WSIC-1950 Sell Off- 1541 3rd Street NW

The Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) was a late 19th century charitable capitalism experiment that ended in the 1950s. This blog started looking at the homes that were supposed to be sold to African American home buyers, after decades of mainly renting to white tenants.

Looking at WSIC properties they tend to have a pattern where the properties were sold to a three business partners, Nathaniel J. Taube, Nathan Levin and James B. Evans as the Colonial Investment Co. for $3 million dollars. Those partners sold to African American buyers. There was usually a foreclosure. Then the property wound up in the hands of George Basiliko and or the DC Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA). Then there were the odd lucky ones who managed to avoid that fate.

photo of property

Let’s see what happens with 1541 3rd St NW:

  •  January 1951 Evans, Levin and Taube sold one-half of 1541 3rd St NW to Essie G. and James W. Balthrop.
  • January 1951 the Balthrops borrowed $3,375 from Colonial Investment Co. favorite trustees Abraham H. Levin and Robert G. Weightman.
  • January 1951 Evans, Levin, and Taube sold the other half of 1541 3rd St NW to Mrs. Floretta L. Williams and Mrs. Mary M. Woody.
  • Jan 1951 Williams and Woody borrowed $3,375 from trustees Abraham H. Levin and Robert G. Weightman.
  • April 1960, Williams and Woody lost their half of 1541 3rd to foreclosure. Through an auction the property returned to Colonial Investments Co owners, Taube, Evans and Harry A. Badt.
  • April 1960, as part of a larger property package, Badt and his wife transferred their interest in the property to Nathan Levin’s survivors.
  • March 1961, the Balthrops owned their half free and clear.
  • November 1961, as part of  larger property package, Levin’s survivors and the owners of the Colonial Investment Company sold their half of 1541 to George Basiliko.
  • September 1967, widow Essie Balthrop borrowed $1,287.60 from trustees Ralph O. Weed and A. J. Mascetta.

Despite the half of the property being sold to Basiliko it did not wind up in the hands of the city.

Who were the Balthrops? I have no idea where the G. came from but Emma Jane Royal married James Westly Balthrop in 1908 in Richmond, VA. When their first son, William was one years old in 1910, Emma worked as a servant and James a butler. By 1920 the family was in Washington, DC with two more sons. In 1930, they had 6 sons and housed a nephew. According to the census they owned 631 Gresham Pl NW, which has less than 1000 sq. ft.

Looking into 631 Gresham Place NW (Sq. 3056, lot 57) I found one of those weird real estate things. This is not in my area of interest, but when you see weird stuff, you write about it. So you know about racially restricted covenants, how about reverse UNO card covenants?

See close up here- 3056-57

It appears the Balthrops and their neighbors signed an agreement to be able to sell their properties to African Americans. Okay moving on.

In 1940 the family, sans James, was renting a house at 611 Morton St. NW. At that point, Essie was the head and she had 5 sons, 1 daughter and one renter living in the home.

When James W. Balthrope died October 8, 1962, he died at home on Third Street. He was survived by many relatives. He had 14 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. His funeral was at the Vermont Baptist Church.

Bureau of Homes for Colored

While researching another topic I noticed in the newspapers around 1920 this odd thing.

Ad from The Washington herald. October 21, 1920

Then I asked, what is this Bureau of Homes for Colored? Was it some agency to help African Americans buy homes in 1920?

Well beyond a few ads, I came up with bupkis searching Google. So I went back to Chronicling America and searched for 337 Southern Building. A lot of businesses operated out of that office building.

Looking off to the side I noticed W. H. Saunders’ ad for real estate loans. The ad read “REAL ESTATE LOAN MONEY TO LOAN- $250 to $600,000 in D.C. real estate. Several trust funds. All transactions conducted with economical consideration for borrowers.” Doing these histories I notice a lot of people used lenders other than banks to borrow money to purchase a home.

Back to 337 Southern Building, Bradford and Company Inc, out of that address, had an ad in the April 29, 1921 Washington Times to sell a home to Black home buyers in NE DC for $2,500 with $250 down for $30 a month. Same page a home in LeDroit Park for  $2,000, with $200 cash down at $20 a month. Bradford and Co. also advertised homes to the general public as well.

