Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The House with a Civil War Cannonball found in the Yard

Magazine ammunition similar to those built at Battery Kemble
Nobody loves a good house history mystery more than yours truly, so you can imagine my delight when a Palisades neighborhood home owner called us about 15 years ago to report that they had found a Civil War cannonball in their yard while landscaping a new garden.  That’s an interesting discovery for anyone!

The house at 3027 Arizona Avenue, NW would prove very difficult to research, not because it was built in 1905, but because over time, it had not less than five very different street and address designations – which must be a record for any given house in DC.                 

But back to the cannonball: we eventually discovered that it likely had been fired in the early 1860s from one of the two 100-pounder Parroti rifles located at nearby Battery Kemble.  We researched a fascinating manuscript written in 1897 that described life in what is today the Palisades neighborhood was like during the Civil War, when it was dotted with rural farmhouses. 

It’s a long blog entry, and following the Civil War background and a bit about the five addresses it once had, we’ll investigate a bit of the house history itself, built by Otilia Crumbaugh in 1905 (below).      

Palisades History: The Civil War Era

Located not far away from what is now the residence at 3027 Arizona Avenue, NW, was a Civil War encampment called Battery Kemble.  Only one of the 68 earthen forts and batteries which surrounded Civil War Washington, Battery Kemble was one of several heavy batteries which commanded the southwestern approaches to the city.  Placed on the heights of the Palisades, these gun emplacements could defend against possible attack across Chain Bridge, the Aqueduct, the Potomac, or the C & O Canal. 

Battery Kemble is illustrated on a nineteenth-century map at the end of what is now the Loughboro Road and Nebraska Avenue route to "Tenallytown."  The remains of the earthwork are today preserved by the National Park Service in Battery Kemble Park at the corner of Loughboro and Foxhall Roads.  An 1897 manuscript entitled “White Haven” written by Augusta M. Weaver illustrates the interference that the Civil War, Battery Kemble, and the assassination of President Lincoln had on the farmers living on the land once surrounding 3027 Arizona Avenue.  It reads:
Battery Kemble Park oil painting by Andrei Kushnir

“All things being ready, we found ourselves in our new home on the last week in February, 1865.  This was the Spring that Richmond surrendered, and the soldiers encamped around us inter­fered sadly with our farming operations.  Near us on a high hill was a small earthwork known as Battery Kemble, and a small force of men was kept there all the time.  When we were molested more than we could stand, we would send word to Lieutenant Libbey and he would send a guard and we would feel safe.  He was a good friend, and when the news of the fall of Richmond and the surren­der of Lee’s Army came, and it was no longer necessary to hold the Fort, it was with sincere sorrow that we parted with this good friend.
But our sorrow was turned to joy to part with the regular soldiers.  During the whole of the following summer, Sherman’s Division was encamped in the neighborhood and made themselves particularly obnoxious, because, as the War was over and Peace proclaimed, they wished to return to their homes and families but could not on account of having to wait until they were mustered out of service.

Now, of course, the Officers were drawing big salaries and they did not care if they were never sent home.  This caused great dissatisfaction among the men and they caused much trouble with their neighbors.  We could not raise a chicken or vegetable.  Not a pan or a cup could be left outside the door...

On the morning of the 15th of April, l865, the country was shocked when it was told that President Lincoln the night be­fore had been assassinated.  The deepest sorrow prevailed, even among those who were enemies to the Cause.  Now, indeed, you could hardly get out of your house without a pass from the Provost Marshal, and every place, great and small, was being searched to find John Wilkes Booth.  Every house in the District was hung with mourning, from the grandest mansion to the lowliest cabin.

My husband’s Mother sent some black and said we had better festoon the front porch with it.  We did this, but the soldiers stole it the first night it was up.  A friend of mine said a squad of soldiers came to search her house.  When they knocked, she was cutting some meat for dinner, and she went to the door with the carving knife in her hand.  She showed them all through the house without thinking that she still held the knife.  After they were gone, she remembered a loft over the kitchen where she could have had a dozen men hidden and they had not noticed it.

The following Summer was full of interesting incidents, but the most interest­ing to me was that Peace was proclaimed and we could once more put up our fences without their being torn down and burnt up by an invading Army.”

            Other nearby battery sites include Battery Cameron (west side of the 1900 block of Foxhall Road), Battery Parrott (west side of the 2300 block of Foxhall Road on the grounds of the Belgian ambassador's residence), Battery Martin Scott (the river side of the 5600 block of Potomac Avenue overlooking Chain Bridge), and Battery Vermont (on the Sibley Hospital grounds).  These forts were subsequently never attacked, but the garrisons often fired their artillery for training and practice; likely the origin of a cannonball found in the front yard of 3027 Arizona Avenue today. 

The House with Five Addresses in 100 Years:
3027 Arizona Avenue, NW

            The house currently known as 3027 Arizona Avenue has been known by at least five addresses since its initial completion in 1905.  When it was built, the nearest street was Keokuk (now Klingle) Street.  To reach this road, it would have been necessary to follow the creek which bordered the west side of the property.  The quickest access, however, was from Little Falls Road, hence the early census and directory listings using this address for the house, including its 1905 building permit.  To the south, the closest street was a temporary road known as the “continuation of 49th Street.”  To the west, the house may have been reached by way of a twelve-foot-wide easement along the south boundary of Dora Crumbaugh's land.  For this reason, the house originally had its primary façade facing north.

             The acceleration of residential development in the area brought about the proliferation of new streets and the widening and realigning of old ones.  The result was the surrounding of the Crumbaugh house with new streets and the “assignment" of the house's address to several of these.  The 1921 City Directory lists the Crumbaugh’s as living along St. Philip's Hill Road, then a somewhat crooked trail which ran along the south of Square 1426 and which was named after the old land grant.  A 1912 permit for the construction of a wood shed at the rear of the Crumbaugh house, however, listed its address as "49th Street near Chain Bridge Road."

