1843 Washington City Directory, Notes

List of Occupations

Editor's Notes

  1. Executive Way, the President's Address: Facts like the following will, no doubt be thought sufficient authority for the adoption of so becoming a name as "Executive Way" for this beautiful thoroughfare which has grown up and is now approaching maturity, but as yet is unbaptised, and without a name. Being surrounded by and in habitual intercourse with titled neighbors, it has, with the public generally, obtained the appellation of the most distinguished of them, Pennsylvania Avenue; but it must bear, if any, but a collateral relationship to that long and ancient line, and certainly is not more nearly allied to it than it is to New York Avenue. Without having any positive claims to the lineage of G street, it yet bears to it an analogical affinity; but if this street be its true paternity, its friends have repudiated the parentage, and will not permit it to assume the name of, as yet, so undistinguished an ancestor.

    Its budding, green, and growing beauties do not really claim for it a name appropriate and renowned; to obtain this, the fathers of the city were appealed to in its behalf, when some of them said it was part of Pennsylvania Avenue, and should be so called; others were certain that it was part of G street, and other again were positive that it had no name; so the doubtfully named or nameless way being left in this uncertainty, the mothers of the city were invoked to take it under their care, and avert, if possible, its worse than orphan destiny Whereupon they met in "council strong," and with the feeling of kindness for the neglected and gentle censure toward the neglectful, that has ever characterized the noble spirited matrons of republics, from the days of palmy Rome to those of youthful Washington, decreed unanimously that this rising, parentless and nameless beauty should be adopted by themselves and taken under their especial charge, and that the fathers have been most shamefully negligent of their duty in not having long since given it a name; but as they, in this particular ev_ _ _(?) but one of the most prominent frailties of their nature, an utter indifference to the naming of their own offspring, they be forgiven, upon the condition of setting and following the example of ever hereafter calling it "Executive Way"; and also that they be the medium through whom its Patronymic be respectfully requested to stand god-father at its baptism, and then and there solemnly promised, that the ceremony of sprinkling shall be repeated every summer, so that its name may be pleasantly remembered, and its paths be those of comfort.

    And at the same council and sitting, it was further decreed that the road extending from the southern junctions of Pennsylvania avenue and 15th street west, and of New York avenue and 17th street west, usually known as the "south" or "back road," be hereafter, upon the planting of one or more rows of trees, called "Sylvan Way"; but that it retain its present name until the trees are planted. If there be any who doubt the facts narrated above, they can see the original of the detailed proceedings by calling on the Editor.

  2. Lunatic Asylum: When Congress passed the law appropriating money for the establishment of a hospital for the mentally insane in the District of Columbia, they performed a deed of mercy for which the members individually and the national prosperity will be most certainly rewarded with blessings, though they be imperceptible and unknown. The intention of Congress in the establishment of this institution was of the noblest kind; but the wisdom which controlled in the selection and choice of its site was certainly (so far as it was connected with this subject) of the most unfortunate order, and seems to have partaken largely of that species of flesh and bone caring utilitarianism, which in this instance has been but too true to its creed, and does barely more than protect the community at large from the trespassing of the unfortunate, and the unfortunate from the miseries of starvation and the "peltings of the pitiless storm;" beyond this, they being placed in the habitation intended fore them, no acts of wisdom or of kindness can avail them much whilst there.

    This habitation, though now a hospital, was once a jail, and it yet stands between the halls of justice and the prison of the accused of crime, and in which the guilty convict is incarcerated with close view of their transit to the place of trial or to the cell of their doom with hearing of the sounds of accusation or defense, and the moanings and wailings of the victims of the offended law. Let these facts be viewed in connection with a philosophic inquiry into the causes and effects of insanity; the cruelty then of such unwise benevolence will readily be seen, and perhaps it will be admitted, that if the subjects of it were not allowed to enjoy a free range in the open air and the assistance of the accidental kindness of the human, their chances of cure would be greatly increased beyond any hope that can be had for them whilst they are confined to such an above. There can hardly be a doubt of insanity being produced by the disease and consequent debility of one or more of the organs of the mind; hence their absence of equalized strength to control themselves harmoniously under any inherent or extraneous cause of excitement.

    If this is admitted, it is then conclusive that the most prominent means of cure to be resorted to would be suitable diet, salubrious atmosphere, appropriate exercise, agreeable gratification to the organs of vision, blended with pleasant employment to body and mind, and such auxiliary aids as the light of medical science can apply. It must be evident to every one that the most important of these remedial means cannot be bestowed upon the individuals who so greatly need their and under present circumstances. There is no alternative then, within the bounds of Christian and rational feelings of humanity, but to remove this institution to some more appropriate place, and that as early as practicable; and let it not long be said that in an age when such mighty efforts are being made to eradicate all delusion from the world, that the metropolis of this Union, in one of its efforts of wisdom and benevolence, aided in fixing it, in its most painful and horrid form, by confining between the halls of justice and the jail, the poor lunatic, with all his delusions thick upon him. The Editor

  3. Northern Liberties: This appellation militates so much against appropriateness, and consequently good taste, and, indeed every thing else that can be based on an idea of definite meaning, that it seems only worthy of a record upon the tablets of slang; but like all things that are not controlled by laws of precision, identity, or location, it is seemingly understood by everyone; because it is easier to rest satisfied under doubts that have no immediate effect, than undergo the labor of investigation to arrive at facts.

