John and Elsie Leukhardt were interviewed by Suzanne Ganschinietz and Hazel Kreinheder in 1974. She was the daughter of builder William Yost, who built his family home at 1002 Pennsylvania Avenue SE; the Leukhardts still lived there at the time of the interview. He had also built another four houses in that immediate area, as well as the Naval Lodge at Fourth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE and many other buildings. This interview includes memories of the very early 20th century, including a neighbor who was first president of National Capital Bank, the early history of Friendship House, streetcar routes, houses heated with Latrobes, and the tornado of 1919.
[Mr. and Mrs. John Leukhardt were interviewed in 1974 to provide background for the application to create the Capitol Hill Historic District. Citation of any material should include this information and acknowledge the Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project website for making it available. The interview was retyped by Paula Causey in 2012 with street names and house addresses edited to conform to the style used in Overbeck Project transcripts.]
Capitol Hill Interviews
Interview with Mr. and Mrs. John Leukhardt
by Suzanne Ganschinietz, DC Historic Preservation Office
and Hazel Kreinheder, Capitol Hill Restoration Society
October 4, 1974
Interview with Mr. and Mrs. John Leukhardt, 1002 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, by Hazel Kreinheder and Suzanne Ganschinietz. Elsie Yost Leukhardt has lived at that address since 1894. Her father was a prominent builder and businessman. As the interview began, Mrs. Leukhardt mentioned two houses in the 1000 block of C Street NE where she lived as a small child.
1000 Block of C Street NE
MRS. LEUKHARDT: They had front porches upstairs and down. My uncle [John C. Yost] who was in business with my father [William Yost] lived next door to us here after they built these houses. He was in one house and we were in the other. He had a daughter just about my age and we were the greatest friends all of our lives, but she’s gone. Dad always used to send us away to the country in the summertime. Dad used to go to the bank on Friday afternoon and get the money for the payroll on Saturday because they worked half days on Saturday, or they may have worked all day. One Saturday morning he got up and couldn’t find his trousers, and the money was in his pocket. Someone had climbed up from the first floor porch to the second floor porch and taken his trousers. They found them down the street a little way, over a fence, but, of course, the money was gone.
INTERVIEWER: When did your family live there?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: They lived there until February 14, 1894, when they moved into this house.
INTERVIEWER: Do you know when they first moved to that house?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: I’ve never looked it up. I know they must have been there six or eight years anyhow before they came here. Both my father’s family and my uncle’s family were growing and they needed larger houses. They were doing very well in their building business so they were able to afford a big house.
Pennsylvania Avenue SE
I was told, when these five houses were built, the one on Tenth Street [420 Tenth Street SE], and the corner, this house and the next two to the east [1000, 1002, 1004, 1006 Pennsylvania Avenue SE], this was a vacant lot before we came. It was the last piece left on this block, except for two houses back on the alley that faced D Street. There was an empty space in there. Those two houses [1009 and 1011 D Street SE] were built after we moved in here. All the rest on this block were flat fronts with iron porches so they are older than we. We were very much disturbed when the gas station, the Texas Oil Company, wanted to come in and enlarge the gas station that was there and they took, three, I think, at least two, good flat fronts that the [Capitol Hill Southeast] Citizens Association tried very hard to save, but we couldn’t.
MR. LEUKHARDT: We did beat them on a design.
MRS. LEUKHARDT: Yes, we went to a hearing against it and I gave my plea. The gentleman, who was a very brilliant attorney, said they had the plans and said they wanted to show them. He said, “What do you think of that?” I said, “I think it’s terrible. It doesn’t fit in with the neighborhood at all. It hasn’t the least character of the neighborhood. If you have to have it there, at least build it in character.” So the Zoning Commission required them to change their plans and make it more nearly in character with the neighborhood. They were going to put in one of these glass and stainless steel, one of those faceless buildings, like an office building. They did modify the plan.
