The Houses

Groff was very economical in his floor plans for Caroline Street. All the lots are the same size (about 84' x 20') with all the original houses having the same footprint, ignoring the indents, of about 16' x 44'6". (Note that the permit specified a building depth of 41 feet - Groff stretched a little.) The houses are set back 10 feet from the sidewalk, and are set against one side property line. This leaves a walk of about 4 1/2 feet on one side, and a back yard about 19'6" deep.

Each house has one common wall, allowing windows to be put in the other long side. This in turn allowed a middle room, as all rooms have to have a window. Each house had three rooms on each floor: what are conventionally living, dining and kitchen on the ground floor, and three bedrooms off a hall with a "corridor" (very small) bathroom on the second. Within, there is variation in the placement of the staircase (parallel to the common wall in flat-front houses, across the short dimension between the second and third rooms in the indented-front houses), placement of living room fireplace on the common wall or on the wall between living and dining rooms, placement of kitchen door on the side or the rear, and placement of kitchen stove on the rear wall or side.

insert typical floor plan

According to the 1881 Clendenin letters (see Caroline St: the people), the houses were built with interior plumbing. That included a bathroom,[1] which likely included a claw-foot tub, sink and toilet.

insert bathroom picture if one can be found

Clendenin also notes that gas lights were part of the original equipment. In some cases, those pipes were used as conduits when electricity was installed. And in at least one house the old gas pipes are now used to hang ceiling fans. The pipe ends are threaded, and a standard lamp part allows connection to the pipe and to the threads on the central post of the fan.

There was no central heating, at least in the indented-front houses. Heat came from a fireplace in the living room and stove in the kitchen. At least some of the flat-front houses in the center of the block were apparently built with a furnace in the basement. Radiators may have been part of the original fixtures, though the pipes for the radiators on the second floor were exposed on the first.

Original fireplace in 1502.
At some point a Franklin stove or similar was installed with a flue. The rest of the fireplace was covered by a metal plate. Later a furnace was installed in the basement and the flue in the fireplace disconnected, the hole being covered by the decorative round grill.

The basements were not finished in any way - exposed joists, hard-packed dirt floors and bare brick walls. Most if not all served in part as a coal bunker, with an area to catch ashes in the structure supporting the fireplace. (A floor of packed dirt and coal served very well in 1502 until most of it was paved with cement in 1980. The only problem was a bit of dust.)

Improvements through the years saw the addition of radiator central heating, electricity, and telephone, with recent years finding air conditioning and cable TV in almost all the homes. A few now have the latest convenience, broadband Internet.

Some houses retain the original floor plan, but most have been modified in some way. Some flat-front houses are now entirely open plan on the ground floor. Some of the indented-front are open plan through the first two rooms on the ground floor, the fireplace having been removed or moved. Many houses have an enlarged bathroom, at the expense of bedroom space. One house is now one bedroom with a study and large bath.

And some of the houses were extended. There are a few rear extensions for larger kitchens, one side extension, and two houses have a third floor for additional bedroom space.

Two of the houses have had the basements furnished as rental apartments. Many of the other basements have been finished to some extent.

[1]An 1894 inventory map of outdoor privies shows none in square 190, but 9 in square 205 immediately to the east. Map reproduced in Greater U Street by Paul K Williams, Arcadia Publishing 2002, 2004 reprint.

Last update 11 July 2004

Copyright Richard Busch, 1993, 2004-5
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