Washington, DC

Then and Now by the House History Man is a series by Paul K. Williams. Paul has been researching house histories in DC since 1995, having completed more than 1,500 to date. Read Paul’s previous post here.

The large house at 420 Constitution Avenue, NE on Capitol Hill was the longtime home to Samuel Hamilton Walker and his family. And by long time, I mean long time: from the time they moved into the newly completed house shortly after their wedding in 1872, Mrs. Susan Walker at least, would live there for the next 70 years, until her death in 1942. Samuel Walker would live there until his death in 1938.

Walker is one of those individuals who doesn’t get much press today, but during his life he was well known in Washington. Why? He built hundreds of houses, especially on NE Capitol Hill, including most of those found on his own block. He had his own real estate development company, located in the Walker Building at 458 Louisiana Avenue (since razed). He was a DC native, having been born here in 1844, and after obtaining a degree from Columbian College, began working in the city’s land record’s office. His national Capital Investment Company eventually built the District Building, which he wisely rented to the city.

Walker had volunteered to defend Washington for four days during the Civil War without enlistment, and that led to him being named the Major and Superintendent of the Police Department in 1886. The Walker house remains at the corner of Constitution and B Streets, NE, partly obscured by trees. The ornate railing atop the corner turret has unfortunately disappeared, however.

Vintage Photographs from The Book of Washington, 1903.


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