[2014 note: a 1920 photo of the 1000 block of Pennsylvania Avenue SE is available at http://www.shorpy.com/node/4580. On the right, the photo shows Fealey’s Pharmacy at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 11th Street SE. Beyond that are the flat front houses with iron porches that Mrs. Leukhardt describes as being older than the ones her father built. Still further west on Pennsylvania Avenue are her father’s buildings with stone staircases. The turreted building with the pointed roof is 1000 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, at the corner of Tenth Street.]
INTERVIEWER: Was Pennsylvania Avenue from Ninth Street east mostly residential?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: No, beyond 12th Street, was what was called “The Commons.” It was an open space. Further out E Street, toward Congressional Cemetery, there were some buildings. There were a lot of vacant lots out there. We used to hike out there. In the winter, some of them had slopes where you could coast. That’s when I was a little girl. They built up fast. The houses all the way up Tenth Street were all built when we came. John E. Herrell’s block, which is between Ninth and Tenth, the row of brick houses, were here when we came. So they are older than ours.
Area South of Pennsylvania Avenue SE
INTERVIEWER: What was the area south of Pennsylvania Avenue like?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: That was built between here and 12th and G or maybe 13th and G. Both sides of the street had little old fashioned frame houses that people had either kept in order or had put in order, restored. They were small enough that you could take care of them easily and they always had front yards with flowers in them. I don’t know the back yards, because I wasn’t in them. One of the ladies who is active in our Citizens Association right now was required to sell her house [for Potomac Gardens] and she didn’t want to. I think it had been her husband’s family’s house. Then she bought further over on G Street. Her name is Elsie Miller. She’s the chairman of the reprinting of the book [“Places and Persons on Capitol Hill,” 1960/second printing, 1974] and she’s the Treasurer of the Citizens Association. This is the second printing. I was on the committee for the first printing and worked with Willa Smith [Mrs. Mapheus Smith, compiler] on only the business details. I had nothing to do with the photographs or the text. I went with her to the printers a number of times. I was in charge of distribution. We had 1000 copies and we had just about used up all of them when we did this new printing this year. Helen Au is working with Elsie Miller on the new edition. Helen Au is an old resident.
INTERVIEWER: Was Pipetown further east of where the Millers lived?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: Almost down to the river. Down by the gas houses.
INTERVIEWER: Was most of the Pipetown area torn down?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: Yes. When my father gave up his building business, I guess about 1907 or 1908, he bought an already established lumber yard down on 11th Street, just this side of the bridge. That land has since been taken into the main part of the Navy Yard grounds on the west side of 11th Street. And then when the Navy Yard wanted that land, they just took it. What do you call it, eminent domain? He bought the space across the road on the east side of 11th Street and he built a great big lumber yard there. That took a lot of houses. I don’t know what took them out next, but they’re all gone now.
When Dad was building these houses [on Pennsylvania Avenue], some of the children along Tenth Street were very impressed with these houses going up here. These houses do look very tall alongside of a two story frame house. Some of those little frame houses down there, well they weren’t so small, they had six to eight rooms two stories, but they didn’t have the high ceilings, so their height relatively was not as great as one with two stories and high ceilings.
INTERVIEWER: Can you tell us about Friendship House?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: Horace Peasley, an architect, was a very good friend of Miss Burklin’s [Lydia A.H. Burklin] and interested in the social work that she had been doing down on Virginia Avenue. So he did the architectural planning for the additions to Friendship House. The first social work that I knew of her doing was when she had a three or four story red brick house on a terrace on Virginia Avenue SE. I would say along about Second, Third, or Fourth, on the north side of the street. And she and some other devoted workers took children whose mothers were working in for daycare. In fact, one teacher who went back to teaching after she was married took her children down there. I think she had two children. They got excellent care and good training. They got devoted love and service from Miss Burklin. She really loved children. I don’t know whether those houses had been taken over then or not, but anyway, she had quite a circle of admiring friends who appreciated so much the fine work that she was doing. They got Friendship House, and Mr. Peasley did the architectural work for her enlarging it and, I suppose, modernizing it. I don’t think Mrs. Briggs [Emily Edson Briggs] had done much toward modernizing it because it really went back to colonial times. It was called The Maples. I think out of gratitude and as a tribute to Miss Burklin, the committee or the foundation or the fund or whatever the money was that was being spent built the house on Sixth and South Carolina to be occupied by Miss Burklin and her friend, Emily Storer, for their lifetime. When Miss Burklin died, Miss Storer continued to live there and, I think, as of now, she’s still living there. She has a companion living with her. She belonged to the Garden Club, but in the late years she hasn’t been able to come.
