Saturday, March 03, 2012

Finding the Hill House on the Hill in Mount Pleasant DC


The Hill House, DC: Where Was It Located?
When people consider the history of their row house in Washington, they often have the view that not much is to be uncovered before the house was actually built.  On the contrary, many of today’s long rows of dwellings seen throughout the city were built on portions of estates large and small, as were the homes located on the eastern portion of the 1400 blocks of Newton and Monroe Streets in Columbia Heights.  They were built on the site of a large stone and wood frame known as the Hill house, illustrated here.

            The discovery of this house came about in the opposite way that most of our house histories are researched; directly from hints contained on the back of the images themselves.  Purchased together from an on-line auction, they all obviously depicted the same house, and all dated from about 1890, having been mounted on heavy embossed cardboard.  Luckily, on the reverse of each were clues to the location and owners of the house. 
Hill House, Located between Newton & Monroe Streets, 1400 Block. 

            One image had the phrase “Martha Cooper Hill House, Washington, DC,” another stated “Sister of my mother, J. S. Hanson” while a third had “Picture of Grandma Wilkins and George Hill in Washington, DC, when he was still alive.” Armed with these vague clues, the 1896 City Directory was consulted which revealed only two men by the name George Hill lived in the city at that time: one at 3222 Wisconsin Avenue, and the other at “14th near Howard Avenue, Mount Pleasant.” 

1887 Hopkins map, 14th Street on right
            Maps of the era reveled that the house pictured was not the one located at 3222 Wisconsin Avenue, so the Howard Street connection of George Hill was further studied.  As seen in this 1887 Hopkins map, a house with the general basic shape at 14th Street and Howard Avenue fit the description, as did its driveway layout.  Other houses near that intersection had family names demarcated on the map, which allowed the elimination of those structures.  George Hill was then employed as a clerk at the Treasury Department, which would have allowed him to build such an elegant residence not far from the trolley lines that would have transported him to work.


            The land upon which his house was built was known as the rather small “Mount Pleasant” subdivision (not the general neighborhood known today), which was first platted in October 1866 by Samuel Peters Brown.  It had been carved out of the much larger Pleasant Plains and Lamar’s Outlet subdivisions.       
Driveway to the Hill House from 14th Street, NW

            Later maps revealed that Howard Street was renamed Newton Street, and the street to the south of the house as Monroe Street.  ‘14th Street extended’ was later widened.  The photographs of the house, thought to date from the 1890s, show several additions, such as the two story covered port cochere, and a small kitchen addition to the north. 

            Maps from 1925 also reveal that the Hill house and its extensive grounds had been replaced with eight houses along 14th Street, three houses on Newton Street, and six homes along Monroe Street, all in Square 2677.  They had been built as speculative houses, and were connected to houses built simultaneously along the 1400 blocks of Newton and Monroe on the Hill property and adjoining former estates.

Photographs and Text Copyright Paul K. Williams

3 comments:

Matthewsstar said...

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Ghosts of DC said...

This is really excellent research. Well done ... fascinating to read about the rural days of Columbia Heights.

thirteenfourteen said...

Another great interesting post. Thank you for a beautiful blog. Your passion for research, history, auction-combing, and DC is profound and contagious, and that you share your hard-won findings with us is much appreciated.