Establishing Park View — Part I: Whitney Close

This week, I’ll be posting a short series of articles outlining the establishment of the neighborhood’s first successful subdivision — Middaugh & Shannon’s Park View subdivision. Today provides and introduction and focuses on the first attempt to create a subdivision in the area in 1886. Following days will focus on builders Middaugh & Shannon, their Park View subdivision, the building trades strike of 1907/1908, and the establishment of the African-American community in a formerly “whites only” area of Washington, D.C.

The Park View neighborhood in its entirety can trace its organization and name to March 1, 1908, when the Park View Citizens’ Association first convened at the old Whitney Avenue church. The name “Park View” was chosen due to the community’s close proximity to the U.S. Soldiers’ Home and as an expansion of Middaugh & Shannon’s Park View subdivision along Park Road. The earliest known description of the boundaries for the Park View neighborhood is found in the first issue of the Park View News (1916). All known subsequent descriptions of the neighborhood agree with those published in 1916. The most clearly stated description comes from the 1917 Constitution and By-Laws of the Park View Citizens’ Association and is provided below.

. . . bounded as follows: By the south side of Gresham Street on the south, Rock Creek church Road on the north, Soldiers’ Home grounds on the east, and both sides of Georgia Avenue from Gresham Street to Park Road; thence west to both sides of Park Road to New Hampshire Avenue; thence north on the west side of New Hampshire Avenue to Rock Creek Church Road.

Detail from 1903 Baists Real Estate Atlas showing boundaries of Whitney Close.

Detail from 1903 Baists Real Estate Atlas showing boundaries of Whitney Close.

Park View’s roots date to June 4, 1886, when the heirs of Catherine M. Whitney sold the former estate of Asa Whitney, known as Whitney Close, to Benjamin H. Warder of Ohio for the sum of $60,024. Warder immediately set about subdividing the 43 acre tract of land into building lots for a new community.

As detailed on Wikipedia, Benjamin H. Warder is an interesting character. He co-founded Warder, Brokaw & Child Company, and paid $30,000 for patent rights to “The Champion,” a combined reaper & mower invented by William N. Whiteley. Warder’s company manufactured the machines, but distribution was shared, at first, with Whiteley and others. By 1860, the Springfield, Ohio, firm was just Warder & Child.

Warder’s company manufactured harvesting machinery – reapers, binders, mowers and hay rakes – under the “Champion” brand name. Warder and Bushnell managed the factories in Springfield. The company opened a branch office in Chicago in 1865, headed by Glessner, which grew to become its most profitable: in 1871, the Chicago office sold about 800 machines; in 1884, it sold 25,000 machines. By 1886, the company employed more than 1000 workers, and was exporting to foreign countries.

Warder retired from business in 1886, and moved his family to Washington, DC, where his house at 1515 K Street, NW, was under construction (the house has since been moved to 16th Street). His subdivision of Whitney Close appears to be among his first forays into D.C.’s speculative real estate market. He was also among the investors involved in subdividing Petworth the following year in 1887.

Whitney Close houses(3567 and 3569 Warder Street, NW. These two houses date to 1893 and are possibly the sole remaining houses from the Whitney Close subdivision.)

Unfortunately, Warder’s vision for Whitney Close was not realized due to a number of reasons, and actual development was initially slow with only a handful of wood-frame houses constructed.

By 1904, however, a strong economy, an ever decreasing availability of near-in land, and large public green spaces such as the Soldiers’ Home and the McMillan Reservoir, all set the stage for Park View to finally take off. Middaugh & Shannon were the first builders to begin large scale development in Park View, beginning with their purchase of nine acres of the Whitney Close subdivision along Park Road in December 1905 and construction beginning in February 1906.

Tomorrow: Builders Middaugh & Shannon

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One Comment on “Establishing Park View — Part I: Whitney Close”

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