INTERVIEWER: Did you say that Mrs. Briggs gave part of the land for the public library? Was that part of The Maples?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: Yes, The Maples had the whole block, Sixth to Seventh, D to South Carolina Avenue SE.
INTERVIEWER: So all of that has been built since?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: Yes. In my memory.
Other Buildings Built by William Yost
INTERVIEWER: Another thing that you told me over the phone was about some other buildings that your father had built.
MRS. LEUKHARDT: I went to see the President of National Capital, Mr. Didden [George A. Didden, Jr.] Until American Security and Trust came with the branch on Eighth Street and the branch up on East Capitol, National Capital was the only bank, not building association, but the only bank on Capitol Hill. It was founded, I think, in 1889. It didn’t occupy those quarters at first. They had a building back on B Street [Independence Avenue] and then they built this building. I had the impression that my father built that, but I can’t say that he did until Mr. Didden looks up his records. He’s going to try to look up his records and find out who did build it. My father did build the Naval Lodge building on Fourth and Pennsylvania Avenue SE. He was a member of that lodge. He built Mr. John E. Herrell’s apartment, I don’t know who owns it now, at Sixth and where Seward Square comes in, the Elkton. Of course, he built these five houses. He built quite a few public schools, but I was young and reckless, I guess you say. I wasn’t doing anything about family history then. I didn’t find out what the schools were. He built a synagogue. My sister was talking about that the other day. She thinks, and I think too, that it’s about Sixth and where a letter street comes in to Massachusetts Avenue NW. It’s a small synagogue. And now, I think, some colored Protestant congregation has it. It was built in the 1880s.
INTERVIEWER: What were the years that your father was building?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: He was building in 1880.
INTERVIEWER: When did he die? Or what year did he build up to?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: He gave up building and went into the lumber business in about 1908 or 1909. My mother died in 1909 and that was about his first year in the lumber business.
INTERVIEWER: Did he have anything to do with building any of those other buildings around Seward Square?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: I can’t tell you. He built a lot of residences around here.
INTERVIEWER: Are his records anywhere?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: No. He had his office in the basement and he had a great big iron safe. We played Indians and cowboys. We’d start in the old kitchen which was downstairs. The Indians would give us a few minutes start. We’d have to run across and everybody get up on that safe or else we were caught by the Indians. My mother and father said that the house was for the children and we could do anything we wanted as long as we didn’t fight or tear the house apart. We could always have our friends here.
INTERVIEWER: Which schools did you teach at?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: I taught at Brent, Dent, Cranch, and Tyler. The Brent and the Dent were separate schools; the Cranch and the Tyler were under one principal. I taught in the Brent and the Dent until 1920. Then I went to Hawaii for two years and taught out there. When I came back, I was assigned at the Tyler and the Cranch. I taught a grade for one year and then I became what they called a coaching teacher and I coached in reading and arithmetic until Miss LaSalle came and established the research department. Then I went into the research department as a research assistant in charge of intelligence and achievement testing in the elementary and high schools. I remained there until I retired.
[2014 note: Photos of the Yost family, including Elsie May Yost, later Mrs. John Leukhardt, are available at http://www.fluckers.com/family/yost/album.htm. Also pictured are other family members, John E. Herrell, and the houses Mr. Yost built at 1000, 1002, 1004, and 1006 Pennsylvania Avenue SE.]
