Establishing Park View — Part II: Developer Middaugh & Shannon
William E. Shannon was a partner in the prolific development firm of Middaugh & Shannon. Together with Raymond E. Middaugh (1870-1910), Shannon constructed over 900 dwellings in Washington, D.C. The team was instrumental in developing the neighborhoods of Bloomingdale, Park View, Woodley Park, 14th Street Terrace, Petworth, Michigan Park, and part of Saul’s Addition.
William Edward Shannon was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1875 and came to Washington, D.C. in 1881 at the age of six. He attended Washington, D.C. public schools and Spencerian Business College in Washington, D.C. His first job was as a page for the United Press, stationed on the floor of the Senate and House. Later, he worked as a messenger at the Evening Star, a printer, and then a real estate broker. He married Lilian A. Walingford in 1899.
Shannon began working with Ray E. Middaugh in 1896 and the two formed the real estate firm of Middaugh and Shannon in 1900. Their first development project was the construction of row houses in Bloomingdale within the area bounded by R Street, North Capitol Street, Bryant Street, and 2nd Street, NW. From 1900 to 1901, architect B. Stanley Simmons (1872-1931, see Architects Directory entry) designed 47 of these row houses for Middaugh & Shannon. Beginning in 1902, however, the firm relied almost exclusively on Joseph Bohn Jr. (1877-1910, see Architects Directory entry) as its architect.
Middaugh & Shannon pioneered the development of Bloomingdale. The Washington Post’s 1903 History of the City of Washington reported that as a result of Middaugh & Shannon’s initial development in the neighborhood, there were 869 houses, accommodating 3,484 people, by 1903. As advertised in the newspaper, their houses were built to embody their ideals of what housing should be, not only of construction, but also of arrangement, i.e., their copyrighted plan for the perfect lighting of the dining room.
In 1906, the firm began developing the Park View neighborhood immediately west of the Old Soldiers Home. Joseph Bohn designed the row and semi-detached dwellings in this development, including virtually all the dwellings constructed in the two squares (3044 and 3036) between Park Place and Warder Street, N.W. and bounded by Newton Place on the north and Lamont Street on the south. Bohn’s final works (1909) for Middaugh & Shannon were two rows in Mt. Pleasant at 19th Street (3201-3215) and Park Road (1844-1860) and a row of Colonial Revival dwellings along Cathedral Avenue in Woodley Park (2228-2242). Shannon & Luchs were the selling agents of many of Middaugh & Shannon’s developments. Herbert T. Shannon (1884-1946, see directory entry), co-founder of Shannon & Luchs, was the younger brother of William E. Shannon.
Middaugh & Shannon were the most prolific developers of the Woodley Park neighborhood during the first decade of its construction as well. In 1908, they purchased two large tracts of land along 27th Street and Cathedral Avenue, NW and began to build two-story row houses. They also constructed a group of two-story semi -detached houses along Cathedral Avenue, advertising the innovative features of yards on three sides and a “living room” on the first floor.
Shortly after construction began in Woodley Park, Middaugh & Shannon published a promotional brochure that boasted that, besides being a good financial investment, “here is one spot in the city where a man who is able to purchase a fine house closed in between a succession of brick walls can afford, at no greater cost, a comfortable ‘home’, surrounded by a comfortable lawn and the beautiful things of nature that make life worthwhile.” These homes were praised in newspaper advertisements for the innovation of “hundreds of ideas” which would make them copied throughout the city.
Ray E. Middaugh died in 1910, but Shannon continued working under the name Middaugh & Shannon, as the company had developed such an esteemed reputation. In 1911, prominent architect Claughton West (1885-1978, see Architects Directory entry) designed 41 row houses, like those at 431-453 Newton Place, NW for the firm.
During World War I, Shannon served as vice-director of the war savings stamps campaign in D.C. He was always very active in clubs and associations, as his obituary in the Washington Post states: “Held Many Important Posts, and Served U.S. in War Time. Prominent in Clubs.” During his lifetime, he was a member of the Executive Committee of the D.C. Red Cross finance committee and the Liberty Loan Committee. He was manager of the real estate and commandeering division of the U.S. Housing and Transportation Bureau and director of the U.S. Housing Corporation of Labor Department. He was a director and member of the advisory board of the American Security and Trust Co. and was in the directorate of the American National Bank.
Shannon continued to build in Woodley Park until 1922, building 2711-2725 Connecticut Avenue (a row of eight buildings constructed in 1918 of which two are extant); 2727-2737 Connecticut Avenue (constructed in 1921), and 2820- 2828 Connecticut Avenue (a row of five buildings of which two are extant). Some of these dwellings were designed by prolific architect George T. Santmyers (1889-1960, see Architects Directory entry), who constructed 34 dwellings for the company.
William Shannon died in 1930 after a brief illness. Upon his death, the firm of Middaugh & Shannon was dissolved. Middaugh & Shannon was one of the most successful building firms in Washington, D.C. in the first quarter of the 20th century. Their construction in Bloomingdale helped the neighborhood to thrive, they were the first to successfully establish a community in the Park View area on a large scale, and their influence in Woodley Park is still evident today.
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