Bryantown

Traces of a Forgotten Section of Georgetown

 

Bryantown designated a row of houses on 35th Street north of Reservoir Road, and it also applied to nearby houses on Reservoir Road. In the opinion of the Georgetown correspondent of the Evening Star, it also extended to Wisconsin Avenue.

“Fighting In A Grave-Yard.–– We are informed of a little affair that took place in a grave-yard, near what is called Pole Hill, beyond Bryantown, on Tuesday night.”

“That portion of our city, known as Bryantown, has also improved very much recently, and the residences of Messrs. Duffy & Morris Adler & E. A. Eliason, Esqs., situated here, are not among the least of the many beautiful dwellings with which our city abounds.”

(Georgetown Correspondence,” Evening Star, November 29, 1854, p. 2; “Georgetown and Alexandria,” National Republican, August 2, 1867, p. 4. Extension of the name to Wisconsin Avenue is confirmed by “north of Q street and west of 32d street” in 1898: Evening Star, August 27, 1898, p. 3.)

 

 

The name appears to have originated in the 1807 purchase of land at the northwest corner of what is now 35th and R Street, NW, by a man named Bryan Duffy. Duffy’s 1813 will refers to it as “Duffy’s Town, on Fayette street.” (Wesley Pippenger, District of Columbia Probate Records, 1801-1852)

Duffy was a contractor; at about the time of that 1807 transaction, he donated material for the plastering of the new Georgetown College. Duffy was later described as being the father of the builder of the second Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown (1851). He is also remembered in connection with excavation work on Analoston Island: “General Mason ordered a workman (Bryan Duffy) to cut through them.”

(John Threlkeld to Bryan Duffy, DC Liber S18, f. 113/93; Father McElroy to Father Stonestreet, Dec. 30, 1856, cited by Joseph Zwinge, S. J., The Novitiate in Maryland, Woodstock Letters, Volume XLIV, Number 1, 1 February 1915; David Bailie Warden, A Chorographical and Statistical Description of the District of Columbia, 1816, p.136); DC Wills, 1813, box 4)

 

“Anon. col’d child, 4 mos., found in Bryan Town.” (Holy Trinity Death Register, November 28, 1834)

The 1836 will of Dr. Charles Worthington mentions “sundry lots on Fayette St. in Duffy’s Town.” (DC Wills, box 13; Pippenger, District of Columbia Probate Records, 1829-1840, p.205)

In 1845 a mission school of the Methodist Episcopal Church was started at Bryantown, West Georgetown, but was discontinued in a few years. (History of Methodism in Georgetown, vertical file, Peabody Room, Georgetown Branch Library.)

The 1853 directory of Georgetown says Henry Angell lives “in Bryantown.“

The Bear Pump––and previously the  Bear Wallow Spring––at 7th and Fayette Streets (Reservoir and 35th) was specified by the city of Georgetown as being “at Bryantown”.   (Georgetown Ordinances, July 1, 1865; Georgetown Courier, April 3, 1869)

“Affairs in West Washington. The Route of the New Water Conduit.––The projected new conduit strikes this place on the side of Fayette, between 8th street [R Street] and Madison street [Whitehaven Parkway], near Mrs. Duffy’s cottage.” The conduit passed under 35th Street at about S Street. (Star, September 17, 1883, p.1).

 

Duffey’s Cottage

The landmark referred to in 1883 appears to be the house of Elizabeth Duffy, Brian Duffy’s widowed daughter-in-law, at 214 Fayette Street. Brian Duffy’s son, Matthias (or Matthew) Duffy, was the architect of the first St. Matthew’s Church (15th and H NW, 1838), and the architect and builder of the new Holy Trinity in  Georgetown (1851.) (Matthias Duffy also had a house that he built in 1851 at 17th and I Street, where he died in 1853.)  ( The Republic, November 7, 1850, p. 3; “St. Matthew’s Marks Centennial,” Evening Star, November 30, 1940, p. 12)

Matthias Duffy also built an investment property that appears to have been on the north side of R Street, opposite “Col. Robinson’s”, i.e. 3308 R Street.

“A beautiful suburban Villa, in the modern Italian style, displaying a rich domestic character in its balconies, verandas, ornamented porches, terraces, projecting roof, windows, &c.” built by Matthias Duffey on “an acre of ground laid out in the natural style from one of Mr. Downing’s beautiful designs.”  (“Heights of Georgetown,” Georgetown Advocate, October 14, 1845, p. 6)

“A beautiful and highly finished residence on the heights of Georgetown opposite Col. Robinson’s. The grounds around the house are handsomely set with choice shrubbery, and attached to the premises are a carriage-house, stable, and all necessary outbuildings. In the yard is a pump of good water, and near the kitchen a hydrant. The whole establishment is arranged for comfort as well as elegance. The terms will be moderate, either to a purchaser or tenant. For further information inquire of M. Duffey, near the premises.”  (“For Sale Or Rent,” The Daily Union, October 1, 1847, p. 2)

“Sale. By E.S. Wright, Auctioneer. I shall sell without reserve, at the late residence of Mr. Duffey, in Bryantown”. (Evening Star, May 30, 1854, p.3)

 

(It is possible there were two houses called by the same name that were around the corner from each other. 1710 35th, which shows up on Boschke map of 1859, is a candidate for one of them.)

