George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander White, 8 September 1798

From Alexander White

Washington [D.C.] 8th September 1798

Dear Sir

I was prevented from paying attention to your request as soon as you might expect, by circumstances unnecessary to recite, but on thursday afternoon I went with the Surveyor and examined all the public property near the Capitol Square I have caused a plan of that square with the adjacent grounds to be made, with four lots which I thought best adapted to your purpose designated thereon, and their respective contents and distances from the Capitol noted—The Lots on Square 634 stand on high ground fronting on North Capitol Street, and continue nearly level perhaps two thirds of their depth, and then fall off towards the low grounds of the Tiber with a pretty rapid descent. they command a fine prospect, and are by far the most elegant situations among those designated. No. 16 is the best of the two We sold the adjacent lot No. 17 at 15 Cents the square foot—No. 2 in square 731 is on Pennsylvania Avenue, a sufficient proportion of it for the site of a house is level, it then falls off in an easy descent towards Lot No. 1 which is likewise public property and ends in a hollow—Lot No. 23 in square 728 is on good ground a little more remote from the Capitol than the others, but is more in view of Travellers being near the Post Road and Post-office a building there might attract public notice more than on either of the other lots, and it seems sufficiently near the Capitol for any kind of business1—When the Board meet I will ask their opinion as to the prices of the several lots and annex them to the foot of this letter.2 I am with Sentiments of the highest respect, and most sincere regard Dear Sir Your most Obt Servt

Alex. White

ALS, MeHi.

1For the exact location of these three squares (square 634 immediately to the north of capitol square on North Capitol Street, square 731 immediately to the south on Pennsylvania Avenue, and square 728 to the east of capitol square), see Andrew Ellicott’s Plan of the City of Washington, engraved in Philadelphia in 1792. Ellicott’s plan is reproduced in part as the overleaf of Dowd, Records of the Office of Public Buildings description begins Mary-Jane M. Dowd, comp. Records of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital: Record Group 42, Inventory No. 16. Washington, D.C., 1992. description ends . In responding to White’s letter on 12 Sept., GW expressed a preference for lot 16 in square 634 on North Capitol Street, and on 21 Sept. he “Examined in company with the Comrs. some of the Lots in the vicinity of the Capital & fixed upon No. 16 in 634 to build on” (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:316). On 25 Sept. 1798 the commissioners of the city of Washington, White, Gustavus Scott, and William Thornton, noting that “General Washington of Mount Vernon having expressed his wish to purchase Lot No. 16 in square 634, and to build thereon two Brick Houses, three stories high, and covering 2000 square feet,” agreed to sell the lot to him “for ten cents the square foot; containing 5,357 sqr. feet—one third payable in ready money, and the other two thirds in two equal Instalments . . . without Interest.” When the commissioners enclosed this extract from their minutes in their letter to GW on 27 Sept., they informed GW that Daniel Carroll of Duddington had agreed to sell him lot 6, adjacent to lot 16 in square 634, containing 5,355 square feet, at eight cents a square foot. On 28 Sept. GW sent the commissioners two checks, one for $428.40, the full amount for Carroll’s lot, and the other for $178.57, one third of the cost of lot 16. The deed by which Daniel Carroll conveyed to GW “all that lot of ground lying and being in the City of Washington which lies to the west of, and contiguous to lot number sixteen in square number six hundred & thirty four, runing from the North west and south west corner of the said lot, westward to New Jersey Avenue, and paralel to the division Lines of lot number six, the said lot of ground being part of lots number six and seven in the aforesaid square as heretofore divided between the Commissioners of the Federal buildings, and the aforesaid Danile [Daniel] Carroll, computed to contain five thousand three hundred and fifty five square feet,” was dated 3 Oct. and was signed by commissioners Scott and Thornton (NN). Even as he was engaged in purchasing these lots, GW set in motion a search for a builder to erect in the Federal City the double house that he had in mind (see GW to White, 12 Sept. and to District of Columbia Commissioners, 28 Sept., n.2).

2White wrote below the body of his letter that “On condition of building,” lots 15 and 16 in square 634 would be sold “at twelve Cents” a square foot, and lot 23 in square 728 and lot 2 in square 761 [731] would sell “at 8 Cents.”

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