The Corner Forum
Saturday, Nov. 16, 2002
Issue #6

Digging Up the History Of 1223 E Street

By Eric Bernard

1223 E St. NE

Hello. My wife, our daughter and I live in our house at 1223 E St. NE.

A couple of years ago I decided to research the history of our house. After all, our house is almost 100 years old, and its walls must have sheltered several families prior to mine. On top of it, while doing yard work, I had found archeological artifacts in the backyard!

The house was built around 1905. This is after the houses from Duncan Place (around 1890) but before the houses facing us, the even numbers of E Street (around 1915).

1223 E St. NE is identified as Square 1008, Lot 192, first sold by Lottie Burn in November 1906. She apparently owned several of the lots surrounding 1223 and perhaps the whole odd-numbered row of E Street. Prior to the Lot 192 classification, the lots were not as neatly structured. Around 1887, Square 1008 had several large misshapen lots and was known as Thomas Weaver Estate. There was one house and ruins on the whole square that must have been demolished when the row was built. This is according to a map of the time.

On the matter of our very own house, and starting at the turn of the century, there were 13 deeds. Several were of short duration (i.e., one day) for what I assume were administrative, legal and/or speculative reasons.

The first principal owner was Charles Gaines, from March 1907 to September 1950 (43 years). Mr. Gaines was 44 years old in 1920, as stated on the 1920 Census. So he purchased the house at age 31. Mr. Gaines was white, and he was born in Kentucky in 1876. His wife's first name was Florence (she was 40 years old in 1920 and was born in Virginia). They had five kids: Charlton (13), Virginia (9), Minerva (5), William (4) and Naomi (1) (again, this is based on the 1920 Census). They were all born in the District and perhaps in the house! Mr. Gaines' profession was interior decorator, as stated in the city directories of 1920, 1931 and 1941.

Mr. Gaines sold 1223 E St. at the age of 74.

The next principal owners were:

— James Gibson, who owned the house from January 1951 to June 1962 (11 years). Mr. Gibson was a district firefighter in 1954; his wife's first name was Zenabia.

— Beatrice Jones/Reed, from June 1962 to June 1968 (six years). I think Mrs. Beatrice M.R. Jones is related to Beatrice M Real Estate Co. It appears as if the house was rented out to a Jarvis Walker (in the 1964 and 1967 city directories, no profession was listed).

— Charles Brooks, black, from June 1968 to June 1987 (19 years). Mr. Brooks was a technician at NIH (according to the 1970 city directory). We met the very pleasant Mrs. Brooks in 1999 and gave her a tour of the house. During her years on the block, she apparently was quite active in neighborhood politics. She had nine children in the house: six daughters and three boys.

— Mr. Serlemitsos and Mrs. Kessler, white, from June 1987 to January 1992 (four and a half years).

— Eric Bernard and Demetra Voyadgis, white, from December 1991 to at least November 2002 (this is now in excess of 10 years!)

Now, coming back to our archeological artifacts: A few years ago, while digging a flower bed, we found a horseshoe and what looked like a pitching horseshoe. More recently, while planting an apple tree, we found, at about 15 inches deep, two oysters, several glass bottle shards and the prize of the collection, an intact bottle embossed with the following:

trade mark: a dog sitting by a door

text: A.C. Herrmann

Successor to

J.F. Herrmann & Son

Washington D.C.

Registered

This bottle is not sold

Return promptly when empty

Further research will be necessary to find out the date of the bottle and what beverage was held in the bottle. In any case, we might have stumbled on the remains of a picnic in the late 1800s or, more simply, a Victorian trash pit!

Good research resources are the National Archives (for Census records), the MLK D.C. Library/Washingtoniana Division (for historical maps and local information), Recorder of Deeds (for title history).

What is needed is several hours at the library, patience to deal with librarians and microfilm machines! The amount of time you spend is based on how much detailed information you want. For a small fee, my services are available.

The best way to get started is to head out to the MLK DC Public Library. It is located at 901 G St. NW and is open Monday through Thursday until 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 5:30 p.m., and Sunday until 5. There you can consult the real estate plates/maps over time. You can then turn to the city directories to check every ten years for the name of the inhabitant and that person's listed occupation. This is done using the street address, not the last name.

For a detailed list of deeds you need to go to the Recorder of Deeds, which I believe is only open during the week. For more detailed information, such as census records, you then turn to the National Archives, at 700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

The National Archives are open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 8:45 a.m. - 9:00 p.m., Monday and Wednesday 8:45 a.m. - 5 p.m., and Saturday 8:45 a.m. - 4:45 p.m. §