It appears the Bureau of Homes for Colored was just an advertising scheme and not a real program for African American buyers.

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- 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: 1500 Block of 1st St NW January 5, 2008

When I took this photo back in 2008 I did not know that the corner house had history. That it was the home of the notable Pocahontas Pope.

Taken Jan. 5, 2008. 1500 block of 1st St NW.

So much has changed since then. It’s been renovated and now I am more familiar with it’s notable former resident.

It was on the market last year, but I see the listing was removed. Well, better luck in 2024!

Pocahontas Pope’s house is for sale 1500 1st St NW

I was in the neighborhood the other day and noticed a for sale sign up at Pocahontas Pope’s old house.

It is going for $899,000, and apparently there was a price drop of $50K. It is a 2 bedroom 2.5 bath home just a few feet shy of 1,500 sq. ft. It obviously has been renovated since 2004, and 2011 and very well. Hopefully, whoever buys it will appreciate the history of that property, even if the structure has been gutted and renovated.

Below I have the old post from 2021 about Mrs. Pope.

With a name like Pocahontas, I’ve been dying to delve into whatever the heck this is, even if it is a dead end.

According to the 1920 census African American widowed dressmaker Pocahontas Pope lived at 1500 1st St NW with several lodgers. Taking in lodgers, the way people take on roommates, was a way to add to one’s income.

photo of property

At first her name did not show up when I did a search of land records. Usually, I search by square and lot number. When I did that her name did not appear and I thought I might have hit a dead end. But then I decided to search by name, and lo, four records appeared, two of them related to 1500 1st St. NW. The other two (docs 192212140170 & 192212140171) was for a LeDroit property, unknown square, lot 3, and it looked like Ms. Pope was acting as a go between.

The records for 1500 1st St were from 1939 and 1940 and Mrs. Pope was already deceased. In the April 1939 trust, devisees of Mrs. Pope’s will, Lawrence A/L Lyles and Clementine K. Plummer borrowed $511.15 from individuals. in 1940, Lawrence A. Lyles, aka Lawrence L. Lyles, sold/transferred the property to co-owner Clementine Kay Plummer. She immediately (same day) borrowed $2,500 from the Enterprise Building Association. Clementine K. Plummer has popped up here and there.

Well what of Pocahontas? Well one of the first records I find about her is her late husband’s will. It’s not much of a will, it basically reads that he, John W. Pope, leaves everything to his wife Pocahontas. What is interesting is where the will was filed, Cape May, NJ. I’m not an expert but there is a link between Cape May and well off DC African Americans. Secondly, who witnessed the will is a who’s who of Black Truxton Circle. The first witness was E. Ortho Peters of 100 P St NW. The second, Dr. Arthur B. McKinney of 63 P St NW. There is a 3rd witness, looks like J.R. Wilder of 218 I St NW.

This got me to thinking. Then I did a Googly search on our gal Pocahontas… jackpot. She was an influential member of the Baha’i faith. I’m just going to quote for Pocahontas Kay Grizzard Pope’s (~1864-1938) biography:

Her mother Mary Sanlin Kay Grizzard held property including the old County Clerk of Court Office building when it became a private home. Her father John W. Kay is little known but may be the Haliwa-Saponi connection. Soon Pocahontas Kay Grizzard married Rev. John W. Pope, kin to Dr. Manassa Pope, a prominent African-American doctor of North Carolina. John was 8 years her senior and together for some 15 years they served in one or another black schools in Plymouth, Scotland Neck, or Rich Square, NC, areas of deeply rural community. However with the hostility and political changes peaking in 1898 the Popes moved to Washington D.C. where John got a job working for the US Census. Soon both were active in black society, associated with then Congress Representative George H. White and others, giving scholarly presentations, and community activism.

Pocahontas and John never had children and he died in 1918. Pope lived on two more decades without being mentioned in newspapers save when she died – and her last two years were hospitalized. Her house has been noted in tours offered by the Washington D. C. Bahá’í community.

It has? Okay.

