K Street in 1850

K St. backyards, Washington, DC, Library of Congress/enclos*ureView from the second story of the home of Mrs. John Rodgers at Franklin Row, K Street, N.W., between 12th and 13th Streets, in Washington, D.C.

The watercolor* depicts the backyard and adjacent neighborhood and shows children standing on balconies.

It was painted by Montgomery C. Meigs.  Mrs. Rodgers was Meigs’s mother-in-law and the widow of Commodore John Rogers, a naval hero.

Despite the modest appearance of the yard and surroundings, Mrs. Rodgers was wealthy and socially well-connected.   Even well-to-do Washington in the 1850s seems to have had a somewhat ramshackle look.

You will need to click on the image to get a larger view.  Here’s what the downtown city block looks like now.

As a military engineer, Meigs left his mark on the capital.  In the 1850s, he supervised the building of the Washington Aqueduct and the Union Arch Bridge, as well as the wings and dome of the Capitol Building.  He also played an important role in the early design of Arlington National Cemetery, and he designed and supervised the construction of the Pension Building (now the National Building Museum).

*Via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.