, it was the government’s plan for the two blocks of Bates, to improve the housing.

Continue reading A Program for Bates Street 1968

Crowding- and good intentions gone lost- Washington Sanitary Impr. Co.

I am looking at what I’ve written before on the InShaw blog about the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) before going deep on the topic and writing something new. Call it procrastination.

This piece was about the intentions of the WSIC. They saw it as a way to battle overcrowding and substandard housing by making that housing go away and replacing it with better housing. What it did was expel Black residents, who were not going to live in the new housing. History doesn’t repeat but it sure does rhyme. The same could be said of HOPE and other government (WSIC was private) housing programs. Anyway…..

I forget which census year it was but one year there were 11 people living in the house I currently occupy. As far as I know, the house has always been a two bedroom and I believe the cellar is a late 20th century addition. My house is about 1,000 sq ft.
I have read that overcrowding could be blamed on segregation. Segregation was probably one of several causes, if there are so many structures in the city and many of those structures are off limits due to covenants and other restrictions, then that limits housing choices. I get a sense that economics had something to do with it as well, but that is just a guess.
Anywho, a turn of the century description of crowded rental housing comes from a report from Clare de Graffenried:

I have no doubt that lodgers are harbored in these alleys whose presence, for many reasons not creditable to the occupants, is always concealed. The confessed facts are startling enough. We have here accounts of 7 persons living in two rooms– the mother and her sons, 21, 17 and 7 years of age, occupying one bedchamber. Again, 9 individuals live in two romse[sic]; 11 people in four rooms. Five, almost all adults, sleep in one room– the mother 43, a son 21, and daughters 19, 17, and 14; and 4 persons use another room– a mother 45, and aunt 70, and a son 22, and a baby 9 months old.
–Page 18 of Kober, George “The History and Development of the Housing Movement in the City of Washington, DC” Washington, DC 1907.

Doing a Google search for Miss de Graffenried, brought up Between Justice and Beauty by Howard Gillette, Jr., which on page 113 where he notes that she goes for the dramatic story over statistics. Later Gillette writes on page regarding the predecessor of the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, which built the houses on Bates Street:

By 1904 the company housed 140 families, 30 of whom were black. Since the overwhelming majority of alley dwellers were black, the company clearly did not direct its attention to those in greatest need.– page 115

In Kober in 1909 writes about their housing efforts:

It should be stated, that while the original intention was to provide homes for alley residents and thereby remove the slums, it was considered best to begin this movement by providing improved dwellings for the better class of wage earners, in the belief that houses vacated by them would be rented by the next grade, and so on until the bottom of the ladder was reached. –page 31

Not a charity but capitalist enterprise- Washington Sanitary Improvement Co

Below is an old post that was originally posted on January 30, 2009. For this deep dive into the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, I will look at the few posts where we looked at the WSIC but then I will look at the land and other records about the squares 552 and 615.

When last I left I was writing about the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) which built the houses along Bates Street NW, and some other streets in the TC that are somewhat Bates adjacent, around the turn of the century. You know they are built by the same company because their 2nd story bay window thing.
Anyway, the WSIC’s goal was to replace the slum dwellings in the various alleys, but as a profitable company and not a charity. From The History and Development of the Housing Movement in the City of Washington, D.C. page 61, Article III, section 4:

The company, although organized from philanthropic motives, is not a charity organization, and the executive committee shall take all legal measures to collect rents and to evict tenants who fail to pay their rent, or who neglect to keep the tenements occupied by them in a cleanly and sanitary condition, or who lead a dissolute or criminal life.

Another thing, as part of the pitch to draw interest in the company the author and secretary of the company George M. Kobr writes:

The attention of capitalists should be drawn to the fact that no class of realty pays as well as alley property in this city, and that there is a splendid field for investment in the erection of sanitary and comfortable alley houses on a business and humanitarian basis.
–page 23

Don’t blame me for a fuzzy photo

I’m looking at older posts on the topic of the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company because I’ll be taking a deeper dive looking at the two squares owned by the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) Sq. 552 and 615. These squares are  bounded by 1st Street, P St, 3rd St, and Q St. NW.
So here is the 2009 post below:

