Don’t Mind the Gap


I’ve been enjoying our looks at streets that have an aberration in the regular strip of row houses. I found this block curious because it is one of the few I’ve seen that had a gap not caused by an alley. Do you suppose it happened because someone measured wrong? It’s from 11th street just north of Otis in Columbia Heights.

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  • Some alleys in dc are pedestrian only. They were built that way and some people take the space over.

  • That is a private lot that belongs to the house on the right. Chalk the gap up to the vagaries of history/development – the way the lots were divided/subdivided over time. Don’t read too much into it.

  • It looks like it was a passageway in a former life. A place to get from the street to the alley or backyards without having to go all the way to the end of the block.

    • That is what I am guessing.

      In the early 20th century there was a big push in DC to close up the alleys and their entrances because they had become very dangerous and people were living in them (when there weren’t necessarily in permanent structures) in horrid conditions.

  • OOOOh a yard! Notice the fence for the painted house on the right, it’s their yard. I want. Imagine the gardening one can do with a yard that size.
    But yeah, it is a history of development quirk. Don’t believe the property database that says 1/2 of everything was built in 1900. Clearly the houses on the left were built by a different builder. If they were the same style that would be one thing.

  • Also the builder for the houses on the right may have had a cookie cutter plan for houses of a certain size and it just wasn’t worth it to recalibrate to get his stretch of houses to fit the lots he was working on. Because if you’re working with an architect you just can add a couple of feet willy nilly.

    CAPTCHA- bongoes provided

  • I wish you hadn’t shown this to the whole world, because now some developer is going to swoop in, buy this lot, and build a six-foot-wide building containing four condo units.

  • This block of 11th is one of my fav’s. There’s representation of so many styles of DC rowhouses just on that one block near Spring.

  • It does appear to be an ally, the house on the left wouldn’t be permitted to have the window on the side if it abutted a property line

  • Or they just decided to add the window there because there was no house blocking the side. Happens all the time.

  • In the effort to solve the mystery I looked at the old Sanborn maps. Since I am not an expert in reading these and knowing all the symbols I am still not sure I got it right but here goes.

    For 1903-1916 (vol. 1, sheet 106) street names are different. There is no 11th (Eslin Ave. I think) or 10th (was Morgan Ave. I think). As for the perpendicular streets there is a Lydecker (became what is Monroe now I think) but the next street up is Lamar Place (may, may be Otis now). There is a lot of unused space interspersed with houses but I can’t go north on the map which is where I need to go to see this block.

    However, Otis does show up and this location is on the 1928 edition (vol. 3 sheet 377). Even then there was no address indicated (jumps from 1308 to 1314). Reading these maps for all the symbols is a bit of a problem but it may have been an auto house or private garage because there are indications that there was a roof of some sort.

    The difference in D (for dwelling) and A (for auto) is not as clear as I would like. Towards the front of the property there is a 1 over a little hollow circle. The number indicates the stories and the hollow circle indicates that there is a roof of some sort. There is a dashed line at the front of the property and midway though which may be the front/back walls. Since from the Google picture this space belongs to the house on the right, the double line on the 1314 property from the Sanborn map may mean this lot belonged to that address then as well.

  • My guess is that the buildings on either side were built at different times. I just bought a house that is new construction and is next to houses built in the turn of the century and there is a 3′ gap between my house and the existing house it is next to. I’m not really sure who owns that land, but as it is a row house in DC, it is probably owned by DC as they own all the land around the footprint of row houses.

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