    The only perceptible adaptation of this name to its locality is that it is north of somewhere, hence "north," and unbounded in its extent, hence "liberties:" the two compounded making "northern liberties:" or it may be the mimic representative of a portion of the city or county of Philadelphia bearing the same name; if this be so, it is difficult to tell what could be the medium of association by which it established its synonyma in Washington. The only parallel to this queer way of making a name that we ever knew or expect to hear of, came under our own observation some years since, when traveling in an adjacent state. Near a secluded road, we observed a structure of rough and rustic material which, evidently, was not a dwelling, for no fence surrounded it, nor were peering inmates visible, or the bark of the watch-dog heard. Near to this structure we saw a self-satisfied son of Ethiopia industriously shaving oaken shingles.

    We accosted him with "uncle, do tell me what house that is?" he replied in the peculiar lingo of his skin "dat hous, massa; what hous you mean?" "I mean the house just before me I see but one." "Wur, massa," said he, with a look of inexpressible astonishment, "don't you know what dat is? dat aint no hous!" "I certainly do not, I never saw it before." "Nebber seed it afore! wur, massa dat's Sharp Street meeting!" We certainly will not attempt to draw and apply the parallel further than to the inappropriateness of the name to the location; but one would suppose that the name of "Sharp Street" meeting could with as much propriety be transferred from Baltimore, and applied to a building on a secluded country road, as that that of "northern liberties" could be translated from Philadelphia, and located in the legally established and clearly defined limits of Washington. But, "what's in a name that, which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet;" and no name that can be affixed to this portion of the city can deteriorate from its beauty or retard its prosperity; which is evident, from the many splendid mansions now built and being built on avenues and streets that are lawfully begotten, and with the names legally bestowed, and which are destined to a high renown, and will be prominent and durable monuments of the industry, wealth, and elegance, of their inhabitants. The Editor.

  4. Post Office Department: This building being of marble is of the most gorgeous exterior. Its lively, brilliant, and spangled whiteness, when brought in comparison with its motleyed and dingy compeers, begets the idea of bloated imbecility, and premature decay, standing side by side with youthful, healthy, and elastic beauty. But this edifice requires that emblem of strength and dignity the portico, with its majestic pillars to give it the true characteristic of a national structure. Though, perhaps, it is fortunate for the fame of all public buildings that may be erected in future in this city, that this one exists in any of the forms of rich and solid marble; from which material only we can form an allegory of permanency, that we may take as the type of the durability of the Union.

    The sandstone structures have ever appeared to us as the suitable embodiment and proper symbol, for the apprehension of weakness expressed so frequently, of the danger of the Union crumbling to pieces by its own weight. But, thank heaven, the solid minds that formed this nation have transmitted to their posterity the strength and skill to uphold it. Then let this strength and skill be preserved, by presenting to the public mind, in the architecture of the country, such sentiments of fairly-proportioned grandeur, as will forbid the establishment of that weakness of thought which only can destroy. The Editor.

  5. Tiber: The name that this stream bears is generally thought by foreigners, as also by many Americans who visit the city of Washington, an appellation that was the bestowal of our youthful vanity, and originating in a desire to assume a name which had been borne on the tide of renown for more than twenty-five centuries, and associate it with our metropolis, when it had not yet emerged from infancy and before it possessed any adornment beyond that described by the Irish poet, Mr. Moore, who visited this city in 1804, and afterward proved himself to be one of its most satiric and scorning deriders. He described it in one of his poetic epistles as "This fam'd metropolis where fancy sees, Squares in morasses, obelisks in trees." He also in the same epistle, in reference to this particular stream exclaims: "And what was Goose Creek once is Tiber now;" which satiric line he explains by a note to the verse; thereby informing his readers that it is "A little stream that runs through the city, which, with intolerable affectation, they have styled the Tiber.

