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.

1930 Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: Robert B. Davis- 1608 1st St NW

Robert Bernard Davis was born in Amherst County, VA to George and Emeline Davis in either 1873 or 1869. He married Nannie Virginia King in that same county on May 23, 1900. They lived in Amherst Co. with their growing family (8 children) until at some point when they moved to DC and wound up at 1608 1st St NW in 1930.

The 1930 census is where we first encounter the Davis family. Robert Davis was an African American hotel janitor. Previously in Amherst he was a laborer in the coal industry. By 1930 he was 58 years old, his wife, Nannie was 54. They lived with their 3 adult children, 2 minor children and eight lodgers. Their adult sons, 29 year old John J. and 24 year old King Davis worked as cooks at a cafe. Their 18 year old daughter, Geneva, 16 year old son Robert and 14 year old George King were unemployed. Also in the house was Robert’s brother Nashville King who worked as a laborer for the railroad.

In June of 1926 Robert Davis obtained 1608 First Street NW (0551/0201) from Emma Johnson. He and Nannie borrowed $4500 from Hane & Hill; $3000 from Crittenden & Hill; $1349.26 from trustees King & Smith within a few days of becoming owners of 1608.

Robert cleared three debts from previous owners in 1926.

They didn’t stay long. There is a trustee’s deed from September 1935 for the $4500 debt. The property was auctioned and the Rohrback family ( at least 6 named individuals) were the new owners. They transferred (sold?) it in 1936 to Etta B. and Isaiah Liseby.

Looking at the 1940 census the Davis family had moved to and were owners of 1524 Washington Place NE. It’s over where the Rhode Island DMV is, over there by the world’s worst Home Depot. By then Nannie had died (2/18/1931) and Robert B. was living with his son Robert, daughter in law and grandson.

WSIC-Newspaper Search part 5

This is a continuation of parts 1, 2& 3. I search the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America site for newspaper articles about the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) and Truxton Circle. I lost the data I had for auctions and decided to stop including them because they were too much work.

For Rent- Flats–  Evening star. [volume], November 17, 1897, Page 12,; The evening times. [volume], November 25, 1897, Page 3. The times. [volume], November 26, 1897, Page 3.  “FOR RENT Sanitary Flats for white tenants only; Bates St., between P and Q, N. Capitol and 1st sts. nw.; 3-4 rooms; baths; cellar; separate entrance and yards; modern improvements; price, $10 to $12.50; erected by WASHINGTON SANITARY IMPROVEMENT Co. office 1819 Q st. nw. 8-9 a.m 12-1:30.4-7 p.m.”

Improved Alley Dwellings- Project of Sanitary Company Placed Before CommissionersEvening star. [volume], June 07, 1898. “Ex-District Commissioner George Truesdell and Mr. George L. Andrews of the board of directors of Washington Sanitary Improvement Company had a conference with the District Commissioners yesterday for the purpose of enlisting the support of the Commissioners In the work of the company, and particularly to ask them to direct the improvement, at the rst [sic] opportunity, of Bates street between 1st and North Capitol and P and Q streets. The object of the company is to supply to wage-earners improved, wholesome houses at reasonable rents, not in any special locality, however, although until the principal inhabited alleys in the city shall have been converted into minor streets, a measure which the
company advocates in the interest of public health and morals, the dwellings erected by the company will be located upon established streets and avenues.
Two blocks of two-story brick apartment houses have been erected by the company on Bates street, there being sixteen buildings and thirty-two apartments In the two blocks, one of which is already occupied and the other block will be completed and occupied some time this month.
Four of the completed, houses contain apartments of four rooms each, with three large closets, and four have apartments of three rooms each; with two large closets, each apartment being provided with the best sanitary fixtures and with hot and cold water, together with a good range and 30-gallon boiler. These apartments were occupied as soon as completed last fall and the demand for them is now far In excess of the supply.
All this was told the Commissioners by Messrs. Truesdell and Andrews, who stated that the company, which is composed of people here of prominence in charitable matters, has no money-making purpose in view, but merely to supply houses of convenience and of the best sanitary arrangements to wage earners and thereby not only improve the health, but also the morals of the city, in that way setting an example which may be followed by owners of alley houses. Bates street in front of the buildings is in need of improvement, and the Commissioners were asked to put it at the head of the new streets to be improved.
The Commissioners expressed great gratification with the report made to them, remarking that in view, of the public character of the work of the company it is deserving of support. They stated that they will be very glad to have the improvements made at the first opportunity.”

Municipal BrevitiesThe times. [volume], October 04, 1898, Page 5.  The DC Commissioners refused a request to plant trees on Bates Street.

Building Permits IssuedEvening star. [volume], August 03, 1901, Page 2. “Washington Sanitary Improvement Co., for repairs in rear of 77 Bates street northwest; cost $100.”

