21st and G St. NW
The corner of 21st and G Street NW exists today as a quiet place surrounded by the George Washington University’s campus buildings and dorms. The corner tells the story of the development and impact of university expansion on residents of the Foggy Bottom neighborhood. Between the early 1800s and present day, the area has evolved from an underdeveloped industrial area, to a lower class residential area, to a neighborhood of businesses, until finally becoming the campus corner it is now.
When Pierre Charles L’Enfant laid out his grand schemes for a new capital city in the 1790s, the area known as Foggy Bottom consisted largely of fields that lined the riverbank between the areas around ports to the north and to the south. The 2100 block of G Street NW had a humble beginning as a sparsely populated block that bordered an industrial port area of the young District of Columbia (Sherwood, 1978, p. 4). In the late 18th century, Jacob Funk had planned for an entire town, known as Hamburgh, to encompass this intersection (Faehtz, 1791). This did not come to fruition, and there was not much evidence of development or residences near this intersection until midway through the next century. In 1830, the entire Foggy Bottom neighborhood housed just 1,394 people in all, with a substantial percentage of these people being either slaves or free blacks [SEE FIG. 1]. The existence of slavery added an important demographic and political element to the area. From the outset, DC felt two social tides pulling it in opposite directions. Howard Gillette explains, “While Washington’s status as a slave territory linked its experience with the South, its subjection to federal power left it open to the influence of Northern abolitionists” (Gillette, 2006, p. 27).
The development of this block remained sparse throughout the nineteenth century. Washington was a city “unlike any other that ever was seen, straggling out hither and thither, with a small house or two a quarter of a mile from any other; so that in making calls ‘in the city’ one had to cross ditches and stiles, and walk alternately on grass and pavements, and strike across a field to reach a street” (WPA, 1942, p. 35). As history scholar Constance Green writes, “The economic history of Washington during the last years of the nineteenth century becomes a story of real-estate” (Green, 1976, p. 9). During the late 19th century, as the industries centered near Foggy Bottom developed and changed, housing and businesses also expanded into the area of the intersection [SEE FIG. 2]. The architecture of the time was characterized by “bellcast roofs, lancet windows, Flemish gables, and peaked lintels” (Mallon, 2004, p. 7). Maxwell Woodhull, a Navy officer, built a brick residence on the northeast corner. It was completed in 1855, and became home to New York State senator William Seward for a brief period of time [SEE FIG. 4]. After the elder Woodhulls died, their son, General Maxwell Van Zandt Woodhull--a trustee on the board of the George Washington University and decorated Civil War veteran--continued to reside in the house until his death in 1921 [SEE FIG. 5]. It is still in use today, donated by trustee Van Zandt Woodhull in 1921 as a result of his death (“G.W.U. TRUSTEES ELECTED,” 1911). It has now been incorporated into the George Washington University Museum and houses the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection, which opened early 2015 (“University Gets a First Look,” 2014).
By 1893, the corner had grown to become bustling with businesses, including two boarding houses, a bricklayer, and a lawyer [SEE FIG. 5]. In 1910, a firehouse—still in operation—was built just west of the intersection [SEE FIG. 8]. By 1923, the Foggy Bottom neighborhood included homes, alleyways, and a steadily rising number of businesses. Records of these homes and businesses reveal the changing state of the corner, as they are first established and recorded in articles [SEE FIG. 6] or entrusted so that we might have some understanding as to the value of homes at this time, in this location [SEE FIG. 7]. However, at this time, the neighborhood was still considered by congressmen to be the “slums” of DC. Despite the growing number of businesses, the housing stock was deteriorating because of the area’s industrial decline (Sherwood, 1978, 22-25.) In the alleys lived primarily laborers, though they were segregated within that category by race - mostly, all of these alley dwellers were minorities or immigrants. By 1928, a majority of houses in the area were used as businesses (Borchert, 1971, p. 267-88).
When the George Washington University (GW) moved to Foggy Bottom in 1912, it marked the next major transition for the neighborhood. Quigley’s Pharmacy was an example of a business that had steady customers and also could provide the money necessary to purchase an ad space found in The Evening Star [SEE FIG. 6]. This was a location that Richard Lucien Quigley, a GWU alumni, opened up with hopes of selling medicines to local residents. Quigley’s turned into quite a hot spot during the early 1900’s, becoming a place in Foggy Bottom for GWU students and even people with notoriety such as Hillary Clinton and Margaret Thatcher to frequent for burgers and Cokes. (GW Hatchet, 2011) This move initiated a decades long period of rapid development as the university expanded and purchased land for offices, classrooms, and housing.