    It was originally called Goose Creek." And the said line and explanatory note have ever since existed as a far spread and famed record; and is often quoted as the proof affirmative of the correctness of the charge, fact, and inference of a ridiculous desire to mimic greatness by the assumption of time honored names, but which hereafter exist only as a record derogatory of its own truth, as the following copy of an extract from an ancient tract book now in possession of the present mayor of Washington will most conclusively prove; and by which the satire of the poet will be deprived of its intended severity by it want of truth to make it keen: "June the 5th, 1663. Layd out for Francis Pope of this Province Gentleman a parcel of land in Charles County called Room lying on the East side of the Anacostia River beginning at a marked oak standing by the river side the bounded tree of Captain Robert Troop and running north by the river for breadth the length of 200 perches to a bounded oak standing at the mouth of a bay or inlet called Tiber, bounding on the north by the said belt and line drawn east for he length of 320 perches to a bounded oak sanding in the woods on the East with a line drawn south from the end of the former line until you meet the exterior bonded tree of Robert Troop called Scotland Yard on the south and the said land on the West with the said River containing and now laid out for 400 acres more or less."

    There can not now be any doubt of the said stream having borne the name of "Tiber" for upward of 113 years before the separation of this country from the British empire, and for 137 years before the present site of the city was occupied as the seat of government. The poetic "squares in morasses" and "obelisks in trees" have disappeared before the advancing genius of our city and solid structures of comfort, elegance, and utility have usurped their places. It is beginning now to be of but little import whether what was "Goose Creek" once is "Tiber" now. For alas! the name of either, whether it be derived from the classic and blood-dyed stream of ancient Rome, or it sacred and gabbling bird, must in a short time disappear, as certainly as the "squares in morasses" and "obelisks in trees" have done and will, ere long, be submerged in the oblivious waters of that name of modern utility, "The Canal." The Editor.

  6. Treasury Department: It really does seem that the next most foolish thing to building a house on a foundation of sand it to build a sand house on a firm foundation. Why Congress in making an appropriations for this building (the Treasury) should confine the material for its construction to sandstone, is more than a thinking and economical people can fully comprehend. But, fortunately, they have been tardy in granting the means for its completion, and something may yet be done for the architectural fame of the nation. The north and south wings, when constructed, will be the most conspicuous portions of the building, and it is, therefore, hoped that their material is now embedded in some marble quarry which will hereafter afford to talent in designing, and skill in executing, their just reward, by enabling them to present to the country such additions to this edifice as all may be proud of. They will then use material of sufficient solidity and adhesiveness to form arches of wide and appropriate expanse, and columns of classic models strong enough to support them, and leave upon the mind of the beholder the idea of symmetrical strength unstrained. The building at present certainly does not reach a proper conception of what it ought to be; no view of it ever arouses and portion of an idea of sublimity; and indeed, if all its purposes of utility were not answered, it would present prominent points of the ridiculous.

    Then why construct a national building and apply to it all the essential adornments that have descended to us from ancient theory and fact, of material which from its inherent weakness cannot give to it any of their form or proportions of grandeur? The eastern colonnade of this building presents to the view a range of columns that can hardly be described in any other way than as being almost in lock-step with each other, and which required but little more architectural skill and taste to erect them than to build an upright wall to support a roof. Science could have measured with minute accuracy and with marble for its material, would have given such appropriate and exact distance to the columns, that must have left each to support, by its isolated strength, the precise weight that was proper to its form; and this form and the expanse of entablature being mutually proportioned, there would then be presented a facade of general congruity; and if all and each part was based on a desire to represent conceptions of sublimity, we would then have had that outward style of architecture which has always commanded the respect of barbarians, has been the tutor to advancing refinement, and has stood for ages the shocks and wear of the elements. The Editor.

  7. War Department: This building, with its various dependencies, as also the buildings of the State and Navy Departments, are of such inflammable materials and filled with the like contents, that a single spark of fire may be the cause of their entire destruction; and consequently that of their valuable deposits; their very appearance, joined to the past fate of similar edifices, makes a powerful appeal to Congress to substitute for them fire-proof buildings. We would here also say that the interior of the fire-proof buildings are not perfectly safe, and we would take the liberty of suggesting that iron cases be furnished to all the rooms, they being the only certain means of preservation for the accounts, and in many instances the historical records of the country. And we believe that this incombustible, and in every way safe material, could be obtained at a cost even less than the ornamental wood which is now used for that purpose. A reminiscence at this moment flashes across our mind of the imminent peril in which was once placed the valuable records of the Revolution, including many of the Washington and other papers, that have since been saved from the repetition of such danger by their publication.

    The writer of this, at the time referred to, was employed on special business by the State Department; he had finished the business of the day and was just leaving his room when he fancied that a spark of fire crossed the range of his vision, and had fallen among some bundles of paper; he sought for it, but in vain, till he was hurried from the room by the importunities of several gentlemen who were waiting for him; but a feeling of apprehension rested upon his mind, he returned with his companions and under their jokes at what they called his groundless fears, when we all began to throw aside the bundles to be satisfied that no evil could happen, and fortunately discovered that the spark had passed nearly to the bottom of them, and had there ignited. It was immediately put out. This circumstance is related to prove that there is no certain safety from fire, without the use of incombustible substance as a protection and cover to that which is inflammable. The Editor.