Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Charles and Louise Penny- 1632 4th St NW

I’m noticing something with the 1950 census. There are lots of female headed households….. but the husband is there. Normally the husband gets listed as the head. It’s probably nothing.

Anywho, our next homeowner is Louise Penny of 1632 4th St NW, an African American homemaker. She lived with her husband Charles, a drug store porter, and their nine, yes, 9 children. Charles was from Rocky Mount, NC. Louise was either from Maryland or Massachusetts, as the location isn’t consistent.

Charles L. and Louise E. Jenifer Penny purchased 1632 4th St NW, after living across the street at 1631, in October 1944 from Teck Construction Company. You may remember Teck Construction from Lula Lee of 1614-1616 4th St NW.  They borrowed $2,800 and $1,054.07 from Mount Vernon Mortgage Corporation. Then in 1951 the borrowed $2,100 from the Perpetual Building Association. That allowed them to pay off their initial 1944 loans. Something happened and they lost the house to foreclosure in 1959.

So yes, the Penny family lived on 4th Street prior to becoming owners. In the 1940 census the family of five were lodgers at 1631 4th with home owners William and Elnora Lewis, and four other lodgers. The houses on the odd side of 4th are much larger and probably could have accommodated 11 people. They moved away and lived at 1303 Corcoran Street NW when Charles had to fill out a draft card.

Not sure what happened to the Penny family after they lost 1632. Charles Lee Penny died in February 1977 in the District of Columbia. Louise Penny died September 5, 1990.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: William and Ida Harrison- 1613 New Jersey Ave NW

This will be short because it seems the Harrisons, and African American family of 1613 New Jersey Avenue, briefly show up and then quickly disappear.

Independent truck driver William and his wife Ida Harrison purchased 1613 New Jersey Ave NW in October 1921. For the 1920 census the family lived at 2030 L Street NW. The 1930 census showed the couple lived with their four daughters (Elnora, Edna, Sylvia and Mary), one remaining son William Jr., and two lodgers Luke and Alberta Goodwin.

The Harrisons took out several loans for the time they owned 1613. When they purchased the house they borrowed $3000 and $1500 at 7% interest from two separate sets of trustees. Then in 1927 and 1928 they engaged in a flurry of borrowing. They borrowed a small amount, $225, in 1927. Then it appears in January 1928 they refinanced their 1921 loans, borrowing $3800 from the Perpetual Building Association, and $800 from other trustees. They refinance their 1927 debt between February and April 1928. Then it looks like they refinance the January debt in August. They take out one new loan in 1929 for $485. One of the August 1928 wasn’t paid and they lost their home in 1935 in foreclosure.

The family moved on after that. In the 1940 census, Ida was head and William Sr. not with her at 1410 11th St NW. She lived with daughters Mary and Edna, son William, son-in-law Sandy Warren and married daughter Elnora Warren.


Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Lula Lee- 1614-1616 4th St NW

photo of propertyI’m not sure where to go with this because I cannot find any helpful information about Mrs. Lula M. Lee. It did not help there was a very active Mrs. Lula Lee running around Alexandria, VA and other Mrs. Lula Lees in DC. I know these are the wrong Mrs. Lees because the correct Mrs. Lee was married to Alexander Lee. The other Lees were married to Robert and Tommy. Plus, she owned both 1616 and 1614 4th Streets NW and seemed to have occupied both.

Typically, the owner appears in several other censuses, but not in her case. She seems to have only existed in the 1950 census. She was the head of 1616 4th St and lived with her cousins Agnes Jones, her spouse, Leroy Jones, their children, Butch William and Estella Jones, as well as adult cousins Jennie, Davis and Iza Montgomery. It was a very full house. I don’t blame her for buying a second home next door.

Mrs. Lee bought 1616 4th St NW from the Dardens, who I already wrote about in 1942. She had one loan for the property, solely in her name, with the purchase of the home, for $1,600 with trustees Dickson and Franklin. It was settled in 1952.

In 1944 she purchased the house next door, 1614 4th St NW from the Teck Construction Company. Teck also provided her with a loan to purchase the property for $1,300 and $2,400 at 6% interest. It appears she refinanced with the Oriental Building Association in 1954. She fulfilled her OBA loan in 1964. She had some financing deal with Washington Gas for a new boiler in 1971.

