513 A Street, S.E.: summary of its history

[The present owner of 513 A Street, S.E., has supplied this history of the house, prepared by Tim Kreis in 1994.]

513 A Street, Southeast, is a flat front Italianate house located on Capitol Hill in the District of Columbia. The land which now comprises the streets and public lands of Capitol Hill originally came into ownership of the Federal government at the time that the District of Columbia was organized during the administration of George Washington. Nineteen landowners donated their property for this purpose in addition to selling lots for federal buildings to the government for $67 each.

The lot dimensions on Capitol Hill differ from those in many other cities around the country. In Washington, the District of Columbia government owns the land up to the face of residential buildings. Some bay window arrangements as well as front porches and stoops, therefore, extend onto public property. This unusual arrangement probably stems from the unique nature of the District at the seat of national government. Congress, having faced difficulties from unruly citizens in Philadelphia, no doubt wanted to be able to control affairs in its new location. Owning the land from the front door out into the street would facilitate control of mobs or demonstrations; all persons could be ordered to remain indoors during times of civil disturbance, and there would be little misunderstanding of what that order meant. The original plats for Capitol Hill lots reflect this arrangement.

The 1803 plat shows original lot 10, square 842, where 513 A Street, S.E. now stands. Since the time this lot was drawn as part of the early speculative real estate design for this part of Washington, the lot has not changed configuration save for being subdivided into an east and west portion at the time that the house was constructed. The original intentions of the owners of this land did not come quickly to fruition, as residential construction east of the Capitol building progressed slowly. Not until after the Civil War were many of the houses in the vicinity of A Street and Sixth, Southeast built.

Records in the National Archives reflect that 513 A Street, S.E., was built in 1887.

Thomas B. Marche, a local clerk, obtained the original building permit, number 351½, for a sum of four dollars in August of 1887. This permit authorized construction of two dwellings on lot 10, square 842, one to be numbered 511 A St. S.E., the other to be 513. Subsequently, the portion where number 513 now stands was renumbered lot 317. Both buildings were originally designed with front bay windows, imitating the construction of 509 A St., which was built two years earlier. For some reason, however, probably budget restrictions, Mr. Marche built 513 without the bay window. Mr. Marche estimated the cost of building each house at the time as $3,000. Mr. Oliver Cox, a contractor who lived at 949 Massachusetts, N.W., oversaw the construction. The original application for a permit to build (brick and stone) specified a building the size of fifteen feet wide and thirty feet deep, reaching a height of twenty-five over the sidewalk. Each house authorized by the permit would stand on a lot of fifteen by one hundred feet. The back portion of the house narrows to ten feet six inches. The application provided for the foundation to be constructed of brick; the house was to have a tin roof.

On the only surviving portion of the original architect’s drawing, the architect is identified as Edw. [Edward] Woltz. The 1887 Boyd’s Directory gives Mr. Woltz’s business address as 530 9th Street, N.W. He lived at 610 I Street, N.W., apparently with his mother Eliza A., widow of Tobias Woltz, and a Charles A. D. Woltz, a painter. A John B. Woltz, carpenter, lived at 2416 N Street, N.W. at the time. and it is possible Charles and John were related to Edward and that all three were in the construction business together in some fashion. Possibly all of them worked on the building of 513 A Street, S.E.

According to Boyd’s Directory, Mr. Marche’s address in 1887 was 511 A St., S.E. However, both 511 and 513 were sold quickly, as the General Assessment of 1887, taken at the end of the year, shows Thomas B. Marche as the owner of lot 9, which is 509 A St., S.E. The house at 513 A St. was sold to Mr. Crittenden Cohen, who seems to have died shortly after purchasing it. His widow, Fannie M. Cohen, acquired title, but did not live in the house. Mrs. Cohen’s address in the city directory was 303 14th St., N.W. The earliest recorded deed of trust providing mortgage financing for the purchase of the house was apparently executed on December 16, 1889 by the Cohens. In 1900 the property was released to Mrs. Cohen’s son, William W. Cohen, who promptly sold it to a Sarah F. M. Hartley.

Although there is no record for Sarah F. M. Hartley in the city directory at the turn of the century, there are records for quite a number of her family members. Sarah was the wife of William B. Hartley, and they moved into the house in 1901. The Hartleys had previously lived at 512 A Street, S.E. William B. Hartley was a merchandise broker and manufacturer’s agent, and ran a company with his son, William P. Hartley (William B. Hartley and Son). Their office was located at 402 Sixth Street, N.W. in 1902, subsequently relocating to 310 Stewart Building, Sixth and D Street, N.W. in 1907. The Hartleys’ business telephone number was Main 2931. By 1914, the office was once again 402 Sixth Street, N.W., which suggests that the establishment may have been destroyed by fire or otherwise demolished and then rebuilt. William P. left the company at this time and became a salesman for Washington Poster Advertising Company; he took up residence at 4413 Iowa Ave., N.W. William B. Hartley died in the mid-1920s, but the house remained in the Hartley family. Sarah F. M. Hartley retained ownership until it passed to her daughters Eunice F. and Sarah D. Hartley in 1919. Eunice was listed as a skilled laborer in the city directory of 1918. She shared the residence with Sarah D. Hartley, presumably a sister or daughter, who was a clerk in the Treasury Department in 1922. By 1935, mortgage filings record a joint tenancy between Eunice F. and Sarah D. Hartley. The house remained in the possession of the Hartley family for 56 years.

Sarah D. Hartley sold the property as surviving joint tenant to Evelyn T. Haller in 1956. Ms. Haller, who is listed in the city directory, was an administrative assistant to the Honorable Richard S. Schweiker, Senator from Pennsylvania. In 1962, the house was again sold to H. George Schweitzer. The 1964 city directory gives the following listing under his name: Deborah S; Heffelfinger & Schweitzer, see Jeffers Pyer, Inc.

In 1965, Schweitzer sold the house to Robert E. Bauman, who was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland during the period 1973–1981.* Rep. Bauman sold the house in 1974 to David F. and D. D. Ollman. David Ollman worked for the Capitol Hill Art and Frame Company. In 1978 the house sold again, this time to J. Ferguson and R. Lambert, who sold it in turn to Greg W. and Mary L. Ramshaw in 1979. The Ramshaws lived in the house until 1987, when it was sold to the present owner.

* Rep. Bauman served in the House from 1973 until 1981, when he resigned in the wake of a scandal involving sex with a House page at the Skyline Motel on South Capitol Street in Washington. See Bauman’s autobiography, The Gentleman from Maryland: The Conscience of a Gay Conservative (1986).

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