The 1920[95] and 1930[96] census’ noted Pope listed with lodgers in the home and working as a dressmaker. The last two years of her life she was a patient at Saint Elizabeth’s hospital.[18] Pocahontas Pope died 11 Nov 1938,[97] late in the evening of cardiovascular failure by hypostatic pneumonia confirmed by an autopsy.[98] She was listed as a Baptist, but in her connection with the Faith in those early years Bahá’ís were not required to leave their former religious communities and indeed sometimes were encouraged to remain active in them.[62]pp. 190, 228-9, 397[99]

One newspaper article notes family relations and other details[100] – nieces Clementine Kay Plummer and Mrs. Charles Hawkins of Portsmouth, VA, nephew Lawrence A. Lyles of Asheville, NC, and that she was buried in the Columbian Harmony Cemetery at 9th Street NE and Rhode Island Avenue NE in Washington, DC after services at the Second Baptist Church on 3rd St. Clementine Kay Plummer was the executrix of her Will.[8] It lists some of the next of kin as inheritors. In order as listed they were: Alex Kay, Ines Kay, Viola Hawkins, Gloria Kay, Andrew Kay, Constance Kay, Cleo Blakely, John W. Kay Jr, June Kay with custodian Mrs. Willie Otey Kay, and Antonio Orsot custodian for Beatrice L. Orsot.

In 1960, the graves at Columbian Harmony Cemetery, including that of Pocahontas Pope, were relocated to the National Harmony Memorial Park in Maryland. [101]

Well that clears up some things and will save me some time when I take a look at Clementine K. Plummer again.

Larger memorial image loading...

That DC Redlining Map

People in academia tend to like to tell research adventure stories. The problem with archives and libraries and other places digitizing everything is taking the romance out of these tales. No need to get a grant, rent a crappy motel room during the middle of summer, nah. Tippy-tip tap, an email here, a subscription to a certain website and there’s your document. Of course, not everything has been digitized. And because of that, a person could still have a research adventure.

My research adventure takes place at the National Archives in College Park, MD. Those who know me are probably rolling their eyes, but bear with me. So my goal was to find the lost redlining map of Washington DC. I can call it lost, ’cause it was a b!tch to find. For one, the Mapping Inequality site showing off redlining maps doesn’t have Washington, DC. The DC Policy Center and Mapping Segregation had a map on their sites that approximated or was very similar to a DC version of the redlining map.

The DC Policy Center just said it came from the National Archives. Ok. NARA has a bunch of stuff and it’s catalog can be a PITA when you’re trying to actually find something. Clicking source just brought a person to the Mapping Segregation site. Digging into the resources there would send you back to the DC Policy Center and round and round I went. I eventually found the citation at the end of It narrowed it down to the record group (RG) and the box, but not the entry. More poking around and it was entry A1-6.

I got the box. I was in the research room scanning area. I was at a desk next to a dear friend who is a professional researcher showing me the ropes and I managed to scrounge up an SD card for the camera. But the monitor was acting funny. And the SD card was ‘corrupt’. I managed to fit just 2 images on the card before giving up. And below was what I was able to capture.

Washington DC Map 1936Source: Map 11. Housing Market Analysis Washington DC. Records Relating to Housing Market Analyses, 1940–1942. National Archives, College Park, MD RG 31, entry A1 6, (NAID 122213881)

A description of the letter based residential sub-areas.


Perpetual Building Association

This is just a bit of information to expose that I know nothing.

I’ve started including information about the lenders in the Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle series. The problem is I have no idea sometimes of what I am looking at. I know I am going to have to go back over some of my posts and correct the misstatements about loans of $19K-20K. That was a misreading on my part.

One of the several lenders is the Perpetual Building Association. They loaned funds to Julia Dobbins, the Brungers, John Robinson and others.  I tried looking up information about this organization or lender and most of what comes up are sites about the Perpetual Building Association Building in Silver Spring, MD. I did find something that was a little bit more about the entity that was also about the building. I have no opinion about the building. I don’t have even enough information to have an opinion about them as a lender.

I am old enough to remember there was some savings and loan crisis 30 some odd years ago, but I’m not sure if the S&Ls and building associations were the same thing.

If anyone has more info about the Perpetual Building Association as an organization, please comment.

George Basiliko Keeps Showing Up in My Truxton Circle Property Searches Pt 1

So I as I go through the Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle series, I keep running across the name George Basiliko in the transactions. Him and his wife Sophia. He has shown up with with Harry Brown, Arthur B. McKinney and John Robinson in real estate transactions.