This was taken with an iphone in a lowly lit room at the Library of Congress from a book, while I held the pages down with one hand and took the pictures with the other. Now why are you looking at a fuzzy photo of a bunch of houses? This is the unit block of Bates Street, when the houses were somewhat new in 1907.
The photo, as well as some others I took are from The History and Development of the Housing Movement in the City of Washington, D.C. published by the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, which built the houses. The book starts off talking about unsanitary crappy housing in DC and how the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) was building alternatives to slummy housing, specifically crappy alley housing. Towards the middle of the book they start talking a bit more about the company as an investment. The directors consisted of the following:
David J. Brewer
Charles C. Cole
John W. Foster
Charles J. Bell
George Truesdell
Gardiner G. Hubbard
Anthony Pollok
Walter Wyman
Henry F. Blount
Mrs. George Westinghouse
Crosby S. Noyes
George H. Harries
William J. Boardman
William C. Woodward
Augustus S. Worthington
Henry Y. Satterlee
George L. Andrews
Bernard T. Janney
Mrs. Clara G. Addison
Willliam C. Whittemore
G. Lloyd Magruder
Joseph C. Breckinridge
Marcus Baker
Katherine Hosmer
Charles E. Foster
Simon Wolf
George M. Sternberg
S. Walter Woodward
George M. Kober
John Joy Edson
Maybe more later. Or not.

New Year, New Job, New Goals 2022

Last year I moved out of Truxton Circle after selling my home of 19 years to the wilds of PG County. Despite that I am still the world’s expert on Truxton Circle History and it is not a skill I will be giving up anytime soon.

Speaking of skills, doing the Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle series, has helped me get a new job. Nineteen seems to be a magic number, as I worked in the same Bureau of Fight Club (they are funny and don’t want me to talk about them) department for 19 years. This weekly, sometimes daily, habit of hunting down people, possibly long dead, and writing up a quick biography has developed a skill of a quickie genealogist. It was a skill I could point to in my job interview, semi paraphrasing Liam Neeson in Taken:

I do have a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. If you are obviously still alive, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you. I will protect your privacy. But if I’m not sure, I will look for you, I will find you, and I make sure you are dead.

It’s easier to do the job if the persons in the document are dead.

However, the new work environment will be a bit more restrictive. I don’t know how much attention I can pay to this site. I do know that I will no longer have access to the primary records related to Shaw and Washington, DC history, as I did with the old job.

I hope that I can work on a few new projects. I have warned that I will look at Squares 552 and 615, the core Bates area of the TC, and because my past research has been used for historic preservation/landmark, I want present owners to make the changes they can now before any restrictions come. There is also a journal article I want to write, but I have to figure out what story the data I’ve cobbled together actually says.

I’m a little sad that my job move means I won’t be exploring the history of DC public housing. Once upon a time public housing didn’t suck, and wasn’t shorthand for crappy crime ridden living conditions. But now it is, what it is.

The new job does pay more…. so I could conceivably hire someone to do the leg work of scanning those records.



Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Ernest Hawkins- 38 N St NW-Double vision

Looking at the 1920 census for another Black home owner, I came across Ernest Hawkins, who is listed as “Hawkens”. He lived at 38 N St NW in Washington, DC with his wife Sarah and daughter Ernestine.

photo of property

When I do these histories I look at genealogical sites and of course the land records. The land records don’t show much activity, but do provide useful death dates in this case. One interesting thing I should mention is that this family appears twice in the 1910 census.

Ernest F. Hawkins was born in 1872 or thereabouts, in Washington, DC. He married Sarah Walker in March 1894 in Fredericksberg, VA. Their daughter Ernestine was born later that same year in December. In the 1900 census, Ernest is listed as working as a coachman for a livery. The family were renters in a 2 unit property at 1720 5th St NW.

I’m not sure what was going on in 1910. In one, 38 year old Ernest F. Hawkins, 37 year old Sarah W. Hawkins and their 15 year old daughter Ernestine are living in Keyport, NJ. They lived on 3rd St where Ernest was a laborer at a brickyard and they had been married 16 years. That enumeration took place April 27, 1910. The other appearance in the 1910 census was at 53 P St NW, where 36 year old Ernest and Sarah Hawkins lived with their 14 year old daughter Ernestine and 11 year old son Henry Hawkins. Ernest worked as a laborer for the Treasury and the couple had been married 16 years. This enumeration took place on April 19, 1910. They aren’t an exact match but the closeness makes me think they were counted twice.

