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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Quarters B

Quarters B was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. This history was compiled when the house was nominated.

Description

Quarters B is located in the northern portion of the Washington Navy Yard. It faces west on Charles Morris Avenue with Parsons Avenue to its rear. In its present appearance Quarters B is a 2 1/2 story gabled roof brick structure which is painted white. The main block of the house is approximately 76 feet long and 24 feet deep with a two-floor flat-roofed porch projecting about 8 feet out from the front facade. There are two service wings (29 feet by 20 feet and 36 feet by 17 feet) attached to the north end of the house. The main block is approximately twice the size of the original house, constructed in 1801, which is the southern end of the present house.

No drawings of the 1801 part of the house have been found. Structural evidence as well as mid-19th century photographs and measured drawings show that Quarters B has been enlarged substantially twice. The precise dates of these changes are not known but most of the elements of the present house were in place by 1868. "The construction joints between the sections, the interior thicknesses of walls and a slight difference in roofs differentiate the three sections."

The original structure was a simple 2 1/2 story gabled roof Federal-style brick house approximately 36 feet long and 24 feet deep. Fenestration appears to have been typical of the period with double-hung wooden sash and flat splayed lintels. The slate gabled roof carried a single dormer on the principal west facade and there were two end chimneys. "The deviation of lintels over the doors and windows suggest that the original south structure had five bays with a door in each end bay and windows in between.... The original floor plan of this section has been so changed as to leave little evidence of its arrangement."

The earliest surviving drawings of the house date from 1848. By then the main structure had been extended by two bays and had a frame addition on the north to contain a stairway. Attached to this frame addition was a 1 1/2 story brick addition which appear to be the present kitchen wing. A one-story porch with a shed roof had also been added to the front of the main block.

Twenty years later in 1868 another set of measured drawings was made of Quarters B. The house had by then been extended to its present ten bays, joining the kitchen wing, and the second one-story service wing to the north had also been added. The second story of the porch was added sometime later in the 19th century. In the 20th century the dining room at the north end of the main block was extended out to the west to the width of the porch.

In spite of its having been erected in several sections over a period of years, the exterior of the main block of the house presents a harmonious appearance with a continuous slate gable roof and two floor porch. The porch has a screened area and a glassed area on the first floor and a glassed area on the north and south ends of the second floor with the middle area open. This porch is composed of a series of wooden piers connected on the ground story by a simple balustrade and on the upper story by a railing with a cut-in pattern of fiddle shapes and leaves. The cornice is dentiled. Three dormers pierce the slate gable roof, and there is a chimney on each end and a double chimney near the center. A wrought iron fence separates the house from Charles Morris Avenue. The small front yard is residentially planted.

The long narrow main block of the house today has rooms arranged one deep across the front with halls along the rear. The principal entrance to house in the eighth bay from the south opens into an entry hall which runs to the main rear hall. There is a library and a double parlor (the original house) to the south. The dining room is north of the entry hall. Each of these first floor rooms has a fireplace. None of the mantels appears to be original. The main stair is in the rear hall. The second floor of the main block has four bedrooms (three with fireplaces) and four baths. Both stories have replacement wooden board floors, wooden trim and plaster walls and ceilings.

The low ceilinged, third floor of the main block--a finished attic-- has three main rooms, a storage room and a bathroom. Three dormers at the front of the house and a rear skylight provide the principal light sources. A full basement under most of the main house has brick and stone walls, cement floor and unfinished hewn and sawn joists above.

The wings consist of the kitchen to the north of the main block and several smaller service rooms to the north of it. The kitchen section has a dormered second floor containing a single large study.

(Quoted passages from Historic American Buildings Survey, 1965.)

Significance

The Joint Committee on Landmarks has designated Quarters B at the U.S. Navy Yard a Category II Landmark of importance which contributes significantly to the cultural heritage and visual beauty of the District of Columbia. The original part of the house was the first permanent building erected at the Navy Yard, one of the country's most historically significant military installations. Quarters B is generally believed to have been erected as a residence for the second ranking officer of the Yard, the purpose which it has served through most of its history. However, documentary evidence indicates that the house was, in fact, built to accommodate the Superintendent of the Navy Yard as well as the officer of the Marines responsible for guarding the Yard. Erected late in 1801 as a simple 2 1/2 story Federal style brick house, Quarters B has been altered and enlarged substantially over the years.

The precise date of construction of the original part of Quarters B has long been in question. Historian Taylor Peck, a normally reputable source, says that Quarters B was remodeled in 1801 from the original farm house which already stood in the Navy Yard and that its rear wall formed part of the eastern boundary wall of the Yard. However,the house does not appear on the "Enumeration of Houses in the City of Washington made November 1801." The following letter dated October 10, 1801, from Robert Smith, Secretary of the Navy, to Captain Tingey, then Superintendent of the Yard, almost certainly refers to Quarters B.

"You will be pleased to contract with Mssrs. Lovering and Dyer for the building of a house to accommodate the officer of Marines and the Superintendent of the Navy Yard, agreeable to the inclosed plan, and have it forwarded with all necessary expedition. All extra work will be allowed for."

According to Navy records, the contract for the house was let to Lovering and Dyer on the same day; that is, October 10, 1801. In all probability, Quarters B was completed in late 1801 or early 1802, after the "Enumeration" was printed.

Who actually occupied Quarters B during its first decade is unknown, although physical evidence does point to the house having been divided into two quarters, and a map of 1814 identifies the northern end as being the residence of the second officer with the office of the purser and paymaster combined in the south section.

When the British captured Washington on August 24, 1814, and Captain Tingey ordered the Navy Yard set fire to prevent the British using the Yard and its ships to their advantage, both Quarters A (Tingey's House) and Quarters B (Lieutenant Haraden's House) were untouched, but the people of the neighborhood plundered them to such an extent that "not a movable object from cellar to garret was left, and even the fixtures and locks off the doors were taken."

During most of its existence Quarters B has served as the residence of the second officer of the yard. During the Civil War federal troops stationed in the yard were quartered there. It is now the residence of a high ranking naval officer and his family.

The house has been well maintained. A recent development plan for the Navy Yard calls for preservation of Quarters B as part of the residential complex. The planned improvement of Leutze Park across the street from the house should further enhance its site.

02 March 1997