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1400 Block Of Belmont Street: A Short history
Kelsey & Associates
The area that contains Belmont Street today was originally owned in the early 1700’s by wealthy land owner Robert Peter, and then in the 1790s Anthony Holmead, both of whom had large mansions on other portions of the property. It was purchased from the Holmead estate in 1822 by Colombia College before being divided and sold to individuals land owners beginning in the mid 1860’s and until the late 1880’s.
The name Belmont Street officially replaced the name of Stoughton Street sometime between 1896 and 1913. In 1896, Stoughton appears on the Baist Real Estate Map, but has parenthesis around it, as it does in smaller lettering on the on the 1913 Baist map, following the bold faced Belmont Street that remains today. Perhaps a more accurate indicator, the D.C. City Directories list addresses as Stoughton Street up to an including the year 1906; and began using Belmont Street in 1907.
The name Belmont Street was no doubt taken in remembrance of a house called “Belmont,” the large Queen Anne styled mansion of Amzi L. Barber that was bounded by 13th and 14th Street, Florida Ave and Clifton Street. It was designed by architect Theophilus P. Chandler in 1886, and remained a neighborhood landmark until it was destroyed in 1914 for construction of the Clifton Terrace Apartment buildings.
Owner G.B. Marlow hired architect Joseph Johnson in 1879 to design and construct #1420 and #1424 Belmont Street. Several years later, in 1891, owner S.D. Smith constructed #1472 Belmont, and #1422 Belmont was constructed just four years later, in 1895. #1452 Belmont was built in 1907 by owner Lucy Rose utilizing the designs of architect George Green. It may have replaced an earlier structure, as the address and residents appeared in the 1900 census. #1474 was also designed by architect Joseph Johnson in 1897 for owner F.W. McReynolds.
Joseph Silas Diller, who resided at #1454 Belmont from 1895 to 1911, had applied for a permit to build lot 60, #1448 Belmont Street, on May 15, 1894. At an estimated cost of $7,000, the residence had been designed by Victor Mindeleff, and constructed by W.H.C. Thompson builders of #919 New Jersey Avenue. The pressed brick, three story dwelling was built as a one family residence, and it was noted that it “will not obstruct extension of streets” apparently referring to the curve in Florida Avenue to which the property extended to on the southern side.
Around the turn of the Century, Belmont Street seemed to attract many members of the geological, naturalist, and early environmental professions, most of whom worked at the Smithsonian Institution. Among these distinguished individuals was Leonhard Stejneger, a Norwegian born naturalist that emigrated in 1881. Living at #1472 Belmont in 1916, Stejneger one of the head curators at the Natural Museum for birds, reptiles, and biology. A prolific writer, he also joined several international expeditions, including Bering Island and Kamchatka in 1882-1883, and the Commander Islands in 1895 and again in 1896-97 for a special study of the “fur-seal question” for the Fish Commission.
The 1900 census reveals several professions closely associated with that of geologists Dr. Diller and later, Dr. Holmes, both residing at #1454. At #1452 John Hoyt listed himself as a car engineer with the U.S. Geological Survey, and lived there along with his wife and son, and with Walter Stanton, a civil engineer with the U.S. Reclamation.
Another geologist residing on Belmont Street in 1916 was Dr. Frederick L Ransome, at #1455, originally from Greenwich, England. He served as the assistant editor of the Journal of Washington Academy of Sciences and Economic Geology, and was employed by the U.S. Geological Survey beginning in 1900. Like many of his contemporaries, he worked at he Natural Museum and was a member of the Cosmos Club, one of the common characteristics among those residing on the street. At #1422 Belmont in 1916 was Dr. George P. Merrill originally from Auburn, Maine. Head Curator of the Department of Geology at the Natural Museum, among his writings are Stones for Building and Decorations and The Collection of Building and Ornamental Stones in the U.S. National Museum.
The predominant structure on the northern side of Belmont Street, the Pitts Motor Hotel, was constructed in 1960.
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