So when we find the family firmly in Truxton Circle as home owners, Ernest is listed as a 47 year old messenger who works for the government. Sarah is also working for the government as a matron and Ernestine is a Maryland teacher.

As I mentioned earlier, the land records don’t show much activity, just death. The first two are 1953 deeds transferring the property from Ernest and Sarah to Ernestine though a go-between, Zeph P. Moore. The first deed mentioned that Ernest died March 21, 1927 and Sarah W. Hawkins died May 23, 1951. The nest document is a 1970 deed mentioning the death of daughter Ernestine Hawkins-Smith on February 27, 1967. The property was left to Charles R. Walker, who sold it to Charles F. Adams and Clinton W. Chapman There is no mention of how Charles R. Walker is related but I gather he is some relative from Sarah’s side of the family.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: William Bowman- 20A N St NW

William H. Bowman was the African American owner of 20A N St NW, according to the 1920 census. But for looking at his ownership of the property let’s just look at 20 N St NW, Washington, DC, as the A and the B, for the other household hint that this was a two flat unit. It is possible, the Bowmans lived in unit A and the Wrights and Redmans in unit B.

photo of property

When the 1920 census was taken William H. Bowman lived with his wife Mary E. and their teen aged sons, William (Jr?) and James. But when looking at the land records, William died later that year November 17, 1920. This was noted in a 1928 trust (borrowing money) for $2500 with the Washington Loan and Trust Company in Mary’s name. It looks (I can only guess) that this allowed her to pay off an August 1918 debt.

Once again, I’m going to guess, but the next document appears that Mary E. Bowman financed work with the Washington Contracting Company in 1934 for $320.00. She borrowed another small amount, $253.00 in 1936 and $450.00 in 1937 from different trustees.

It appears she refinanced her debt with a $3600 loan from the American Building Association in July 1937, and immediately paid all the previous debts.

Three years later she sold the property to John T. and Ruth King on April 16, 1940. The Kings were a white couple who lived at 25 Randolph Place NW.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Joseph E. Parker- 18A N St NW

We’re getting close to the end of the African American home owners in the TC from the 1920 census. This is one of the handful of posts I have left.

This post’s subject is Joseph Edward Parker and his wife Irene H. Parker. It appears that they purchased this property in September 1910, so they were the owners of this 2 unit property in 1920. The Parkers lived in unit A, with his 14 year old daughter Helen. Unit B, had renters, Mr. & Mrs. Taylor and their boarder, Matthew Brown.

photo of property

Joseph E. Parker was born March 17, 1874 in Virginia. He was a widower when he married Irene F. Haymon in 1914. His first wife Nannie, Helen’s mother, is difficult to locate.  At some point Helen married and her name became Helen Parker Winston. Irene died February 17, 1929. Joseph died September 9, 1945. It appears Irene and Joseph were members of the Mt. Airy Baptist Church.

Since I couldn’t find a lot of reliable information about the Parkers and their lives, I will look at all the borrowing and repayment they did in the land records.

Joseph and Irene borrowed $3,500 March 11, 1924 from the Perpetual Building Association to pay for “existing encumbrances.” This allowed them to pay trustees Theo Judd and Joseph Sullivan for a 1919 debt and a 1910 with trustees Joseph Weller and Burr Edwards within the next month or two. It looks like they refinanced their Perpetual Building Association debt with $3,300 June 1928 as the 1924 debt was noted paid in July. It looks like it was refinanced again with Perpetual in October 1928 at $3,500, and the earlier June debt was released.

As noted above Irene died in 1929. So it was just Joseph alone, just as he was alone in the 1930 census. Her death was noted in a October 1932 trust, where he borrowed $300 at 6% interest from trustees Sol Rothbard and Charles Kaplan. July 1934, he borrows again, $3,531.14 from the Home Owners’ Loan Association and Irene’s death is noted. The next month he paid off the October 1928 Perpetual Building Assoc. debt. In October he paid off the 1932 debt with Rothbard and Kaplan.

He transferred the property to his daughter Helen P. Winston on June 17, 1936. It isn’t until 1940 when she uses the property to borrow money. June 1940, Helen, who was living in Brooklyn, NY borrowed $3000 from the Metropolitan Building Association. Mrs. Winston paid off her father’s 1934 Home Owner’s Loan Association debt. Then in October 1945, a month after Joseph’s death, she sold the house to Harry Wachter, an unmarried man.