Scheele-Brown Farmhouse

The Scheele-Brown Farmhouse is a rare extant reminder of small-scale farming and butchering activities in early DC.

The Scheele-Brown Farmhouse, named for the first two families that occupied the building and the only residents who farmed the surrounding land while living there, was constructed in the latter half of 1865. As there are no farms remaining in DC 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 to the early-twenieth centuries. 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.

The last District farms vanished in the 1950s, but large estate houses have been better preserved 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 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 operated from 1865, when it was built, until 1915, 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