Emerald Street NE, or Emerson Street prior to 1950, is a one-block-long "minor" residential street located between 13th and 14th and E and F Streets NE at the center of Square 1029 in east Capitol Hill. The street is lined with several intact and attached Queen Anne-style rowhouses built between 1892 and 1896.
For the first century of Washington, DC’s history, the square remained undeveloped like many others around it. In 1891, real estate speculators, William Mayse (1836-1911) and Louis D. Wine (1838-1905), purchsed the land and began the re-subdivision of the square. By choosing an undeveloped square, Mayse and Wine were free to re-imagine its development potential in accordance with new building regulations and trends, without the inconvenience and expense of having to remove existing buildings, or re-lay existing streets and alleyways. During this period, businessmen invested in real estate as the demand grew for middle-class housing to accommadate the city's growing population and government workforce.
By 1892, the new subdivision provided 170 narrow, rowhouse-sized urban lots. Within months of the subdivision's completion, architect and builder George P. Newton (1865-1945) entered the speculative building market. Newton bought dozens of lots on Square 1029 and began construction of a series of rowhouses, eventually building sixty-two of the seventy-five houses on Emerald Street and twenty-seven more on E and F Streets.
Newton worked with architect Nicolas T. Haller (1855 -1917) on some of his Emerald Street buildings, while on others, Newton acted as both owner and architect. Haller, a late-nineteenth to early-twentieth-century architect, is known for his eclectic designs that ranged from ornamental high Victorian buildings to more classical building forms and treatments. On Emerald Street, Haller’s designs follow the standard pattern for the street with ornamentation limited to rusticated stone window lintels and corbelled brick cornices.
Until the 1940s, the modest-sized single-family dwellings of Emerald Street attracted white, middle-class residents where the head of household held an array of professions from grocery clerk to teacher, policeman, milliner and more. By 1945, several African Americans had made their home on Emerald Street. As "white flight" took hold of the city, some white tenants became absentee landlords. By the 1950s, Emerald Street suffered from disinvestment, a trend that continued for years, exacerbated by the 1968 riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The H Street Urban Renewal Area, created to revitalize riot-damaged areas of the city, included Emerald Street and ultimately led to the rehabilitation, rather than removal, of the street’s nineteenth-century buildings.
DC Inventory: May 25, 2017
National Register: September 5, 2017