Dent School area
INTERVIEWER: Do you know anything about the area down around the Dent School? When was it developed?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: It was a lovely home neighborhood. When I taught down there, those houses were practically all owner occupied, with a very high type of people.
INTERVIEWER: Was it a comparatively new neighborhood?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: Yes. Further down South Carolina, going down into Garfield Park and North Carolina. New Jersey was pretty well built and First and Second Streets, but in the lower parts going toward South Carolina Avenue there were a lot of new buildings. Curley Boswell’s house at 11 D Street SE was his grandfather’s house because once at Citizens Association, I was saying we were going to have the, I don’t know what number Thanksgiving dinner it was. We’ve had Thanksgiving dinner in this house ever since they moved in 1894; it will be the 81st one this year. Curley’s brother, they called him Brother, capped me by about 12 years. It was their grandfather’s house, their mother’s father’s house. That house had been added onto some as the families grew and then I think they bought more land. You know Curley owned that whole block when he died and that garden on both sides. They acquired that land and made it into a garden. We took some pictures of his garden for him. He had some beautiful pictures of his garden. Curley lent some of his photographs for “Places and Persons” and some he was able to get for the book from the Library of Congress. For some of the pictures Willa Smith just did a little sketch by hand because she couldn’t find a picture for what she wanted. I think she may have given some things to Arline Roback when she left. She brought me an old city directory. They used to bring them around. You could look up things at any drugstore, they’d have a city directory. So I asked Curley if he wanted it and he said he did. He took all kinds of memorabilia that he kept in that store house in the backyard.
I mentioned the telephone. I knew that we had had one of the first telephones on Capitol Hill. Our number is 425 and that is the original number. I went down to the telephone office on 13th Street and I asked to see telephone directories back around the 1900s. They said they didn’t keep them that far back, but that they were at the storehouse at North Capitol and New York Avenue and I could go over there. I went over there and they were very nice. They got out all of the telephone directories from the beginning of the system in Washington. The first one, and the first few I should say, was on a sheet of foolscap about this long. I believe it was typed in, but it was just one sheet. That constituted the telephone directory for the city of Washington. Then we came along and pretty soon it was a booklet. I was looking for my father’s name because I knew he had had an early telephone. The druggist over on the corner had one and people would go over there to telephone. Mr. Fealey was first on this corner and then he sold that and went over to the other corner, the northwest corner of 11th and Pennsylvania, first, and then the southeast corner later where he was, I guess, until he retired. He then sold to a youngish man whose name I can’t remember. Before Dr. Gold. Anyhow, I can remember my sister going over there before we had the telephone. His number was in the ones, like 117, or something like that. I kept on until I came to 1904 and then I found my father’s name. They had east, west, and central. We were east 425. One of my old beaux once said to somebody that when he went away and came back to Washington, he knew exactly what number to call because our number had never changed. So then it got to be LIncoln 425 and then LIncoln 0425 and now its LIncoln 3-0425. And I don’t know how many switchboards we have now. People in the neighborhood would come in here and ask if they could use the telephone. Calls would come here for somebody in the 1000 block and we’d go and get them just like in a little country town. I’m very delighted to be able to still have the same number. At one time, they wanted to change my number and I told them that number goes back to 1904, please don’t change it.
Mr. Lee, Chinese Merchant
INTERVIEWER: Can you tell us about anyone else interesting who lived in this neighborhood or on the hill that you know about?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: In the middle of the block, we had a very successful Chinese merchant. He had his store on Pennsylvania Avenue NW between Sixth and what was Fourth and a Half Street. It used to be Fourth and a Half Street. We didn’t have a Fifth Street. We had Fourth, Fourth and a Half, and Sixth. Anyway, he bought the house in the middle of the block that has the stone porch. It’s about to fall to pieces. It’s 1010. They had three sons and three daughters. Every one of those boys and two of the girls went through college, just high up. I think all three boys took engineering. Some of them had master’s degrees. The two girls who went to college were in the Natural Sciences. I think they went to Maryland University. They worked out there on the faculty.
