Washington DC History Resources

Matthew B. Gilmore

House History Resources


Building and Neighborhood History [click for PDF to download and click links]
2014 version of the pathfinder to doing house/building/neighborhood history in the District of Columbia

List of Hopkins and Baist atlases–years published and availability [click for PDF]
Explanation of City Directories–years and content [click for PDF]

Permits to Build/Permits to Move 2014

When did they change the house/building address system in Washington City?

·       The present system of numbering the houses (buildings) in Washington City was devised by E. Dwight Clapp and was adopted by the Aldermen and Common Council of Washington on November 29, 1869. Mr. Clapp died on May 31, 1916.

·       Previously buildings were numbered in Washington City starting at Rock Creek with numbers increasing going east to the Eastern Branch and at Boundary Street (now Florida Avenue) going south to the Potomac.
This meant addresses were only west or east, north or south–quadrants did not exist until the Clapp system.
Numbers only started where buildings did; for example, numbers theoretically would have started at North Capitol and Boundary but the first numbered building on North Capitol Street in 1867 was near H Street.
This left no flexibility for addresses above H to Boundary, since the lowest number was already taken.

·       Georgetown’s addresses were arranged in opposite fashion–starting at the Potomac waterfront and rising going north, and starting at Rock Creek and increasing as one moved west.

·       The 1867 city directory has several pages laying out the address ranges for both Washington City and Georgetown street by street. see: https://archive.org/details/boydsdirectoryof1867wash
page 97 forward. To convert an address from pre-1869 to current you need to figure out what block it was on based on that 1867 list then look at where that falls in the current numbering system.

Washington City, Its Founding and Development
Author(s): Frederick L. Fishback
Source: Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C., Vol. 20 (1917), pp. 194-224
Published by: Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
Stable URL: link

Subdivision Names from the Permit index

Alphabetized Subdivision names from Charles O. Storm’s June 1919 list

Subdivision names from Charles O. Storm’s June 1919 list–square order

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