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What Once Was

What Ultimately Happened to William Tunnicliff’s Two Hotels? –- Part 3

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Stephen A. Hansen*

In August 1814, when British forces invaded Washington, among the buildings they set fire to was the Capitol building. Although still under construction at the time, it was already occupied by Congress. The Capitol Hotel Company, a stock company founded by local citizens concerned that the seat of government would now leave Washington for a more secure location, was established to erect a temporary building to assure that it stayed. Daniel Carroll, who still owned the vacant lot on the corner First and A Streets NE next to Tunnicliff’s old Washington City Hotel, exchanged it for stock in the company. The then owners of the hotel, Moses Young, Henry Ingle, and E.B. Caldwell, also took stock in the company.

Old Brick Capitol as it appeared in 1815. rendering--Stephen Hansen.

Old Brick Capitol as it appeared in 1815. rendering–Stephen Hansen.

The Capitol Hotel Company erected a temporary brick building on Carroll’s empty lot next to the hotel at First and A Streets NE. Congress occupied the building from 1814 until 1819, while the original Capitol building was being rebuilt. When the temporary brick capitol was complete, Congress annexed the old hotel as part of its temporary accommodations.

The temporary Capitol building acquired the title of “Old Brick Capitol” in 1819 when Congress and the Supreme Court finally returned to the restored Capitol building. Until the time of the Civil War, the combined buildings served as a private school and a boarding house. John C. Calhoun, former Vice President of the United States, died in the boarding house in 1850.

By the time the Old Brick Capitol was abandoned by Congress, Daniel Carroll was pretty much out of the real estate business himself. Unfortunately, he had greedily overpriced much of his land, forcing the city to develop to the west and not on Capitol Hill and towards the east as Pierre L’Enfant had planned. Carroll quietly retired to his home, Duddington Manor, living there as a recluse with his unmarried daughters until his death in 1849.

Old Brick Capitol serving as a Civil War prison. A common practice for prisons at the time was for the first floor level to be painted white, making it to spot anybody next to the building or trying to escape. photo--Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Old Brick Capitol serving as a Civil War prison. A common practice for prisons at the time was for the first floor level to be painted white, making it to spot anybody next to the building or trying to escape. photo–Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

With the start of the Civil War in 1861, the federal government purchased the Old Brick Capitol to use as a prison for captured Confederates, political prisoners, Union officers convicted of insubordination, and local prostitutes. Famous inmates of the prison included accused Lincoln assassination conspirator Mary Surratt, renown female Confederate spies Rose Greenhow and Belle Boyd, Confederate commander John Mosby (the “Gray Ghost”), and Andersonville Prison commandant Henry Wirz, who was hanged in the yard of the prison.

Birdseye view of the prison. rendering--Stephen Hansen.

Birdseye view of the prison. rendering–Stephen Hansen.

The government sold the Old Capitol Prison in 1867 to George T. Brown, then sergeant-at-arms of the U.S. Senate, who converted the old building into three townhouses that became known as “Trumbull’s Row.” As part of this conversion, what was once Tunnicliff’s and Stelle’s hotel was torn down and rebuilt as the ell to the corner townhouse.

Carroll Row was razed in 1887 for the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. In 1932, what remained of the Old Brick Capitol and Tunnicliff’s hotel were razed to make way for the Supreme Court building. Thus ended the long tale of Tunnicliff’s two hotels.

Capitol Prison converted to townhouses. photo--Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Capitol Prison converted to townhouses. photo–Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

[Ed. note: For more virtual re-creations of the Capitol Prison, as well as more of Washington’s lost buildings, be sure to check out the author’s web site Virtual Architectural Archaeology.]

*Stephen A. Hansen is an historic preservation specialist, Washington DC historian, author of several books and of the Virtual Architectural Archaeology blog.

© 2015 InTowner Publishing Corp. & Stephen A. Hansen. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part, including for commercial purposes, without permission is prohibited.