Mr. Lee was a Chinese merchant. You could buy all kinds of food. I guess he was an importer-exporter.
Tornado in 1919
The time we had a tornado, it came up 11th Street and it hit half of this block. It took one window out of my aunt’s house and it took one pane out of that transom. It’s never been fixed. But it took the roof off Mrs. Lee’s house, the whole roof, so we sent word down that we’d be glad to give them housing, that we had room to take care of them. They thanked us and said that somebody, I guess maybe some of their relatives, had already taken care of them. Sometime later, not too long afterwards, one of the children came with a box of tea as appreciation for our offer. I still have the box.
The tornado was in 1919. It struck only this section of the city. It didn’t go all over the city. The girls, who were teaching in Congress Heights, said it got as black as night over there. They got the children all together; they knew it was getting to be a bad storm of some kind. No one got hurt over there. It was over in a short time. I was coming home from the research department office and I was at Riggs Bank at 14th and New York Avenue NW. It didn’t hit there, but it was just pouring rain. It was like a cloudburst. I remember standing in the entry way to the Riggs Bank waiting for that rain to get over. When I got home I heard all the things that happened in the neighborhood. It came from across the river and up 11th Street. I don’t know where it ended, but I know what it did to this block. The Lees were the only ones who got their roof taken off. It was a queer thing.
MRS. LEUKHARDT: Another house of interest, it isn’t an old, old house, is up at Eighth and Independence Avenue SE on the southeast corner. The Roper children went to Eastern High School. Their father was Postmaster General.
MR. LEUKHARDT: He was Secretary of Commerce, too.
MRS. LEUKHARDT: Dan Roper from South Carolina. I think that May Roper, one of the daughters that I knew, was back living in South Carolina, but Ivy Welfey knows her. They were friends, too. Ivy Welfey is the one who wrote the letter about 1000 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. [This is a reference to a letter in the Capitol Hill Restoration Society archives which tells about 1000 Pennsylvania Avenue SE.] He was a cabinet member when they were going through high school and that is where they lived. We had cabinet members. We still have representatives and senators living around on the Hill. I went to school with Champ Clark; he was in my class at Eastern High School, the class of 1908. We have a long lived family. That boy [Champ Clark] could look at a page of history and could tell you what was on the page. He was really a page reader. He was a very bright fellow. If I think of any other things I’ll note them.
John E. Herrell
I’ll tell you what Mr. Didden said when I asked about the builder, “You know when we get ready to build on that same site … you know when we get ready to move, we’ll have to go over every paper in this office to see what we should keep.” I said, “Well, if you find anything of historical interest that would add to making it appropriate to creating a historical area here, please let me know.” But, I don’t know how soon that will be. I went in to see him because his father had done a lot of plan drawing and specifications drawing for my father when my father was building. So the first time I introduced myself, that’s the way I introduced myself and that time was last year. I had told somebody that John E. Herrell was the first president of the National Capital Bank. Then I wanted to be sure that I was right, so I went in to see Mr. Didden. He said John E. Herrell was the first president and that he and the Yosts and some other people started this bank. I know that my father was a close friend of John E. Herrell. He lived in this corner house across the street. That whole row was John E. Herrell’s row. He lived on the northwest corner of Tenth and Pennsylvania Avenue SE.
INTERVIEWER: Are there any Herrell’s around?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: There are some descendants, but I don’t know who or where they are. One daughter or granddaughter was a Tolson and she lived in that house for a while, I guess about 15 or 20 years ago, but now it’s sold.
INTERVIEWER: Can you tell us about Mr. Herrell? I understand that he was a very prominent person on the Hill.
