by Donna Hanousek
Solomon and Arthur Carr (1892-1908) and Charles A. Peters (1908-1910) were the principal developers of Elliott Street. The notable
Albert H. Beers designed six of the buildings. Profiles of these and others follow.
Solomon and Arthur Carr
Along with family names like Cafritz and Wardman, the Carr family has shaped wide areas of Washington over many decades.
The patriarch of the Carr family was Solomon Carr, a bricklayer from Shilton, Leicester, England. In 1885, Carr immigrated to the United States as a middle-aged widower with six children. Shortly after landing in Baltimore, Carr moved to Washington. Within four years he was buying and selling building lots in the Northeast quadrant. Carr soon became a building contractor who erected houses on speculation, while doubling as a Methodist “lay preacher” who spoke with what is described as “homey elegance”.
Beginning in the 1890s, Carr resided at 1355 Maryland Avenue, NE, at what is now the corner of Elliott Street. In June 1892 he received permits to build the earliest houses on Elliott Street, the two story row houses at numbers 637 and 639, which he also designed. Ultimately Solomon, his sons Arthur and Josiah/Joseph, and daughter Sarah were the original owners of almost half the houses on Elliott Street. The 1900 and 1910 Censuses listed Arthur Carr and his family at 639 Elliott.
When Solomon Carr died at age 58 on December 21, 1904, the Washington Post fittingly called him a “pioneer in two and three story brick flats” who “showed great ingenuity in their design and construction.”
Arthur Carr, the third son of Solomon Carr, was 31 years old at the death of his father. He succeeded him as vice-president of the Perpetual Building Association and spent most of his career in commercial real estate, as did his son Oliver T. Carr.
Solomon Carr’s great-grandson Oliver T. Carr, Jr. was one of the Washington area’s most prominent suburban homebuilders of the 1950s and 1960s. Ironically, he became a principal figure in one of the city’s most notorious early historic preservation cases; the destruction of the Rhodes Tavern by the Oliver T. Carr Company in 1984. Today, the Carr America real estate colossus is a direct descendent of Oliver T. Carr Management, Incorporated, and indirectly of Solomon Carr’s project on Elliott Street, NE. (The Carr family was responsible for the development of 625-639 Elliott between 1892 and 1908.)
Charles A. Peters, Developer
Peters built the houses between 607 and 623 Elliott Street, apparently using well-known architect Albert Beers for 607-611 and 619-623 and an unknown architect for 615 and 617 Elliott Street.
Peters was born in 1855, and lived at both 645 C Street, NE, and 626 14th Street, NE, during 1900. He developed properties throughout Washington, first showing up in the Post real estate transfers in 1899—buying property in Congress Heights in 1899. He was also the “Peters” in the construction firm Jones and Peters. In 1907, the firm’s work ranged from a one-story brick addition at 13th and U Streets, NW, to a new frame house in Brookland. In 1910, Peters alone is cited as developer of the entire square containing 4438 Kansas Avenue. An ad in 1926 displayed a high end house at 4887 Potomac, boasting the best views and most modern conveniences possible, and accessible by the Glen Echo streetcar.
Engine Company Number Ten, Firehouse (above, in 2008), built in 1894, is at 1341 Maryland Avenue Northeast, just around the corner from the north end of Elliott Street.
Albert H. Beers, Architect
Peter’s architect for most of the buildings on Elliott Street, was already a notable area architect by 1910 when he designed the Elliott Street houses. Beers was originally from Bridgeport, CT, but practiced architecture and lived in Washington, DC for many years. His office was at 1242 New York Avenue, NW, and at the time of his death he lived at 757 Park Road, NW. Beers worked extensively with Harry Wardman starting in 1905. Two of their projects appear on the National Register of Historic Places. He designed many row houses for Wardman and is credited with Wardman’s breakthrough designs for daylight row houses. Beers designed the porch-front row houses for Wardman in Square 1044 in 1907. He also worked with other builders, including Harry A. Kite, Chris Cox Dawson, Michael Flannery, T. J. McCubbin, as well as Charles A. Peters.
Alexander M. Gorman, Real Estate Broker and Owner
Alexander M. Gorman owned and built the original apartments at 608 and 610 Elliott with architect Nicholas T. Haller (they are no longer extant).
A well known real estate and insurance broker in the first decade of 1900, Gorman also acted as a mortgage broker, offering loans over $300,000 at 4% interest for DC and Maryland properties. A well known real estate and insurance broker by 1905, Gorman also acted as a mortgage broker, charging 1/2 to 1% for loans between $300,000 and $500,000 at 4% interest for DC and Maryland properties. The Gormans appeared regularly in the society pages and made a regular midseason visit to Atlantic City. In 1905, Gorman attempted suicide but recovered. He provided no explanation of the attempt. He was known for having made “several fortunes”, and had been recently suffering from severe nervous attacks. In 1892, he had liquidated all of his real estate holdings to pay off debts. Perhaps the attempt was due to similar financial constraints, although he did not mention any financial concerns to friends or family.
Nicholas T. Haller, Architect
Haller, another notable architect in the Washington, D.C. area, started as a carpenter in the 1870s and began designing buildings in 1881; appearing actively in Washington Post real estate transfer records starting in 1891. He designed many row houses and stores throughout Washington and was especially prolific on Capitol Hill between 1897 and 1913. The Pancoast apartments in SouthEast and 1341-1345 East Capitol Street (1903) are among his designs. He designed apartment buildings made of brick and stone for 608 and 610 Elliott in 1904. While the Haller buildings are no longer standing, his involvement in the design of some of Elliott Street’s early buildings is further demonstration that Elliott Street was developed by some of the best of their day.
Clarence W. Gosnell, Builder
Clarence Gosnell designed and built 624 Elliott Street, a 1920s apartment building. For thirty-four years Gosnell was a builder and real estate developer in the Washington area. He also owned at least 166 apartment units in Washington. Gosnell built a range of products including single family luxury homes, flats, and apartment buildings, and worked with well-known area architects, such as Appleton P. Clark, Jr. and Leon A. Chatelain, Jr.
His firms, Clarence W. Gosnell, Inc. and Monroe Development Corporation of Alexandria, won local and national building awards, such as honorable mention in the 1936 Board of Trade’s merit awards for a four-family flat in the northeast. He was a leader in the development community, serving as president of the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Washington and as a director of National Capitol Bank, along with George A Didden, Jr. in the 1940s and as secretary of the Board of Trade in the 1950s.
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