River Farms to Urban Towers
Southwest Heritage Trail
17 Blending Old and New
When urban renewal threatened to destroy three of Washington's oldest structures, dating from the late 1700's, history-minded citizens organized to stop the bulldozers. As a result, when architect Chloethiel Woodard Smith designed the mid-20th century Harbour Square, she included Wheat Row, Duncanson-Cranch House, and Edward Simon Lewis House, as you can see to your left.
The elegant 1794-1795 set of four Federal style houses behind you across Fourth Street is Wheat Row, created by James Greenleaf, Washington's first real estate speculator. Greenleaf and his partners hoped to get rich building housing for the new city. Instead Greanleaf went bankrupt, but left behind a few well-made houses. These were named for John Wheat, an early owner who worked as a Senate messenger. Across Fourth to your left at 456 N Street is Lewis House, built in 1817 for a Navy Department clerk. A few houses down at 468-470 is Duncanson-Cranch House, built around 1794.
In 1901 Charles Weller opened Neighborhood House in Lewis House as Washington's first social settlement. There, in keeping with Washington's segregation, he provided education and recreation for poor white children and adults, including the city's first organized playground. Its first branch library was open to all, however. In 1904 Washington artist and socialite Alice Pike Barney bought Duncanson-Cranch House so that Neighborhood House could move into the larger space. The institution was re-named Barney Neighborhood House. It continued to grow, desegregating in the 1940s and also occupying three of Wheat Row's four houses before relocating to 16th Street, NW in 1960. Weller also helped begin the "Colored Social Center" in 1903 at 118 M Street, forerunner of today's Southwest Community House.