            It is clear, however, at the time of its construction, that the house was generally considered to be along Little Falls Road during this period.  Without ever moving, Otilia and Edna Crumbaugh lived until the mid 1920s off Little Falls Road; by 1935 they were listed in directories as off Chain Bridge Road; and with the construction of a new street along the old "49th Street" alignment, they were listed as 4953 Hurst Terrace by 1938.  Subsequent occupants of the house received their mail at 3028 University Terrace in the late 40s, and 3027 Weaver Street by 1954.  As a number of streets had already been named for the old Weaver family, Weaver Street was renamed Arizona Avenue by 1960 (there had been an early Arizona Avenue further east which also was renamed at this time).  The house may in fact have the distinction of being the home in D.C. with the greatest number of address changes.

The Crumbaugh’s Build 3027 Arizona Avenue

     The people that eventually developed the residence now known as 3027 Arizona Avenue were members of the Crumbaugh family, widely accepted as one of the “pioneer" families of the Palisades area. Conrad and Charlotte Crumbaugh arrived in this area with their four adult sons in the early or mid 1870s.  At the time, the Palisades area was very rural, and its dominant industry was agriculture and livestock.  The sons of Conrad Crumbaugh, a carpenter, had all been born in West Virginia.

            John, the oldest, farmed and worked at the craft of blacksmithing until the beginning of World War I.  At one time he was employed at the Naval Observatory, and was later listed in the 1907 Boyd's City Directory as a machinist.  John and his wife Josephine, settled in one of only a handful of houses near Little Falls Road (now Loughboro Road).  John's brothers William and David worked as butchers, and Daniel was a boatman on the Potomac river and the C & O Canal.

            The eldest son of John H. Crumbaugh, Otilia (variously spelled or nicknamed in historical documents, deeds, and other material as Attley, Otilie, Artlie, Artilie, Otlie, and Otto) was born about 1873.  As an adult, Otilia was a painter by trade, and he married Edna L. Jacobs in 1899.  Six years later, Otilia and Edna began the construction of a new house, south of Little Falls Road, to the east of his parents and west of Chain Bridge Road, which is known as 3027 Arizona Avenue today.

            The land upon which the Crumbaugh’s built (Parcel 13/13) was conveyed in 1905 by Josephine Crumbaugh to her daughter-in-law, Edna.  Josephine gave an adjacent parcel (13/14) to her single daughter, Dora.  These two lots had been carved out of the very large tract known as “St. Philip and St. Jacob."  About four hundred acres of this tract, the “White Haven" farm, had been purchased by the Weaver brothers, Charles and Joseph, in the 1850s.  Charles Weaver's lands were subdivided many times, with just over two acres being purchased by Josephine Crumbaugh on June 2, 1903.  In addition to the lots given to her children, Josephine reserved one parcel (13/11) for herself.

Owner Otilia S. Crumbaugh applied for a building permit on August 3, 1905, for the construction of what is today known as 3027 Arizona Avenue.  The frame house was to be constructed by William Jacobs.  The front of the house was to be 16 feet wide, by a depth of 29 feet, which indicates that the original front door of the house originally faced in a northerly direction, and was later changed to the western facade.  The foundation was to be of stone, on land composed of solid rock. 

The house was to be sided with “German siding” of wood which matches the siding found on the structure today.  The pitched roof was to be constructed of wood shingles, and it was planned that the house was to be heated with stoves.  No plumbing was to be involved in the construction of the dwelling at the time it was built in 1905.  Crumbaugh estimated the cost of the dwelling to be $500.oo.          

The 1910 census reveals that Otilia and Edna Crumbaugh lived at 3027 Arizona Avenue with their three children.  Otilia was age 37 at the time, and had been born in Maryland.  He listed his occupation as a painter.  His wife Edna had also been born in Maryland, and was age 30 at the time the census information was gathered.  They had married in 1899.  Their children included Arnold D., age 9, Creed M., age 5, and Edna M., age 3 months.  All of their children had been born in Washington, D.C. 

Subsequent property tax assessments suggest that the Crumbaughs made significant improvements and additions to their home between 1912 and 1923.  Several other members of the family lived close by including George and Mildred F. Crumbaugh at 5126 Conduit (Reservoir) Road from 1920 to 1925, Ellen Crumbaugh (widow of Daniel), and Otilia’s parents John and Josephine Crumbaugh on “Little Falls Road.”  He was listed as a blacksmith in the 1917 City Directory. 

Otilia and Edna’s oldest son Arnold began his career as a clerk with the District government, and later went into the real estate and insurance business.  He left the Crumbaugh "homestead" about 1926 and eventually purchased 4908 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, in 1940, where he had established his office.  His his wife Elsie Crumbaugh briefly ran the El-Ru Hat Shop there with another woman named Ruth, hence the namesake.  Arnold and his wife first lived at 5108 Conduit Road from 1927 to 1932, and during the 1930s at Sherrier Place, NW.  They eventually moved to 4118 Fessenden Street and was heavily involved in the Lions Club and the Masons.

Otilia Crumbaugh died in 1937, and Elsie Crumbaugh and other family members sold 3027 Arizona Avenue to Nellie W. Mays on March 3, 1945.   

William and Kathryn Everett purchased the house on February 11, 1949 from Nellie W. Mays.  Everett was a D.C. Police Officer from at least 1948 to 1973.  They had previously lived at 1001 18th Street, NE, in apartment #1.  According to many accounts in Palisades history, the Everett’s are credited with expanding and restoring the house, changing the primary façade to face west with the introduction of a new front door. 

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