She and her husband Alexander Lee (the only time he shows up in the paperwork) sold 1616 4th St NW in 1962. It appears that she may have moved over to 1614 4th after that because the 1971 & 1973 paperwork for the Washington Gas has her at 1614 4th St NW. She died, sometime before 1981, and the executor of her estate sold 1614 4th St NW to Loball, Inc.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Rufus Jones- 1613 New Jersey Ave NW

photo of property

Rufus E. and his wife Lucy E. Jones bought 1613 New Jersey Ave NW in 1935.

So let’s talk about Lucy and Rufus Jones. In the previous 1920 census the North Carolina couple lived in Harlem 100 W 128th St in NYC. It may have been another Rufus & Lucy as the NYC couple had a 15 year old daughter Jessie Mae Jones who did not appear in the 1920 or 1940-1950 censuses.

Side note regarding Jessie Mae. When the house is sold the administer of the Jones estate is a Willis R. Taylor Jr. Ancestry pointed me towards a Jessie M. Taylor but the Social Security Admin had her alternative names as Jessie Mae Seales and Jessie M. Boones. According to a not so great Ancestry family tree, Willis Rollins Taylor Jr. is Lucy’s grandson via Jessie. And Lucy Jones was Lucy Elizabeth Williams. The 1950 census supports this as she is Lucy E.W. Jones.

A strikeout in the the 1950 census supports the idea that the 1930  couple was in NYC. In 1930 Lucy was a hairdresser for a beautician. The 1950 census had her as a beautician, but it appears that it was struck. From the 1920-1950 census Rufus was a laborer.

Okay let’s get into the land records since the common names of Jones and Williams are sending me on a lot of wild goose chases.

In 1935 Anne L. Carroll obtained 1613 NJ Ave NW via a foreclosure and later that year sold the property to the Jones. In 1943 there is a release of a debt incurred by the owners who were foreclosed upon. These sort of documents pop up.


So they bought the property in 1935 and the mortgage with it was $2,200 at 6% interest from trustees Evans & Miller. The document for that loan was tied to another property, on a square that has been since absorbed by the Howard University campus (Sq. 3085, lot 36). They seemed to have bought the LeDroit property at the same time.

They refinanced in 1943 with the District Building and Loan Association. They borrowed $4,600 and paid off the 1935 loan. This loan was closed (released) 1955.

The property was transferred out of Rufus’ name with one of those oddball transfers. In 1947 Rufus and Lucy E. Jones transferred the property to Angela Fitzgerald, who two documents later transferred it back to just Lucy E. Jones.

And then nothing happened for 30 years.

What happened to Rufus? Don’t know. He was still at 1613 NJ Ave NW in 1950 and 1954.

Lucy E. Jones died Jan 23, 1982 according to land records related to the LeDroit Park property. She had a will and it appears her grandson sold the property in August 1982.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Chester Richardson- 1612 4th St NW


This was a confusing one.

The problem with Sq. 509E is that sometimes, someone forgets to add the E for East of Square 509. So that was one problem. The other problem was that the Richardsons seemed to have a problem of holding the title of their home. There also seemed to be some family troubles or lack of stability, which made this research difficult.

Chester Richardson was born October 24, 1894 in Richland, South Carolina to Wilson and Matilda Richardson. At some point before 1917 he married Ellen/Ella while living in South Carolina. Sometime after the 1920 census the couple moved to Washington, DC. After this, things get confusing so I am going to tell in in a timeline:

1925- Former farm laborer Chester Richardson and wife Ella buy 1612 4th St NW. They borrow $2,150 from trustees.

1928- 1612 4th St NW is foreclosed upon and sold to J.M. Camalier.
-Ella Richardson alone purchases 1612 back from the Camaliers.
-Ella Richardson, alone, borrows $2000 and $1450 from trustees.

1930-Renting tenants of 1612 are ‘widower’ Chester Richardson, his 15 year old nephew Samuel Brow, and lodger Anna M. Coleman.

1931- Ella Richardson loses 1612 to foreclosure and J.M. Camalier.
-A relative, Samuel Brown, purchases 1612 from the Camaliers.
-Sam Brown borrowed $475.75 from trustees.

1937- Samuel Brown sold/transferred 1612 to Chester Richardson.

1940- Chester lived with his wife Viola and two lodgers Leonie DuBois and Moses Suggs. Chester owned his own barber shop and Viola worked as a charwoman at the Supreme Court.

1943- With a builder and designer, Chester got a permit to erect a 2-story cinder block addition to the rear.

1950-Chester and Viola live separately and are recorded as separated in the census. Chester lived at 1612 with two lodgers and was working as a painter. Viola lived at 42 Randolph Place working as a domestic for a private family. She lived with her niece Victoria Weston.