Building Operations- Evening star. [volume], March 08, 1902, Page 15. “A large addition Is to be made to the number of houses that have been erected by the Washington Sanitary Improvement
Company. The new structures will be thirty-four in number, and will be located on Bates, L, and Warner streets northwest. The type of house will be similar to those built by the company, and will consist of two stories, each containing a suite of rooms with separate entrances.
The work of building Is to be done under the direction or Mr. F. B. Pyle.”

Added to ScheduleEvening star. [volume], May 21, 1902, Page 16. and The evening times. [volume], May 21, 1902, Page 6. “At the request of Gen. G. M. Sternberg, president of the Washington Sanitary and Improvement Company, the District Commissioners have directed that Bates street be sprinkled dally.”

Bates Street Not to be Open at PresentThe Washington times. [volume], March 16, 1903, Page 12. WSIC had to wait on Bates Street on Sq. 552 because alley dwellings needed to be condemned.

Real Estate TransfersThe Washington times. [volume], August 06, 1904, Page 8. “Alley between First and Third and P and Q Streets northwest District of Columbia Commissioner to trustees of Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, part square 552, $787.52”.

Plans for New BuildingsThe Washington times. [volume], January 08, 1905, Metropolitan Section, Page 7. Article about building 21 houses in Truxton Circle.

Sanitary Houses Quickly Rented- Sixty-eight snapped up as soon as completed The Washington times. [volume], November 19, 1905, Real Estate News of Washington, Page 3. WSIC homes on Bates, Q, and P were very popular.

Improvement Company will Build Six HousesThe Washington times. [volume], June 24, 1906, Metropolitan Section, Page 8. Article about building 201-205 P Street NW and 200-204 Bates Street NW.

BloomingdaleThe Washington times. [volume], July 01, 1906, Woman’s Magazine Section, Page 6. “A building permit has been issued to the the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company for the erection of three two-story brick buildings at 201-205 P street northwest, at an estimated cost of $11,500.
It has also secured a permit to build three houses of the same class at 200-204 Bates street northwest, just around the corner from the others. The plans have been furnished by Architect Appleton Clark and represent a class of houses which have become very popular in that neighborhood. They will all have the most modern conveniences and will be built in a substantial manner. Thomas Melton has secured the contract for building them and will have them ready for occupancy during the late summer.”

Brick Flat BuildingEvening star. [volume], October 08, 1932, Page B-2. Building of 130 Q St NW for WSIC by the Mutual Construction Co.

Bates Street Mass Migration Leaves Many of 400 in DazeEvening star. [volume], November 09, 1950, Page A-29. WSIC planned to sell 400 units and the residents, particularly long term renters were stressed. Long article by Robert L. Lewis.

Scoping a comparison block- Black v White

I have an idea. I would like to compare the land records I have been seeing in my series of Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle with that of white home owners. I would start with the 1930 census because that is when redlining starts. Also the DC Recorder of Deeds online records start around 1921, and I like having a buffer.

The Truxton Circle block will be Square 509E. Why? Because I used to live there. Also It’s not as big as Squares 551, 552, 553, 554, 555, 615, 616, or 617. The small and more manageable blocks are 519, 550, 553W (maybe), 554W, and 618.

So what’s the deal with Square 509E? In the 1940 Census it was 100% Black, had 67 occupied units, and 10% was owner occupied. In the 1950 census, still all Black, 69 units were occupied and the home ownership rate was up to 28%.

The 1950 Census the last and most recent open census, and that is where I’ll stop. Also after 1950 DC experienced white flight, particularly a loss of its white working class and poor. As of this time, the District does not have any white working class neighborhoods.

So I started looking for a 90-100% white comparison block. I was looking for something in Old City. I wanted something with an older housing stock, with row houses/ townhomes. To make it easier on me, no big blocks. I wanted to avoid blocks with large apartment buildings, so that eliminated most of Dupont Circle. Many Logan Circle blocks got kicked out of the running because many blocks did not remain 90%+ white by 1950. I really wanted to keep Shaw blocks finding 90%+ white blocks.

So here are my possible candidates:

Square 980N (Census tract 84, ED 720)- This NE block along Florida Ave in 1950 was 95% white, and 45% owner occupied with only 20 occupied units.

Square 984 (Census tract 81, ED761?)- This block is at E and 11st Sts NE was 90% white, 33% owner occupied with 62 occupied units.

Square 966 (Census tract 81, ED 767)- This Lincoln Park block was 100% white, 23% owner occupied with 40 units.

Square 765 (Census tract 65, ED374)- This Capitol Hill block was 96% white, 32% owner occupied with 54 units.

Square 1255 (Census tract 2, ED564)- This Georgetown block along Wisconsin Ave NW was 98% white, 31% owner occupied with 64 units.

So 980N got eliminated first because I couldn’t find the square on the Library of Congress map site. It seemed to have gotten left off and I need the real estate maps because lot numbers change.

Square 1255 in Georgetown is going to be set aside because the occupations I am seeing appear to be very upper middle class. The Truxton Circle block is more working class and I don’t want to compare it to a block that is more managerial and richer.