What began as Hamburgh, and has since grew into the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of today, the corner of 21st and G Street NW has changed dramatically over the years. It has gone from an underdeveloped industrial area to a lower class residential and business area, and exists now as an integral part of the George Washington University. However, some buildings remain intact from the later part of the 1800’s, such as Quigley’s Pharmacy, which still has an almost identical facade nearly a decade later (“Buildings on Southeast Corner of G and 21st Streets NW, 1991).
Research, interpretation, and text by Jonni Aldrich, Tigan Woolson, Paula Chung, Bryn Baffer. Edited by Zoe Goldstein, Zoe Lipner, Courtney Evans, and Anna Fenzel.
1830 U.S. census, Washington, D.C. NARA microfilm publication M29, roll 14. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.
“#23 Engine Company Steamer & Horse Wagon” 1910, DC Public Library, Washingtoniana Division, General Photograph Collection, Washington, DC.
“1923 Square 0079 Lot 0808 Trust” 1923, Office of Tax and Revenue, Recorder of Deeds - Document Images, Washington, DC.
Lopez, Julyssa. "University Gets a First Look at New Museum." GW Today. June 9, 2014. http://gwtoday.gwu.edu/university-gets-first-look-new-museum.
Article 5 -- no title. 1968. The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973), Nov 30, 1968. Historical Society of Washington.
Borchert, James. "The Rise and Fall of Washington's Inhabited Alleys: 1852-1972." Records of the Columbia Historical Society 71/72, no. 48th Separately Bound Book (1971): 267-88. Accessed March 26, 2015. JSTOR.
Boyd, William. Boyd’s Directory of the District of Columbia. Washington: R.L. Polk & Co. 1893
Brewer, Jack D. Buildings on the southeast corner of G and 21st Streets NW. Digital image. Washing Historical Society General Photograph Collection. May, 1991.
Faehtz, E. F. M. and F. W. Pratt. Washington in Embryo: Or the National Capital From 1791-1800. (Washington, DC: Gibson Brothers, Printers, 1876), Pull-out maps.
"GEN. WOODHULL, 78, OF DISTRICT, DEAD: Succmbs at Watkins Glen, N. Y.— Prominent in Philanthropic Work." The Washington Post, July 27, 1921.
Gillette, Howard Jr. Between Justice & Beauty: Race, Planning, and the Failure of Urban Policy in Washington, DC. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.
The GW and Foggy Bottom Historical Encyclopaedia. “Woodhull House”. Last modified 25 October 2011. <http://encyclopedia.gwu.edu/index.php?title=Woodhull_House>
The GW and Foggy Bottom Historical Encyclopedia, “Quigley’s”. Last modified 27 October 2011. <http://encyclopedia.gwu.edu/index.php?title=Quigley%E2%80%99_s>
The GW Hatchet. “Tonic (formerly Quigley’s Pharmacy). GW Encyclopedia. Washington: University Archives. 2011. http://encyclopedia.gwu.edu/index.php?title=Quigley’_s (Accessed March 28, 2015)
"G.W.U. TRUSTEES ELECTED.: Vacancies Caused by Five Resignations Filled by Prominent Men." The Washington Post, April 14, 1911.
“History.” In Washington, D.C.: A Guide to the Nation’s Capital, edited by Workers of the Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration for the District of Columbia, 21-50. New York: Hastings House, 1942.
Mallon, Thomas. “At Large and At Small: A House in Foggy Bottom.” The American Scholar 72, no. 2 (2004): 5-9.
“Quigley’s Pharmacy Advertisement”. The Evening Star. 07 Dec. 1923. Page 57- NewsBank Evening Star Historical Archive, Newsbank. http://infoweb.newsbank.com/ (Accessed April 9, 2015).
Sherwood, Suzanne Berry. Foggy Bottom: A Study in the Uses of an Urban Neighborhood. Washington, DC: George Washington University, 1978.