Digging Into a Columbia Road Architectural Mystery

The houses from 589 (right) to 597 (left) Columbia Road predate the subdivision and date to the 19th century.

The houses from 589 (right) to 597 (left) Columbia Road predate the subdivision and date to the 19th century.

Back in September 2011 I mapped out the neighborhood by sorting through the original building permits to see when houses were built and who built them. There were a few addresses where building permits didn’t exist, which suggested that they were old, and the houses that are on the lots are, indeed old. Yet, when those parcels were developed as part of the neighborhood all the houses around them have permits. To start digging a little deeper into some of these permit-less houses,  I decided to investigate the houses at 589-597 Columbia Road. I’m far from finished in this research, but think what I’ve found so far is interesting enough to share.

591/593 Columbia Road, along with the duplex building to the west, were permitted to move to their current locations in December 1910.

591/593 Columbia Road, along with the duplex building to the west, were permitted to move to their current locations in December 1910.

To start with, the two duplexes and one (now apartment) house at 589-597 Columbia Road are all from the nineteenth century and all predate the subdivision of the property in 1910. In fact, this area just north of the McMillan Reservoir and west of the Soldiers’ Home was one of the last parcels subdivided in Park View. Part of the subdivision process included petitioning Congress to cut Columbia Road through the property to the boundary of Park Place on the east.

589 Columbia Road appears to be one of Washington's few remaining farmhouses. It appears to date to the 1870s but more research is still needed to confirm its actual age.

589 Columbia Road appears to be one of Washington’s few remaining farmhouse. It appears to date to the 1870s but more research is still needed to confirm its actual age.

But back to the houses. What is interesting about these three structures is that they all appear to have been built on the property prior to its subdivision — but not on the lots they presently occupy. These houses were moved to their current locations in 1910 and 1911 so that they would conform to the new subdivision (DCPL does have records of move permits for these houses).

It appears that one of the duplexes was originally located on the north side of Hobart Place at the intersection of 5th Street, NW. The other duplex also appears that it was on Hobart street, but to the east closer to the reservoir. 589 Columbia Road, on the other hand, was on the same  parcel it is currently on, but slightly further north and at an angle facing the southeast (house locations vary a little bit depending upon the map consulted). This structure, in particular, is interesting. Thus far, it appears to be a farmhouse structure possibly dating to the 1870s.

Overall, all three structures are in pretty good shape all things considered. The most significant exterior loss to any of them is at 589 Columbia,which most likely was built with a porch that would have run the entire width of the building. The interior is another matter entirely. When the house was moved in 1911 a brick addition was added to the rear of the property and the building is currently functioning as an apartment building.

None-the-less, it is nice to know that not all of the neighborhood’s 19th century buildings were razed to make way for development … and, in a way, I find it very interesting that some of the areas oldest buildings were moved to new locations as part of the new subdivisions. The following link includes a good general history on moving houses should anyone want to know more about the practice.

This detail from the 1903 Baist Atlas shows what appear to be the original locations of the houses now on Columbia Road.

This detail from the 1903 Baist Atlas shows what appear to be the original locations of the houses now on Columbia Road.

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3 Comments on “Digging Into a Columbia Road Architectural Mystery”

  1. Marianne Says:

    This is really cool. Can you share more about your research process? Where/how are you finding these gems?


  2. […] proximity to the original site of the monument. The location is also a short distance from the home of John Angerman  — a member of the Schuetzen Verein who was originally involved in finding a safe home for […]

  3. swift110 Says:

    Reblogged this on anthonyvenable110 and commented:
    awesome


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