Squares 984, 966, and 765 are great contenders because they have several working class residents. There is the odd doctor on the block. Fair enough, 509E had a Dr.

Next, collect the info.

WSIC-Newspaper Search part 4

This is a continuation of parts 1, 2& 3. I search the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America site for newspaper articles about the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) and Truxton Circle. When the WSIC ceased operations they began off loading properties via auction in the 1950s. 

For Rent- FlatsThe evening times. [volume], November 27, 1897, Page 3. “FOR RENT Sanitary Flats for white tenants only; Bates St., between P and Q, N. Capitol and 1st sts. nw.; 3-4 rooms; baths; cellar; separate entrance and yards; modern improvements; price, $10 to $12.50; erected by WASHINGTON SANITARY IMPROVEMENT Co. office 1819 Q st. nw. 8-9 a.m 12-1:30.4-7 p.m.”

Building Permits IssuedEvening star. [volume], July 16, 1901, Page 2.  “Washington Sanitary Improvement Company, four two-story brick flats, 47 to 53 Bates street northwest; cost. $15,000.”

Real Estate TransfersEvening star. [volume], February 28, 1903, Page 3. “Third and Q streets northwest-Marie C. Eustis to George M. Sternberg et al., trustees for Washington Sanitary Improvement Co., lots 15 to 23, square 552; $32,174.95.”

Building Permits IssuedEvening star. [volume], June 21, 1906, Page 3. “To the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company for three two-story brick dwellings at 200 to 204 Bates street northwest; architect. A. P. Clark, Jr.; builder, Thomas H. Melton; estimated cost, $11,500.
To the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company for three two-story brick dwellings at 201 and 235 P street northwest; architect, A. P. Clark, Jr.; builder, Thomas H. Melton; estimated cost, $11,500.”

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], June 05, 1953, Page C-5.   Evening star. [volume], June 15, 1953, Page B-11. Auction of 220A Bates Street NW ($8000).

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], December 03, 1953, Page C-4; Evening star. [volume], December 12, 1953, Page A-13 .  Auction of 56A Bates Street NW ($7500).

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], June 16, 1954, Page C-6. Auction of 220A Q Street NW ($7750), 212a Bates Street NW ($7750), and 121 Bates Street NW ($7500).

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], July 02, 1954, Page B-12. Auction of 54 Bates Street NW ($7500).

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], September 14, 1954, Page C-4. Auction of 60 Bates Street NW ($7750).

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], April 16, 1955, Page A-15. Auction of 22A O Street NW ($7500).

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], August 13, 1955, Page B-8. Auction of 211A Bates Street NW ($7750), 221 P Street NW ($8000), and 239 Que Street NW ($1788.54)

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & Son– –Evening star. [volume], May 12, 1956, Page A-15. Auction of 1519 Third Street NW ($7750), and 205 P Street NW ($8000).

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], June 16, 1956, Page A-15. Auction of 27A Bates Street NW ($7500).

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], June 21, 1956, Page B-12. Auction of 18A O Street NW ($7500) and 27A Bates Street NW ($7500).

Auction Sales- Thos. J. Owen & SonEvening star. [volume], September 08, 1956, Page A-14 . Auction of 34A Bates Street NW ($7500) and 55 Bates Street NW ($7750).

1930 Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle: William H. Coates- 112 Florida Ave NW

Back to the 1930 Census and looking for an African American TC home owner and the next person is William H. Coates of 112 FL Ave NW (0551 0178). The DC General Assessment for 1933-1934 confirms that William H. and Mamie Coates were owners of a 2,100 sq ft structure at that address.

I couldn’t find a lot of info about the Coates. It appears they married late in life. William, then, 58, married Mamie Thompson, aged 34, in September 1920.

Since Ancestry isn’t providing a lot of info, to the Recorder of Deeds we go. July 9, 1923 William H. and Mamie D. Coates came into possession of 112 Florida Avenue from Clarence M. Deveile. Deveile was very involved with the neighboring property at 114 Florida Avenue NW.

The next document, a May 1926 release, is quite revealing.  In 1920 the then widow Mamie Thompson, borrowed an unknown amount from Deveile. Looking a few documents back it appears, she used Deveile to do that weird deed thing where she placed her husband, William Coates, on the property in 1923.

In 1926 the Coates borrowed $3000 from the Perpetual Building Association. Again in 1933, they borrowed $2,800 from the Perpetual Building Association.  That year they pay off their 1926 debt.

It appears they sell the property to Carrie E. Walker (not Carrie G. Walker) on April 20, 1934. Deveile was a witness on this paperwork.

I did a newspaper search for 112 Florida Ave from 1923-1934 and came up with the following:

1924 Income Tax Paid by District ResidentsEvening star. [volume], September 10, 1925, Page 34. James H. Coates, 112 Florida avenue $2.10.

Situations–DomesticEvening star. [volume], February 12, 1924, Page 25. “WOMAN wants place with small family stay nights. 112 Florida ave. n.w.”