So who was George Basile Basiliko? He was born in Washington, DC to Basil (Basile) Stergin Basiliko a Greek immigrant, and Calliope Papazoglis (Papasoglou) Basiliko a Greek-Turkish immigrant on January 14, 1917.

In 1929 it appears the family lived at 50 Randolph Place NW in Bloomingdale. The father Basil was a contractor with a business address at 600 E St NW. In 1930, Basil was a merchant and owner of a cigar business and the family lived at 54 P St NE in NE Truxton Circle (some times I acknowledge that part of the TC).

He graduated Langley Junior High in 1933. Married Sophia Cokenias, also a child of Greek immigrants, in June 1947.

At the age of 26, he and his brother Nick Basiliko were charged with operating a “disorderly house” in April 1943. The house in question being the Logan Hotel at 912 N St NW. He received his real estate license, using 912 N St NW as an office in July of 1943. The Basiliko brothers were cleared of charges in the disorderly house case in September of that year by a municipal judge and the Evening Star said the hotel was at 13th and Logan Circle. December 1943, the United States Attorney’s Office kept pursuing the case because the house raid involved 100 police officers. The Evening Star restated the location of the hotel at 13th and Logan Circle, and George’s address being on the 6200 block of 8th St NW. In a 1944 Evening Star article, the police raid was reported as being on September 1942 and only 70 police involved.

After that brush with the law, his appearances in the Evening Star were classified ads advertising commercial real estate and trust notes. At some time in the 1950s he moved his office to 1113 Eye (I) Street NW. But staying out of trouble didn’t last long.

The Basiliko name popped up again regarding an investigation and court case regarding Route 240 and the claim of defrauding the Maryland State Roads Commission in 1953. Several Basiliko family members were named, including George, and a man named Ben Du Pre, who was the main target. Looking at Basiliko v State, this thing dragged on through the late 1950s.

In the Home and Real Estate section (B section) of the October 3, 1959 issue of the Evening Star, there is an article about rehabilitating properties in Truxton Circle, particularly Bates Street, in an article, “Some Plain Words About City Decay” by Robert J. Lewis. The article noted how George Basiliko “bought a lot of rundown properties” and was in the process of rehabbing them with assistance of the Perpetual Building Association, another familiar name to the Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle series.

I want to dig into this article a bit more so I will do that in part 2, as it deals with so many TC homes.

Sources: Continue reading George Basiliko Keeps Showing Up in My Truxton Circle Property Searches Pt 1

55 P St NW- bad rental in 1923

photo of property

I’ve been reaching into the pile and today I have a letter from 1923 regarding poor living conditions at 55 P St NW in the TC. The initial letter was from Walter W. Brown who wrote to the Rent Commission. The Rent Commission responded to him about paying rent but did not address the living conditions.

Feb 19 1923 Letter RE 55 P St NW by Mm Inshaw on Scribd

The Brown family appears in the 1920 census. We find Mr. Walter W. Brown, a 49 year old African American driver, living with his wife Lizzie, and their minor sons and daughter, adult daughters and one son-in-law. They are renters.

In the letter Brown writes that he lives a 55 Pea St NW. People did cute things like that, calling Q St, Que St, I St, Eye St, and the like. I hadn’t seen anyone call P St Pea St before. Anyway, at 55 P St, the plaster was falling down in various parts of the house, there was no septic and the stove was broken.

Mr. Brown mentions a Mr. Schwartz at 724 15th St NW. I checked the 1923 city directory and the inhabitants of that address was Schwartzell Rheem & Hensey Co. a real estate company. Were the realtors or property managers letting the house go to pot so they could get rid of the renters, rehab it and rent it at a higher price? I don’t know.

According to the Tax Assessment office, what is currently at 55 P St NW, was built in 1924. I could only find one permit for that lot pre- 1958. The earliest record I can find for Sq 615 lot 163 is from 1944. That was when Fred D. Geisler purchased the property. So it could be a completely different house.

I checked the Library of Congress to see if the lot number changed. The 1919 map shows lot 163. where lot 163 should be, with a brick house on it.

So that’s that.