Benjamin Franklin Hunt
Benjamin Franklin Hunt (1827?-1875), a beef butcher, was a native of Culpeper County, Virginia. His wife, Martha Hoffman Hunt, was also a Virginian; but their five children were born in Georgetown, starting in 1857. Benjamin F. Hunt was in Georgetown by 1857, when he entered Congress Street Methodist Protestant Church.
(See also Hoffman Family, below.)
B.F. Hunt from Wm H. Godey, lots 194, 195, 196 on Congress (31st). Street. (DC Liber JASA174 (May 6, 1859) f.281/186)
1858 Georgetown Directory, Benjamin Hunt, miller; Martha Hunt, dressmaker.
“It was found the house was constructed several years previous to the civil war by a Mr. Hunt, who lived there for years following his return from service with the Union army.” (Washington Times, October 15, 1916, p.13)
Since Hunt’s brother-in-law, James A. Hoffman, was a private, 1st Regiment, District of Columbia Infantry (organized at Washington, D. C., July 23 to October 25, 1861), it is possible that Hunt served in the same regiment, most likely for three months.
The 1862 Arnold map of District of Columbia fortifications shows a dwelling marked “Hunt” along Canal Road, west of Ridge (Foxhall) Road.
On March 22, 1862––a month before D.C. Emancipation was enacted––Emeline Brown, a free black woman, petitioned for recovery of her daughter Lucy Brown, “unjustly and illegally detained and held” by Benjamin F. Hunt of Georgetown. Emeline explained that, a year or two earlier, “her husband John Brown, the father of said Lucy, and a slave for life belonging to Richard Pettit Esq. of Georgetown,” had hired his daughter out to Benjamin Hunt, and that Hunt had severely maltreated Lucy.
Several months later, Lucy’s father, John Brown––newly emancipated and now described as a “free man of color of Georgetown”––submitted a second habeas corpus petition, charging that “his child Lucy Brown… about 11 years old, was unlawfully detained and restrained of her liberty” by the same Benjamin Hunt; and that Lucy had “not been bound out or indentured” to Hunt “who is in no wise entitled to detain her.” John Brown asserted that he was the “natural guardian and protector” of the said child. On November 10, 1862, the circuit court ordered that “Lucy Brown be remanded to the custody and control of her father, the said John Brown, and the said Benjamin F. Hunt no longer detain or restrain her.”
Whether it was legal for Hunt to enter into a contract with a slave––or whether the child was even a slave at the time of the supposed indenture––is unclear from the account. But it does appear that the Georgetown butcher was caught off guard by the emancipation of slaves in the District of Columbia, which made it possible for the child’s father to take him to court.
(Habeas Corpus Case Records, 1820–1863, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, National Archives)
Mount Alto, circa 1880 (Historical Society of Washington)
In 1867, Benjamin Franklin Hunt purchased––possibly with support from Joseph Weaver––at auction, for $400 an acre, the parcel of land called Mount Alto, including parts of lots 262, 263, 264, and 300, of Beatty and Hawkins’ Addition to Georgetown. In 1870 the Georgetown Courier announced that the “elegant villa erected by B.F. Hunt on Bohrer’s Hill is nearly complete.” A year later: “Benjamin F. Hunt has erected a fine residence on Pole Hill where he can doubtless keep cool this warm weather, as it is perhaps the highest ground of the District, and commands a fine panoramic view of the surrounding cities.”
The highest point in the municipal boundaries of the city of Georgetown also went by the name Red Hill, but the name of this parcel of land, and of the house Mr. Hunt built there, was Mount Alto. This was not a summerhouse; Hunt, who had meat stands in several city markets, lived there year-round, and slaughtered animals in the slaughterhouse at the back of his property, overlooking Tunlaw Road.
In 1870 the household at Mount Alto included Hunt’s brothers-in-law William G. Hoffman, the carpenter who was building Hunt his nine-room frame house; and James Andrew Hoffman, a butcher who was in partnership with Hunt (by 1880 both Hoffman brothers lived elsewhere). Two other butchers, an Irish maid, and a black hostler to take care of the animals, were also listed in the census of 1870.
(DC Liber JAS91 (1855) f.467/354; 1865 Georgetown Assessments; Plat of “Mount Alto”, surveyed June 17, 1867, for buyers B.F. Hunt and Joseph Weaver, DC Liber ECE17 (1867) f.46-8; Georgetown Courier, June 1, 1867; July 30, 1870; May 6, 1871; November 23, 1872)
Two daughters of B.F. Hunt were in a milk wagon when the horse attached to it ran away near Holy Rood Cemetery. Miss Blanche and her sister were thrown out, and Blanche suffered injuries. (Georgetown Courier, November 22, 1873)
Benjamin F. Hunt, the well known butcher on Georgetown heights, disposed last Thursday of two Alderney calves, aged respectively six and seven weeks, to Mr. Smith of Washington, for $100, the highest price ever paid here for like animals. The purchaser has…concluded to raise them on his farm in Loudon County. (Georgetown Courier, May 2, 1874, p.3)
Mount Pleasant Chapel
Mount Pleasant Chapel, circa 1874
In 1874, Benjamin Franklin Hunt pledged $500 toward the building of a mission chapel named Mount Pleasant, at the intersection of Fayette and High Streets (i.e. 35th and Wisconsin Avenue). Its later names were Mount Tabor Church, and Saint Luke’s Church.