MRS. LEUKHARDT: Yes, I knew him as an old gentleman and he had a long white beard. He had a little colored coachman who brought the carriage around every morning and drove him to the bank. The carriage house was back on D Street. That was William. William used to come to work for us after Mr. Herrell died. He was a tall dignified Southern gentleman. They came from the Valley of Virginia. That whole block belonged to him [Mr. Herrell]. Some of the houses had basements. All of the houses were heated by Latrobes. I’ll show you our Latrobe. Ours was put in fairly soon after we moved in. We had central heating, hot air, but the north rooms were cold and we didn’t have the kitchen on the back then. Our kitchen was downstairs. So this was put in the dining room. All of those houses along there had Latrobes until a few years ago. Maybe some of them still have them. You could walk along and see the Latrobe burning in the basement room. It was so cheerful looking.
Mr. Herrell was a thrifty man and he made his own fortune. He was really a very well to do man when he died. He owned great properties. He was a very careful banker. He was conservative. I think that National Capital has continued in that line. They haven’t spread out all over the city. They have confined themselves to here and I think that they have just one branch across the river. He was considered by some people a hard man because he was a very careful business man. He didn’t go in for reckless investment or reckless lending. He was a good businessman. He was honest. He was a very good friend of my father’s. When he died, he left Dad his gold watch. My father said that whenever he went in to see Mr. Herrell for a loan or some business proposition, he never had to sign a paper. Mr. Herrell took his word as his bond. These days, I don’t think anybody does that. In those days, it was like a village. I don’t know how he started his estate. From the time I knew him, he was president of the bank. He was the first president and Thomas W. Smith was the second president. Thomas W. Smith was a very prominent man. I think his line was lumber.
There was a cousin of John E. Herrell’s of whom we were very fond. He lived in the middle of the block. He was called Capt. Herrell because he was a Captain in the Civil War on the Confederate side. Both of them came from the Valley of Virginia. Captain Herrell had a brick yard, way down Half Street, down toward the river. Then when Dad got out of building, Captain Herrell went into partnership with him in the lumber yard. I don’t think he gave up his brickyard. The lumber yard was called Yost and Herrell as long as it continued. But it failed.
INTERVIEWER: Did you also say that you could tell us something about the Didden family?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: Mr. Carry [Albert Carry], when I was a little girl, had a brewery out here on E Street. The building is still there by the way. It’s the Safeway storehouse. That’s what Mr. Didden told me yesterday. It’s on E Street. It’s not where that new Safeway is. Anyhow, Mr. Carry had his brewery there. He came from Germany, a little after the middle of the 1800s, 1860 or something like that. He had been a biermeister in Germany. The great big beer wagons used to go by with beautiful horses. They didn’t have automobiles then. Those beer wagons would go by here regularly. There was a beer garden over at Ninth and Pennsylvania Avenue SE. That was an old, old colonial inn. They tore it down before anybody saved it. I knew that place was old, but not until they were agitating and tearing it down that it went way back to colonial days. There’s a picture in “Places and Persons.” When prohibition went through, Carry converted his brewery into an ice cream factory. When he died, it continued as an ice cream factory with the family, maybe 30 to 40 years ago. I think then they had an automobile plant there for a while or a business.
INTERVIEWER: Were there houses in the area surrounding the brewery? The school was there.
MRS. LEUKHARDT: I think there were a few houses coming down E Street, some old houses. One of the Carry girls married Mr. Didden’s father. They had a beautiful house, which was torn down a few years ago, on 12th Street. It was really a mansion. They built a house next door [139 12th Street SE] for their daughter, who married Didden, who is the father of this president of the bank. I think that house is still here. The Glickerts now own the Campbell house on 12th Street [140 12th Street SE]. That was his [F. Tracey Campbell’s] father’s house. He has sold the business [Campbell’s Hardware, originally at 11th and N Street SE, now on Good Hope road], but he’s in the store every day. He can’t give it up. He grew up here and then he had a house on T Street SE. He would be a good person for you to talk to. I think you could find him in the store.
INTERVIEWER: The Glickert house now has the paneling which was salvaged from the Carry mansion and some of the hardware.
NCPC [National Capital Planning Commission] is working on Uniontown to make it a historic district, also.
