Establishing Park View — Part III: Middaugh & Shannon’s Park View Subdivision

Areas in red show location of Middaugh & Shannon's Park View houses.

Areas outlined in red show location of Middaugh & Shannon’s Park View houses.

In December 1905, Middaugh & Shannon purchased the subdivision of Whitney Close which then consisted of approximately nine acres of “splendid land” along Park Road (then Whitney Avenue), west of the Soldiers’ Home grounds. While work to subdivide and develop Whitney Close began in 1886, the property was described at the time of the Middaugh & Shannon purchase as being “subdivided and streets laid out, yet no houses [having] been built there, and [being] looked upon as acreage property.”[1] Middaugh & Shannon purchased the land with the intent of improving the property by erecting up-to-date residences. A key goal of their development was to construct houses that provided light and air, notably with wide lots containing side yards.

Prior to Middaugh & Shannon’s operations in Park View, they had contributed significantly to the development of the Bloomingdale neighborhood. However, unlike the houses constructed in Bloomingdale, Middaugh & Shannon decided to “inaugurate a style of building which [was] an innovation in [Washington, D.C.].”[2] The firm hired architect B. Stanley Simmons to prepare plans for the new section along Park Road. Unlike other projects of the time, the Park Road houses would be constructed as semi-detached houses and not in rows. Simmons also intended to design the structures in a variety of styles to include Old English, Spanish mission, Colonial, and Italian renaissance.

Ad for Park View subdivision, from the Evening Star, May 9, 1908.

Ad for Park View subdivision, from the Evening Star, May 9, 1908.

Each house was designed to have a frontage of twenty-two feet, to be built on a forty-foot lot, and to have forty-feet between each pair of houses to provide for a large yard between them. The houses themselves were to be thirty-six feet deep, creating a rear yard of about sixty feet in depth. Simmons inspiration for laying out the subdivision as semi-detached houses surrounded by ample lawn was purportedly the “mode of building in South Prospect Park, Long Island.”[3] Surrounded by generous lawns on all sides, the arrangement of the houses was to provide a pleasing appearance of each structure from all sides. Middaugh & Shannon also “contracted with a lieading landscape gardening in Balitomore to set out ornamental trees and shrubbery on each front and side lawn … on the same general lines on which Roland Park, Baltimore, [was] improved.”[4] The first six houses along these designs were begun in February 1906 and included 447/449, 451/453, and 455/457 Park Road, NW.

By the time the permits were issued for the second group of six houses, Middaugh & Shannon changed architects, retaining architect Joseph Bohn Jr. with whom they had employed extensively in Bloomingdale. Bohn would continue to be the sole architect on the Park View project until his death in 1910. The decision to use Bohn resulted in the remaining semi-detached houses along Park Road being designed in the Colonial style first developed by Simmons – rather than an eclectic mix of styles – and a switch to row houses on surrounding streets. While this retained the picturesque nature of the structures along the roadway leading to the Soldiers’ Home, it impacted the original goal of providing ample light and air within the row houses constructed on surrounding streets and diminished the intent of viewing the structures from all directions.

These changes notwithstanding, Middaugh & Shannon’s endeavor in Park View was successful. Scarcely twelve months since the property was acquired, there remained only eleven lots which were not built upon or for which plans had not been prepared for houses to be built during the 1907 season. Even more significant, of the 100 houses completed by April 1907 or then under construction, all had been sold – something considered somewhat unusual for the time.

In early May, 1907, Middaugh & Shannon encountered another delay when it was reported that only nonunion plumbers were employed on their Metropolitan Club and Park Road projects leading to the Building Trade Alliance to call their bricklayers, tile roofers, metal workers, and metal lathers off the projects and strike until the nonunion plumbers were withdrawn from the projects. The building trades strike significantly impacted the Park View development and lasted for nearly a year, ending in the spring of 1908.

A review of building permits indicates that the majority of Middaugh & Shannon’s Park View project was completed, under construction, or permitted by June 12, 1907. Following the labor strike, Middaugh & Shannon would only successfully finish twelve more houses in 1908 and ten more houses in 1912, marking the end of their operations in Park View. All in all, Middaugh & Shannon would construct no fewer than 125 houses in Park View.

Park Road Houses(Park View houses located at 451 & 453 Park Road, NW.)

Tomorrow: The Building Trades Strike of 1907/1908

[1] “Real Estate Gossip.” The Evening Star, April 6, 1907, pt. 2, p. 2.

[2] “Real Estate Operations Show Slight Falling Off.” The Washington Post, February 25, 1906, p. E2.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “For Seekers of Homes.”The Evening Star, May 26, 1906, pt. 2, p. 2.

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3 Comments on “Establishing Park View — Part III: Middaugh & Shannon’s Park View Subdivision”

  1. JT Says:

    Kent – I’ve been enjoying reading the history of the neighborhood. Do you know if the original Park View houses – like on Manor were built with metal porch columns or did they originally have wood columns?

  2. Beth S Says:

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