Lazarus Wetzel lived at what is now 4437 Reservoir Road NW, where his house––thought to be the earliest example of a vernacular log cabin dwelling in the District of Columbia––has survived to the present.
It is probable, but not certain, that Lazarus Wetzel was a grandson of Frederick Wetzel, who married Margaret Yost of Georgetown, daughter of the immigrant Hans Casper Yost, some time before 1765. Yost died in 1777, and in his will, Frederick is listed as his son-in-law. Frederick Wetzel bought land in Montgomery County, near what is now Tenley Circle, in 1779. His will (November 29, 1820) lists his two sons, John and William, as executors, and speaks of a dwelling house not yet finished that year. (Information courtesy of a descendant; Montgomery County Court, Land Records A, p.234: DC Archives, box 7)
The family was connected with the descendants of Col. John Murdock by the marriage (December 31, 1812) of Frederick’s daughter Margaret to John Addison Murdock––who had been John Addison Barber until Col. Murdock’s will (April 4, 1788) devised one hundred acres along Ridge Road to his mother, Dorothy Barber.
Lazarus Wetzel married Henrietta Collins (1799- ), on May 24, 1825. For a part of his life he was an employee of Mason’s Columbian Foundry, west of Georgetown, at the mouth of Foundry Branch.
(Evening Star, April 13, 1893, p.3; Louis F. Gorr, “The Foxall-Columbia Foundry: An Early Defense Contractor in Georgetown”, CHS 48, 1971/72, pp.34–59; Madison Davis, “The Old Cannon Foundry Above Georgetown, D.C. and its first owner Henry Foxall”, CHS 11, 1908)
In 1843, Lazarus Wetzel bought 16 acres at Ridge and New Cut Road in Whitehaven from his relative, William David Clark Murdock (1806-1886), the great-grandson of Col. John Murdock. The name “Hodge”, seen at the western end of the property in 1859, refers to Benjamin Hodges, W.D.C. Murdock’s uncle. (National Register of Historic Places Registration; Judith Beck Helm, Tenleytown, D.C., 1981)
In 1851 Lazarus Wetzel and his wife deeded 1/4 acre of land, located in the northwest corner of the property, and a frame house that Wetzel built, to John W. Wetzel (1825-1895)––described as a carpenter (1850), and as a butter dealer (1860)––and his wife, Sarah Jane Wetzel (1828-1893), who are also buried in Holy Rood Cemetery (section 20, lot 86). Their children include Frederick Lazarus Wetzel (1851-1923) and William Henry Wetzel (1853-1925). (National Register of Historic Places Registration, United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service; John W. Wetzel Find a Grave)
In 1858 “Lazarus Wetzel of New Cut Road” bought a plot in Trinity Church Upper Grave Yard (Holy Rood Cemetery, section 17, lot 43).
The Columbian Foundry ceased operations in 1854. Censuses between 1850 and 1870 describe Lazarus Wetzel as a farmer, and in 1880 he is described as a gardener, i.e. a grower of produce for the market.
Wetzel’s will left his estate to his daughter Margaret until death or marriage, then to his heirs. Jacob H. Kengla (1832-1898), son of Lewis and Susan Poore Kengla, was executor. (DC Archives Box 173; Evening Star, April 13, 1893, p.3; April 28, 1893, p.10; “Four Wills Filed”, May 19, 1893; Lazarus Wetzel: Find a Grave)
In 1867 Lazurus Wetzel’s son Frederick Wetzel purchased 16 acres southwest of the intersection of Reservoir and Foxhall Roads––later known as Clover Hill––marked “David L. Shoemaker Heirs”. He is listed as living near the Distributing Reservoir in 1890, and is also buried in Holy Rood (17/43).
Also buried in Holy Rood is William Wetzel (1826?-1895), eldest son of Lazarus Wetzel. (Evening Star, May 29, 1895, p.12)
“It is likely that Wetzell built some of the structures shown on the Boschke map of 1859 shortly after acquiring the property, although it is very possible that the log house pre-dated 1843.”
“Wetzells’s log house was the nucleus of a small farm, which according to the Boschke map of 1859 and the 1893 U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey map, included orchard trees. Tax records of the 1859 period listed horses and a cow on the property, and in the 1880 census the occupation of Lazarus Wetzell was listed as gardening.”
“The log house complex and immediate grounds were occupied by Wetzell’s descendants until 1931, when they were sold as a separate 3-acre parcel to Anne Archbold. By this time, Wetzell property immediately to the west of the house parcel had been sold and subdivided as part of the Colony Hills development.”
“Archbold immediately reduced its size to 1 acre. In 1925, Archbold bought 28 acres of land to the north and east of the house property, eventually donating this adjacent land as part of Glover-Archbold Park. In 1947 Anne Archbold deeded the house and surrounding 1-acre parcel to her daughter, Moira, who lived in the house until her death in 1988.”
(All quotations are from the National Register of Historic Places Registration, United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service: http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/91000395.pdf)
“It’s spectacular,” said Craig Baab, past president of the Foxhall Community Citizens Association, which filed the landmark request.
Baab, who has lived nearby for 20 years, said he had always assumed that the house, whose gabled peak is visible from the road, was “a big, tall, columned southern mansion.” After Archbold’s death last year, Baab and other neighbors ventured up the imposing hill. “I was sort of astonished,” he said. “I can’t believe we have an old farmhouse sitting there in the middle of Washington, D.C.”
Baab said the citizens association quickly decided to file for landmark status, which, if granted, would prevent destruction of the building.
Robert Bell, an architect under contract to purchase the property, said he supports the landmark designation.
“We intend to preserve the cabin and make it the centerpiece of the project,” Bell said. He said that the existing house would be used as a residence, but that development plans for the one-acre property were “not finalized.”
(From “146-Year-Old Cabin Comes Out of Hiding; House’s Past Revealed After Owner’s Death”, Washington Post, February 23, 1989, p.j01)
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