830 25TH STREET NW
The wood paneled blue house with the paved front yard on the corner (830 25th St./2500 I Street) is the oldest house in the Historic District. It is recorded as built in 1872, and is the only remaining wood frame house. It has been reported (but not confirmed) that the house was built before the Civil War and was a stop in the Underground Railroad for freedom-seeking African Americans. Entrance to the house from I Street (note no front door) is through a trap door beneath the shrubbery in the left corner facing I Street. (EHT Traceries)
The Foggy Bottom neighborhood does have confirmed Underground Railroad sites. A plaque marks the location of the house of Leonard Grimes at H and 22nd St., on what is now the GWU campus. Grimes (1815-1873) was a free African American who operated as hackney – or horse-drawn cab driver. He assisted enslaved people in gaining their freedom in the 1830s. For this, he was arrested and served two years in the Virginia State penitentiary in Richmond, Virginia. Upon his release, he became a minister and moved to Boston, Massachusetts, becoming a prominent abolitionist leader.
Also, 13-year old Emily Edmondson had been hired out as a maid on 21st and G Streets. In 1848, she joined 76 other enslaved people in an attempt to seek freedom on schooner The Pearl. The ship was captured before it could exit the Potomac and most of the escapees were re-sold into slavery in the deep south. But funds were raised to buy freedom for Emily (and her sister Mary). Emily attended Oberlin College, worked at an African American school in D.C., and later started a family in Maryland. The Pearl incident was commemorated by artist Lynda Andrews-Berry in a sculpture, "Pearl Dream," installed as part of the 2021 Arts in Foggy Bottom exhibition.
Although originally built as a residence, the blue wood frame house had commercial uses. In 1914 it was a saloon operated by Jane McInerney and William Biggs. By 1971, it had operated as corner grocery store for some time. Later the house was co-joined with the adjacent red brick house (with the entrance on 830 25th Street) and it is currently used as an apartment building.
The 830 25th Street part of the structure is brick and three stories. The front door (25th St.) is protected by a portico supported by brick columns. There is a brick cornice and railing on the roof.
Over the years I've met elderly African-Americans on the street who look like they want to engage. They typically are gazing up at a house and pointing. Often times when I talk to them they tell me they lived on I Street a child or that their grandparents lived there, etc. One woman I met sent me these photos from 2500 block of I St and information. Excerpt from Raj N. email, Sept 2021
FBA History Project, Foggy Bottom Historic District Walking Tour, "The Center of the Historic District" https://theclio.com/tour/2098/11
Funkstown: The Underground Railroad and Foggy Bottom, Nov. 21, 2021, https://www.foggybottomassociation.org/post/funkstown-no-8-washington-gasworks-putting-the-fog-in-foggy-bottom
EHT Traceries historic house survey, 11/1983
The only remaining wood frame house (not original wood) with brick base in Foggy Bottom. (D. Vogt, May 2022)
The facade of the brick house, now an apartment building, now attached to blue house at corner. (D. Vogt, July 2022)
The original rail and internal stairway. (D. Vogt, 2022)
The sidewalk side view of blue house facing I St. (D. Vogt, Nov. 2022)