(Minutes, Congress Street Methodist Protestant Church, May 5, 1873, Archives of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church; Georgetown Courier, March 7, May 2, 23, 30, July 4, September 26, 1874; Evening Star, May 30, 1874; “Fiftieth Anniversary at Mt. Tabor, Washington, D.C.”; The Methodist Protestant, June 11, 1924.)
“The butchers of Georgetown are urged to build a trolley up High Street to improve their property value and make it eligible for residences.” (Georgetown Courier, July 11, 1868)
It is highly likely that the suggestion originated with the butchers themselves, and when a bill was introduced in the House to incorporate the Georgetown and Tenallytown Rail Road Company, its incorporators included three of the most prosperous meat dealers who resided in what is now Glover Park: Joseph Weaver, Jacob H. Kengla, and Benjamin F. Hunt. “It is mainly the butchers on the Heights who have the matter in charge.” (Georgetown Courier, December 19, 1874; January 23, 1875)
Sudden death of B.F. Hunt, 48 years old, by congestion of the brain. A native of Culpepper County, with a large and successful business in Centre and Northern Liberty markets. (Georgetown Courier, July 3, 1875)
Benjamin Franklin Hunt was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery, July 1, 1875.
At Mt. Alto, Georgetown Heights, May 8th, 1881, William D. Hoffman, in the seventy-third year of his age. Funeral will take place tomorrow, the 10th inst., at 3:30 o’clock from the residence of his daughter, Mrs. Benj. F. Hunt, Georgetown Heights. Friends and acquaintances are respectfully invited to attend. Interment at Oak Hill. (Evening Star, May 9, 1881, p.3)
B.F. Hunt and Sons (William F., and George W.) continued in operation at Mount Alto through 1890.
In 1909, when Hunt’s widow Martha died, the property passed into the hands of developer Amzi Lorenzo Barber (1847-1909), a Howard University professor whose early involvement in the development of Le Droit Park––was the first step to becoming the leading asphalt producer in the United States. “The Asphalt King”––died a short time later. Barber’s widow, Julia Langdon Barber, died in 1912, and in 1915, Mount Alto changed hands again.
Mount Alto was not razed in 1916. “When the grounds now occupied by the school were bought this old house was much dilapidated, and for a while it was thought the old mansion would have to be razed. But further investigation proved the house to be built entirely of white pine, one of the most durable of building materials.” (Washington Times, October 15, 1916, p.13)
In January 1919, while her father was stationed in France, nine-year-old Justine Davis arrived at the Mount Alto Inn with her mother. Justine (who attended John Eaton School between January and May) recounts that there were were peach trees left over at Mount Alto; these no doubt dated back to the years in which the the Hunt family resided there. (Justine Davis Randers-Pehrson, For My Father: The Story of My Life (1910-2000): Volume One of an Autobiography, 2004; thanks to Mark Collins.)
The old Hunt house, which had been moved to the back of the property to make way for construction of the school, became the residence of the hospital’s director. Lowered, and stripped of its front steps, shutters, porches, and balustrades, it presented a forlorn appearance, but survived into the sixties. (Washington Star Magazine, November 26, 1961, p.4)
(See Mount Alto.)
The Hoffman Family
In 1870 the household at Mount Alto included Hunt’s brothers-in-law William G. Hoffman, the carpenter who was building Hunt his nine-room frame house; and James Andrew Hoffman, a butcher who was in partnership with Hunt (by 1880 both Hoffman brothers lived elsewhere). Their father, William D. Hoffman, died at Mount Alto.
James Andrew Hoffman (1845-1907)
1861, Private, 1st DC Infantry
Married Mary Louise Bell, Congress Street Church, 1871
1875, James Andrew Hoffman, president of Northern Liberty Market Company, 5th, between K & L Streets.
(Supreme Court case: MARKET COMPANY v. HOFFMAN.)
1879, 32 Beall Street, Georgetown (O St)
1880 census, on 8th Street, Georgetown, butcher
“HOFFMAN. On Wednesday, May 22, 1907, at 2 a.m., at his residence, 1609 35th street northwest, James A. Hoffman, beloved husband of Mary Louise Hoffman, in the sixty-third year of his age. Funeral from his late residence Friday, May 24, at 3 p.m. Interment private.” (Star, May 22, 1907)
William G. Hoffman (1844?- )
Carpenter, living on 87 Montgomery Street, Georgetown
Architect and surveyor, 1879
William D. Hoffman (1808-1881)
Father-in-law of Benjamin F. Hunt
1860 census, living in Ward 2, Georgetown, Washington DC, as William “HOFMAN”, head of family, 58, carpenter, born in Virginia. The household included his wife, Frances, 56, seamstress.
Frances died in November 1863. About 1869, William met Susanna _____.
1880 census, William and his second family lived at 475 10th Street NW, Washington DC.
At Mt. Alto, Georgetown Heights, May 8th, 1881, William D. Hoffman, in the seventy-third year of his age. Funeral will take place tomorrow, the 10th inst., at 3:30 o’clock from the residence of his daughter, Mrs. Benj. F. Hunt, Georgetown Heights. Friends and acquaintances are respectfully invited to attend. Interment at Oak Hill.” (Evening Star, May 9, 1881, p.3)
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