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William Tecumseh Sherman & Brother John Sherman Owned the Land Where the DC-USA Mall Now Stands

Recently this writer came across some old maps that show the intersection of 14th and Irving Street (then called Kennesaw Avenue) in 1868, 1869 and 1887. The area was then called John Sherman’s Subdivision, as he owned the land.

Sherman was a U.S. senator at the time he bought and subdivided the land and was the brother of Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman, who led Union Army’s famous Civil War “March to the Sea,” is it was widely called. John Sherman later served as Secretary of the Treasury under President Rutherford B. Hayes and then as Secretary of State under President William McKinley.

The 1868 map is interesting for the street names: Park Road west of 14th is “Road to Pierce’s Mill” — which still stands inside Rock Creek Park, while east of 14th it’s Rock Creek Church Road, which exists today but ends farther east.

An 1869 map shows the purchase of the area northwest of the intersection, but also includes a note about the lot on the northwest corner 14th and Irving that reads, “Lieut. Gen. W.T. Sherman,” and the lot to the north reads “Hon. John Sherman.” Pretty cool, a famous general and his brother, the Secretary of State, owned what is today the site of DC-USA.

Showing on the map just below “Georgetown and Rock Creek Church Road,” which went at an angle to the southeast, iks a notation for “Columbia College Property.” Later on, Columbia College relocated to Foggy Bottom and became George Washington University.

By the time of the 1887 map, the area had become noticeably developed, with many more houses being shown. By that time it appears that somebody else owned the land at the corner of 14th and Kennesaw (now Irving; though by then the road to Pierce’s Mill is called Park, though east of 14th it is shown as Whitney Road).

—Larry Ray