 

“Wanted––A young, active girl––white or colored––to do housework in a small family. Apply at Duffies’ Cottage, 214 Fayette street, near 8th street, Georgetown Heights, D.C.” (Evening Star, February 28, 1866, p.3)

“3309 U Street, Georgetown Heights, fourteen rooms, modern improvements, villa known as Duffy’s Cottage; lot 150 x 250 feet, with nice stable and pasture.” (“For Rent,” Evening Star, September 21, 1885, p.2)

“The Property Known As “Duffy’s Cottage,” on Georgetown Heights, opposite Burleith. It contains about 45,000 feet of ground, fronting on two streets, and affords a fine opportunity for desirable investment.” (“For Sale,” Evening Star, October 11, 1887, p.2)

In 1888 Mary E. Duffy built 3417 U Street (now R Street), in front of the much older 3419 R Street (which is a possible candidate for Duffy’s Cottage).

 

 

 

The Schott-Friebus House

At 1710 35th Street––very near Bryan Duffy’s 1807 purchase––stands a house built in 1859. Although it was described as a farmhouse in 2018, this seems unlikely, as Arthur Schott (1814–1875) was a noted topographical engineer, cartographer, botanist, and geologist, and not a farmer.

The house was later the residence of another German, Gustav Friebus (1813-1912) who came to America with his father in 1848, and became an architect. Friebus assisted in directing the completion of the Washington Monument.

(Lost Farms and Estates of Washington, D.C., Kim Prothro Williams, 2018; Gretchen Gause Fox, “Arthur Schott: German Immigrant Illustrator of the American West”, M.A. thesis, George Washington University, 1977; “Gustav Friebus”, January 7, 1912, Evening Star, p.15; New York Herald, January 18, 1912, p.9)

 

 

Post-Civil War Georgetown directories and censuses show numerous households of black laborers in Bryantown. At the end of the 19th century news stories were unflattering.

“Yesterday morning officers Bradley and Harry arrested Geo. Jackson, a well-known offender, for assaulting the Minor family in “Bryantown” and giving the members some facial decorations.” (Star, June 29, 1891, p.8)

“Affairs in Georgetown. Diphtheria and Scarlet Fever Prevalent in Bryantown Section. A number of diphtheria cases in the northwestern part of Georgetown are reported, and the residents of the neighborhood are somewhat alarmed, The disease is prevalent in the belt north of Q street and west of 32d street, including a large portion of the town known as “Bryantown,” an old-established locality.” (Star, August 27, 1898, p.3)

“Scott Butler, a colored resident of the section known as “Brinetown” went on a rampage yesterday.” (“Affairs in Georgetown,” Evening Star, August 6, 1898, p. 12)

Brinetown is also how the “old-established locality” was remembered by the people who had lived there before its gentrification.  (Lesko, Babb, Gibbs, Black Georgetown Remembered, 1991)

 

 

Bryan Town Woods and Bryan Town Ball Ground

Edgar Farr Russell, the author of A Short History of Burleith (1955) mentions Bryantown, and also B.T. Ball Ground (which he refers to as “their own” ballfield). Francis McKinley, who grew up in Glover Park in the 1940s, recalled that Whitehaven Park was called B.T. Woods, and that the name signified “Big Trees.”

“The area favored by many of the members is the field in back of the Glover Park development known as the “B. T. Woods.” Named for its “big trees,” the field has been used for baseball and football for a number of years.” (“Group To Present Playground Plea––Glover Park Citizens Vote to Sponsor Petition,” Evening Star, October 22, 1938, p. 4)

 

That B.T. Woods could also mean the present-day Hillandale is suggested by news items concerning a band of gypsies who were reported to have pitched their camp on the outskirts of Georgetown. The encampment, described as being “near Western High School”, can be located with greater precision because it was remembered––by a child, born in 1904 at 3416 Reservoir Road––as having been north and west of the intersection of 39th and Reservoir Road.

“We’d go out to what we called the “B.T.” woods where the big estate is now, which was right across from Georgetown Hospital, where the Archibald Estate [i.e. Anne Archbold’s Hillandale] is on this same location now.  Every couple of years a big tribe of Gypsies in their wagons and horses and covered wagons would show up over night and they’d have big bonfires around with kettles of soup going.”

(That B.T. refers to Bryan Town, note T.T. Garage, in Judith Beck Helm, Tenleytown, D.C.: Country Village into City Neighborhood, 1981,  p.207; “Gypsy Band Quits Georgetown For Warmer Clime––Hungarian Wanderers Suddenly Leave For Virginia”, Washington Times, November 2, 1911, p. 13; Oral History, Raymond R. Brown, 1969, Peabody Room, Georgetown Branch Library)

 

___________________________________________________________

Carlton Fletcher

 The citation and acknowledgement of my research is greatly appreciated.

All rights reserved.

 

 Questions and corrections may be directed to

carlton@gloverparkhistory.com

 

The support of the Advisory Neighborhood Council (3B) is gratefully acknowledged.