1952- Chester and his wife Viola E. Richardson borrow $4000 from the Washington Loan and Trust Company. When this loan is repaid in 1969, it’s Riggs Bank.

1954- Chester Richardson died in March and was buried in Arlington.

1956- Sam Brown and his wife Cornelia L., Margaret Weston Brown, and William and Cecilia Shiver sell/transfer the property (or their interest in the property) to Viola E. Richardson.

1973- Viola Richardson died and was buried at Arlington.

1975- The devisees of Viola E. Richardson’s will (Lillian Weston and Carroll Williams) sell 1612.

photo of property

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Herman Darden- 1616 4th St NW

Herman Darden bought 1616 4th St NW in August 1936. According to the 1940 census, where he appears, he was an African American taxi driver. He wasn’t on 4th Street long. In 1942 he and his wife Janie sold the property to Lula Lee.

When the Darden’s bought 1616, they borrowed $1,800 from the Perpetual Building Association and $750 from trustees. The day they sold to Ms. Lee, the borrowed $2,500 from trustees. That debt was resolved 10 years later after the sale, not sure what that was about.

Since the land records don’t tell much of a story, let’s look at Herman Darden the person. He was born November 1896 (or 1894) in Duplin (?) County, North Carolina. He served in the Army in World War I. He married Janie (sometimes spelled Jannie) Gainey on February 9, 1918 in North Carolina.

And then they had a slew of children. In 1928 they were nearly killed by gas when they were living at 1345 1st St NW and the Evening Star reported that they had 4 children. When the 1930 census rolled around they and one of their ‘lodgers’ from the gas leak rented 1964 2nd St NW. All in the house (which is currently more than 3000 sq ft) were Herman, then a building fireman, wife Janie, children Dorothy, Catherine, Herman Jr., and Lindwood, along with lodgers Arthur and Lillie Taylor, the Little family, sister-in-law Eva and niece Mattie Darden. When the 1940 census rolled around and they were on 4th St, they had added 3 more sons to their family, Orlando, Frederick and Mordecai.

1616 4th St NW isn’t that big. It seemed tight in the 2000s when a family of mom & dad, two boys and one grandpa lived there. Despite living with seven children, the Dardens managed to squeeze two lodgers in there, a mother and daughter. It’s footprint hasn’t changed and it is around 1,200 sq ft.

In 1942, they sold. In 1943, Herman Jr. graduated from Dunbar High School and then got a B.S. from Howard in 1950. The 1950 census had the Dardens living with adult and minor children at 633 Irving Street NW at an even smaller home of about 1,100 sq ft.

Herman died in 1964 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Lucinda Brooks- 1628 4th St NW

Lucinda Brooks was a 77 year old widow woman when she first appeared in the 1940 census as a Black home owner in Truxton Circle.

Lucinda James was born in Fauquier County Virginia in February 1862 to Jas. F. and Mahala James. On January 29, 1891 she married Lewis Edward Brooks. In 1900 when they lived at 1425 11th Street with their children, Lewis was a day laborer and Lucy/Lucinda was a laundress. In 1910, they moved closer to the TC at 1535 6th St NW. At that time, Lucinda was keeping house and Lewis worked as a Lineman for the rail road. In 1920 they were still there on 6th St. housing lodgers and their children gone elsewhere. Lewis worked as a laborer and Lucy as a charwoman (cleaning lady) for a department. In 1928 Lewis died.

photo of property

Prior to his death in July of 1925 Lucinda purchased 1628 4th St NW in her name only.  It was listed as Lewis’ residence at his death. She also borrowed $2,050 from trustees, in her name only. It appears she refinanced in 1931 getting a $2,000 loan from the Perpetual Building Association. And then the records of lot 58 disappear into a black hole. There is nothing between 1931 and 1974.

Searching her name with the Recorder of Deeds on-line records, in 1932 she may have obtained a property from A. George and Annie V. Brooks on the 2000 block of 11th St NW. However, looking at a document from 1953, this appears to be a different Lucinda Brooks.

That’s because in January 1944, Lucinda Brooks of 4th Street NW died. She was survived by son Lewis Brooks Jr, Lottie Kane, and step-daughter Florence Smith, as well as sisters Ella Pollard and Elizabeth Temple.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: James H. Wheeler- 408 R St NW

James H. Wheeler was another African American property/ home owner who lived in the unassuming neighborhood of Truxton Circle, before it was called Truxton Circle. He and his wife Mary E. Wheeler purchased 408 R St NW on November 2, 1926 from Ethel E. Rutty.