MRS. LEUKHARDT: Do save Immanuel Episcopal Church! It’s a real old church. Our friends, the Cooks, who used to live on T Street SE and now live in Potomac, still go there. It would be difficult for you to talk to him because he is not well.
Historic District and Landmarks
MRS. LEUKHARDT: We would hope that this preservation could extend to include, if not everything in the way, at least Congressional Cemetery, and restoring it and keeping it in order. That’s a consecrated chapel in that cemetery. Christ Church, Navy Yard, owns the cemetery, the rights and the chapel. They do not have funds. Their congregation has decreased. They don’t have the means to keep it up and they don’t get any appropriation from Congress in spite of the fact that there are many historic figures buried there. Somebody should be able to take it over and keep it as a fine old cemetery, perhaps in the whole program of national historic preservation. Also, the Old Marine Hospital at Ninth and Pennsylvania Avenue SE where they had patients from the Civil War. When I was a little girl, we used to see sailors all the time who were taken care of there. It was part of the public health service, too.
INTERVIEWER: That’s still owned by the government and leased to the District of Columbia for a dollar a year, I believe. That’s now a Category 2 District Landmark and placed on the National Register. So there’s a lot of protection for that building.
MRS. LEUKHARDT: It’s being used for a good purpose, for a training program now. As for the boundaries, old gashouse for another thing. You don’t see many of them anymore. The jail, the workhouse and Gallinger Hospital, that’s a huge area.
INTERVIEWER: There used to be a poor house down there, an alms house, didn’t there?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: I’m not sure. I know there was the jail and then there was the superintendent’s house. They had a very nice superintendent’s house and then the Gallinger Hospital, which is now D.C. General. I don’t know if the house is still there. One of my boyfriends’ fathers was the superintendent.
INTERVIEWER: Mrs. Leukhardt, would you speak about your feelings about the [proposed Historic District] boundaries?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: I think that the Eastern Branch would be a good boundary. We called it the Eastern Branch. Now it’s called the Anacostia River. We used to skate on those marshes in the winter. Now that’s more or less cleared out. I think it would be a good boundary because it is very definite. And I do think that at the rate that restoration has been going on it will continue wherever there is available property to go to the river.
INTERVIEWER: Even when it wasn’t developed you considered it to be a part of the same neighborhood?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: Southeast, oh yes.
INTERVIEWER: Did this area where you lived have a name like Capitol Hill or Navy Yard?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: Capitol Hill above Pennsylvania Avenue. Navy Yard below Pennsylvania Avenue.
INTERVIEWER: Would you consider this far out to be Capitol Hill or would you just consider this to be Southeast?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: I don’t know, I never really thought about it. We’re just ten blocks from the Capitol and we are on the Hill.
INTERVIEWER: How far north do you think the area should go? Do you see Stanton Park as part of Capitol Hill?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: I think it could be brought back. It was a very nice neighborhood when the Walkers lived over there, as you can see by those houses over there.
When my father built these houses, practically every house on the block all the way around was owner occupied. That next block on E Street from 11th to 12th, I think that he built some of those houses along there. They were all owner occupied and the houses going up Tenth Street. East Capitol Street was always residential. When my father built there, this was just a park. We didn’t have oak trees then. We had maple trees. This long strip that goes down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue was just a park. There were no street cars and there were no automobiles. When we were little children, we would take our toys and go over in the park in the summertime and play under the trees. The only thing that worried my parents was the possibility of a runaway horse. The street car turned at Eighth Street and went down to the Navy Yard and then we got the street car going through the middle along here.
INTERVIEWER: How far did the street car go?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: Down to the bridge. Then I don’t know whether we had to transfer, but it went across the bridge on the Toonerville Trolley, and part way up the hill about to where the firehouse is now, the Randall Highlands firehouse, and from there on it was fields. We hiked to the country. We called that street car from the Eastern Branch the Toonerville Trolley and it had an overhead trolley. I think we always had underground along here. I don’t even remember any trolley poles. We had cable cars that went underground. The Herdic Stable was on 11th Street. It was up south of Philadelphia Row where those fairly new houses are. You could take the Herdic there and ride all the way up to what they called the boundary, which is 16th and Florida Avenue NW where Meridian Hill Park is, about to there or a little south of that. Down this way, the horse cars came from somewhere up northwest and came down to Ninth Street and around the greenhouses and through G Street and up 11th Street to Congress Heights.
