As there are no farms remaining in the District of Columbia and only a handful of agricultural outbuildings left, the Scheele-Brown Farmhouse represents its own vanished small farm, and by extension, the others that have been lost. It also represents Washington’s early meat industry, particularly the business of butchering, in which most of the farmers immediately north and west of Georgetown, including the Scheeles and the Browns, were engaged from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth. Such farms were the entry points for cattle purchased at and driven from the larger farms of Maryland and Virginia. They were processing centers to get meat, beef and mutton especially, from the hoof to the market, performing a crucial service to a rapidly increasing urban population after the Civil War. In addition to generating greater self sufficiency and additional family income from raising diversified products, butchers’ farms provided fodder and water for their cattle, space for stock pens and slaughterhouses, and a buffer between these slaughterhouses and neighbors.
It is one of a few remaining farm dwellings standing in the District of Columbia. Although agrarian Washington County was relatively sparsely populated, farmhouses were once ubiquitous there, occupied by the small landholder and more numerous than the estates of the wealthy. Yet, because they were modest, such buildings were more commonly moved and demolished as the tide of suburbanization swept over fields, pastures and woodlots.
The last District farms vanished in the 1950s, but large estate houses have been better preserved, as homes or institutions, than have the modest ones that might be said to have been more common or characteristic. A simple side-gable vernacular house with traces of Greek Revival influence, the Scheele-Brown house represents the modest farmhouses that typified the rural areas surrounding Washington City prior to the proliferation of suburban subdivisions after the 1870s. In addition to providing a dwelling for each owner of the farm, the building almost certainly served as a home to tenants and servants.
The farmhouse’s period of significance should be considered to extend from 1865, its construction date, to 1915, the date when Walter M. Brown, the last farmer-butcher occupant of the property, moved away, and it lost its connection to the surrounding Brown farm and to the meat industry. Shortly thereafter, the parcel was sold and became indistinguishable in use from later suburban residences, although it remained a four-acre lot until subdivided for additional house lots in 1961.
DC Inventory: September 12, 2013