MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and now that fall is officially here, on this week's show we are, appropriately enough, Falling. We've heard about the falling number of homes for sell in the D.C. housing market and later on, we're going to share your tales of falling love. We'll also take a dive on Capitol Hill for the latest in our "D.C. Dives" series. But first, we're going to get a little bit literal with our Falling theme and talk about a guy who 123 years ago took quite the tragic tumble. It's the topic of our regular series "The Location."
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
In which Kim Bender, author of the blog "The Location," helps us explore the hidden history of Washington's places, people and culture. And this week we're checking out a location...
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
And what location are we visiting today, Kim Bender?
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
...not too far from the site of that fateful 19th century fall.
MS. KIM BENDER
Today we are standing right in between what once was 1225 and 1227 10th Street Northwest.
Today, 1225 and 1227 are open spaces, adjacent long and narrow tracks of land where rowhouses once stood. At the back of the lots is a quaint carriage house and we can actually thank that carriage house for the story we're about to hear, since it was the house's owners that led Kim to uncover this little known piece of D.C. history.
The people who live in the carriage house are Anna and Dan Kahoe and they own Good Wood, which is a store on U Street that sells vintage furniture and old objects. So I was at Good Wood and Anna Kahoe approached me and started talking to me and I remember that I had looked up the building that she was living in that point and it's called the Louise Hand Laundry. It's on 12th Street right around the corner.
And I said, you know, I was researching it for my blog and she said, well, maybe you want to come write about the new place we're moving into, which is this carriage house. And maybe you could look up the history and see if there's something interesting behind it.
And I research tons and tons of addresses and properties around the city all the time trying to find out if there's some interesting history and usually come up short. And this one had something really tragic but interesting.
Let's hear the story.
So in 1887, Samuel Huntress got a building permit for this lot. He was what the newspaper later called, a perambulating coal oil dealer, which basically meant that he sold coal from his wagon. He both 1225 and 1227 and he and his wife and his son lived in 1225. Two years later, on Aug. 9, 1889, the elderly Huntress, we're not really sure how old he was, was riding in his wagon with his employee James Combs, who's 26 and black, which kind of comes in to play later in the story.
They're riding their wagon having just come back from selling coal. Witnesses all said they were very, very drunk. Other witnesses saw them turning around the corner of Blagden Alley, right in back of the carriage house here, getting really into a fight. Huntress punched Combs. Combs fell backwards in the wagon. The blow to Combs caused Huntress to go off balance. He lost control of the carriage. The carriage hit a building and they were both thrown off the wagon. And Huntress hit his head on the cobblestones and he died.
What happened to Combs? Did he survive?
He survived, he was fine except for the fact that he was immediately arrested in suspicion of murder. And over the next few days, the coroner did an inquest to try to figure out the cause of death of Samuel Huntress and whether it was Combs' fault.
What I think is an interesting part of the story is that Combs was acquitted by six witnesses who all corroborated his story, but all six of the witnesses were black. And so I find that to be very interesting, that in 1889, a black man who was arrested seemingly with no cause was absolved of any wrongdoing by his peers.
Okay, so Huntress had both of these buildings, he died in this accident. How did we get from those two buildings, those two long skinny rowhouses to what we have now which is all this empty space where these long skinny rowhouses used to be?
1227 we know as been gone for a while, not sure how long. 1225 came down in 2009 after a raze permit had been approved. Actually the woman who owned this building before the Kahoes tried really hard to save the building but it was in too much disrepair so it's been a problem for a while. And I'm sure that once 1227 was gone, 1225 didn't have a lot of support because they shared the same inner structural wall. So I wonder how much that had to do with it, too.
But, lest you think this story has an unhappy ending, something you should know about Anna and Dan Kahoe, their unrelenting history buffs with a deep passion and respect for preserving the past. That's why they've spent year fixing up the carriage house that stood behind Samuel Huntress's two buildings. And now that Kim Bender has unearthed Huntress's story, Anna says she and Dan are planning a little homage to our nearly forgotten perambulating coal oil dealer.
MS. ANNA KAHOE
We had always considered painting an old sign on the back of the building but when we tried to figure out what the building. So now we are designing a sign that says Huntress Coal Oil Company.
So if you two hadn't come together you wouldn't have known?
No, because I had looked. I had tried to find information about it and I couldn't.
And I research so many places and usually come up with nothing so it was very cool that it was something. There's like a really interesting story behind the place.
To read even more about this interesting story, you can find a link to Kim Bender's blog, "The Location," on our website, metroconnection.org. And if you've stumbled across a hidden piece of D.C. history you think we should cover on "The Location," let us know, our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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