INTERVIEWER: Where were the greenhouses?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: The general location of the present Botanical Gardens. They weren’t anything like that. They were really just green houses. We rode on those horse cars and we also rode on the Herdics.
INTERVIEWER: What did you think about Lincoln Park? Was that a separate entity?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: The Lincoln Park area was called Lincoln Park. Then Stanton Park was another area.
Florine Walker Walther
INTERVIEWER: You started to tell us about someone else we could talk to. Who was that?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: I was trying to get a distant cousin of mine. Her grandmother and my grandmother Yost were sisters. She lived at Fifth and B [Constitution Avenue] NE, a big white double house on the corner. The last of the family lived there until a few years ago.
INTERVIEWER: Is this the Walker family?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: Yes. Florine [Mrs. Florine Walther] was in my college sorority and we’ve kept up a kind of friendship. She lives in Washington Grove. She’s in Florida now, but if you like, I will call her when she comes home. The Walkers had five girls and four boys. They had nine children. Florine was the youngest and the next youngest girl lives in Washington Grove, but I don’t know whether she would have as many memories as Florine because she married quite young and went west to live. Florine is older than I am. I don’t know how old her father was, but it was his mother that was the sister of my grandmother. She’d know a lot more about the people around Stanton Park.
INTERVIEWER: We’d like to talk to her because her father was a very prominent builder, also.
MRS. LEUKHARDT: He was Sam Walker. He was also Chief of Police at one time. He had a very successful private insurance company until a few years ago. Rosalie was the last one in the family to be at home. It was a lovely home. We used to have some beautiful parties there. I knew all of the family because two of the girls were in the same sorority and then they were also distant cousins.
Washington Grove is a very interesting place. It’s between Rockville and Gaithersburg. It was an old Methodist camp meeting ground. Her father really initiated that place and built it up. I think he had a house for every one of his children there that wanted one. Florine still lives in hers. A sister of hers lives down the street. They had lived in the city and had their houses there for the summer, but now have gone back there to live. Washington Grove was originally a real camp meeting site. It started in the 1890s. I remember the first time I went. We were staying up in Montgomery County, on a farm. They put benches in the big farm wagon and packed a big lunch and we went all the way by horse and wagon to Washington Grove and there was a great big canvas tent like a tabernacle where the preaching was going on. Then everybody had their lunches. I don’t remember being in the tent very much, but we had a wonderful lunch and we spent the whole day. People used to bring tents and put them up. Then people began to build cottages. They built them in the style of the T or the V tent. They have a peaked roof. A lot of the little houses are built in that shape. When we went to Chautauqua a couple of years ago [that started as a camp meeting too] we noticed that some of the houses were built that way too. Then more and more people built permanent homes and spent their summers there. But they always still had the camp or church meetings. I think that they went on for a week.
INTERVIEWER: What kind of architecture? Shingle style?
MRS. LEUKHARDT: They’re wooden. I don’t remember whether they are shingles or clapboards. They’re not elaborate houses, but they’re very comfortable. Mrs. Walther’s house is a late Victorian.
The man who bought Elsie’s uncle’s home at 1004 Pennsylvania Avenue SE was a Captain in the Navy, a combat flyer during the war. No one else had lived in it before except this last owner. He’s the second family to live there. He was in command of the helicopter that picked up the astronauts when they splashed down in the Caribbean before they shifted to the Pacific. He’s now on detail to Rio as Chief of the Naval Section of the Mission [US Embassy] there.
END OF INTERVIEW
Capitol Hill Interviews
Mr. and Mrs. John Leukhardt Interview, October 4, 1974