James H. Wheeler was born James Newman to Ross Newman and Georgiana Woodland Newman on October 25, 1876 in Maryland. His mother remarried John Wheeler and had seven or more children. At some point around the 1880s James took on his step-father’s surname. James married Mary Ellen Smith (maybe in 1901 in NJ). From the 1910 census on he worked as a laborer for the US Government (GPO). James and Mary (aka Mayme) had two children, Chauncey Alexander Wheeler born in 1903 and Hertha Eunice Wheeler born in 1906.

In 1930 Hertha married Olmstead Henri Perry, then a soldier in the Army. The newlyweds lived with James and Mary/Mayme.

The land records confuse me. In document #205, the deed from November 1926, there is a stated debt between the Wheelers and Rutty of $3000. The next document #206, is a trust (loan) with trustees Saul & Benson for $2,500 at 6.5%. Did the Wheelers deposit $500 of their own money? I don’t know because there were two releases for the debts in 1936, so the total debt could have been $5,500 for the house?

Anyway in 1936 the Wheelers appear to refinance their mortgage with $2000 from the Perpetual Building Association. Then refinanced again with Perpetual in 1940 and 1941. James died on July 25, 1944. In 1953 Mayme borrowed $1,900 from Consolidated Engineering and Distributing Co. This leaves me to guess this was work on the house.

Mayme died on June 17, 1959. Her heirs were the widow Hertha Eunice Wheeler Perry and Edith E. Wheeler (2nd wife of Chauncy A. Wheeler) sold the house to Jacob and Sadie B. Feldman in 1960.

Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Nannie and Pauline Bellows- 1605 New Jersey Ave NW

Instead of focusing on a particular census and looking at Square 551 (the block with the NW Co-op/ Florida Ave Park/ Mt. Sinai), I’m focusing on a particular block. The block is Square 509E or E. 509, which is bounded by R, New Jersey, Q, and 4th Sts. NW.

Nannie and Pauline Bellows of 1605 New Jersey Ave NW have appeared in the Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle Series before. So we will start with the August 2021 post about her brother William Davis.

In the 1910 census William E. Davis and his wife Annie lived with his father William A. Davis, home owner of 1605 New Jersey Avenue NW. He also lived with his sister Nannie Bellows, and her daughter Pauline Bellows. We are left to assume that William E. Davis inherited the property from William A. Davis and Nannie inherited the property from her brother. According to a Washington Herald piece, both she and her brother were left the property in their father’s October 1913 will. In the end Nannie’s daughter Pauline Bellows became the owner who lost the property to foreclosure in 1959.

William E. Davis was featured in a previous post because in the 1920 census he was listed as the owner. In the 1930 and 1940 census Nannie Bellows was identified as the owner. Looking at the on-line records of the Recorder of Deeds, the paperwork starts in the 1930s.

Who was Nannie E. Davis Bellows? She was born in Alexandria, Virginia around 1869 to Catherine and William Davis Sr. Possibly in 1890, she married Thaddeus Bellows. Their daughter Pauline was born in 1897. Her mother died on February 24, 1919.  In 1925, Thaddeus died and she was a widow. She received a widows pension from her husband’s service in the military. I am not sure if her husband who was the same Thaddeus Bellows (also AfAm) who was found guilty of grand larceny in 1912 for stealing a horse.

When Nannie died on October 28, 1945, she was a Bureau of Engraving and Printing retiree after working 34 years in government service. The Federal Annuitants Relief Association noted her death and funeral. She was a parishioner at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church. Friends and family celebrated her life before she was interned Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

I could not find anything on Pauline. It seems she never held a job. Never married. She seems to have disappeared in time.

WSIC- Taking a break

Well, the newspaper search was very tedious and right now I am Washington Sanitary Improvement Companied out.

There is more to explore.

I was telling a friend who doesn’t live in the DC metro area about this project and about the WSIC. It started as an experiment in housing, mixing charity with capitalism. She asked if WSIC achieved their goals. Answering that question is something I’d like to take a stab at. Unfortunately, the answer would involve other areas of the city that I am less knowledgeable about.

So I’ll get back to it. If I don’t remind me would you?

I’m also going to slow down on posting on the blog. I want to garden, do stuff with the family, yadda, yadda. Blogging and researching are great when it is cold and horrid outside. I’ll probably ramp up when it is too hot and sticky and buggy to go outside.