Funkstown No 4. What Makes the Foggy Bottom District Historic?

Updated: Nov 28, 2021


During the 1950s and 1960s, the expansion of The George Washington University, the construction of highways (including an I-66 extension), and the development of large apartment buildings destroyed many of the small modest rowhouses that had characterized Foggy Bottom since the late 1800s. Preservation efforts began in the 1950s. In June of 1987, the D.C. Historic Preservation Office established the Foggy Bottom Historic District as a D.C. (Historic) Landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The FBHD Brochure describes what makes Foggy Bottom unique: “The Foggy Bottom Historic District celebrates the former working class section of the larger Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The district is significant for its association with Washington’s industrial history, its association with Washington’s German and Irish communities, and for the low-scale, modest brick rowhouses distinctively ornamented with pressed and molded brick details that characterize the area.”


The Foggy Bottom Historic District is generally bounded by 24th and 26th Streets, and New Hampshire Avenue and K Streets. It covers approximately three acres and four squares and contains approximately 226 buildings, of which 135 structures contribute to the Historic District. The historic buildings are mostly narrow (some less than 12 feet wide) brick two- or three-story “late Victorian” residential rowhouses built from the late 1870s through the 1910s. Some houses, e.g., the yellow house at 844 NH Ave., also functioned as corner grocery stores. From an architectural perspective, the rowhouses generally have flat-fronts and simple ornamentation, although there are examples of the pressed and molded brick detailing builders used to make even modest houses appear distinct.


The Historic District also includes nearly 30 two-story rowhouses (some with basements) built as alley homes in the 1880s in Snows Court and Hughes Mews. Snows Court also contains a large warehouse originally constructed by Wilber Nash as a commercial horse and carriage stable in 1914 (with windows for horses on the second floor).


The earliest house may be a wooden frame house (830 25th St.), which may have been associated with the Underground Railroad, now with a brick addition built in 1872. Initially the houses were built for their owners, but increasingly through the 1880s groups of two or three (or more) houses were developed for sale. A number of houses were built in the 1880s by Irish immigrant Peter McCartney, who began as a carpenter and soon established a successful contracting business. His skill with brick and wood is found throughout the historic district including the corbelled brick cornices and delicate jigsaw work on the houses at 25th and I streets. The two McCartney houses at the end of I Street (2530-2532) share an unusual arched entryway to their back yards. After the Civil War, many skilled and unskilled immigrant laborers were attracted to Foggy Bottom by industries including breweries, lime kilns, and the Washington Gas works. Although smog from this industry made “Foggy Bottom” a less desirable place to live, those conditions also made homes affordable to workers at these plants. Moreover, the builders were often successful members of the community building houses for their neighbors.


Sources: DC Historic Preservation Office, Foggy Bottom Historic District Brochure (2003) http://dcpreservation-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wpcontent/uploads/2014/12/Foggy-Bottom-Brochure.pdf; DC Government, Office of Planning: Foggy Bottom Historic District Nomination, and related documents (1987),https://planning.dc.gov/publication/foggy-bottom-historic-district

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