Historic Structures

Bronaugh-Bibb-Libbey House, Washington DC

Date added: October 18, 2010 Categories: House

According to tax records, there was a two-story house valued at $500 on the lot during 1818-1819. It is probable that this was what is now the rear portion of the present dwelling, constructed by John Bronaugh shortly after he purchased the property in 1816.

Between 1865 and 1870, Lot 110 was assessed with "Improvements--3-story brick and frame dwelling--$1000". This refers to the front portion of the dwelling, presumably added to the earlier two-story structure by the Bibbs after they became owners of the house in 1854.

The land on which this house stands was part of John Threlkeld's extensive holdings. He sold it in 1815 to John Bronaugh, another large landowner.

The existence of a two-story frame house on the lot in 1818-19 indicates that Bronaugh built here soon after his purchase. In 1819 Bronaugh, because of financial difficulties, had to dispose of his property. Lot 110 was assigned to the Clerk, of the Georgetown Corporation. For the next few years Bronaugh and his family tried, through a number of trusts and loans, to hold on to their property.

Bronaugh's efforts, however, were unsuccessful. By the 1830s Georgetown's trade had declined and many property owners were feeling the economic pinch. In August of 1833 Lot 110, along with some adjoining property of Bronaugh's, was conveyed at public sale to the Bank of the United States.

Rebecca Ford, the next owner of the house, is reputed to have been a schoolmistress. It is not clear whether she occupied the house. In 1854 she deeded the property to her daughter, Mary Rebecca Bibb, wife of Judge George M. Bibb. In the following year's City Directory Bibb is listed at 55 Fayette Street, a house just south of 59 Fayette Street which the Bibbs also owned. Presumably the two neighboring dwellings were required to house the Bibb's seventeen children. Between 1865 and 1870, Mrs. Bibb owned a considerable amount of property of Fayette (35th) Street and Second (O) Street.

Judge Bibb was a well-known, colorful figure. He served in the Kentucky legislature and twice represented Kentucky in the United States Senate. He became Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals in Kentucky and later was Chancellor of the Court of Chancery in Louisville. In 1822-23 he pleaded before the Virginia Legislature and the United States Supreme Court in land claim cases with Henry Clay. In 1844 President Tyler appointed Bibb Secretary of the Treasury. Although he went out of office with Tyler on March 4, 1845, Bibb remained in Washington for the rest of his life, practicing before District courts and serving as chief cleric in the Attorney General's Office. Judge Bibb was also an accomplished gardener and enjoyed good salads. He died at the age of 81.

John D. McGill, who owned the house from 1873 to 1877 and used it as security for a trust was proprietor of The Georgetown Courier. The Libbeys, the next owners of the house, were a prominent Georgetown family. Joseph Libbey, the father of Joseph, John S. and Frank who were owners of the house, started his career as a carpenter. In 1829, he established his own lumber firm, Joseph Libbey and Son, on Water (K) Street near Congress (31st) Street. The Libbey family owned a great deal of property in Georgetown, Joseph built two house on the northeast corner of West (P) Street and Congress (31st) Street which were owned by the family for many years. He also built two houses on Congress Street for two of his many daughters.

Libbey's sons took over the management of the family lumber yard. John S. Libbey started the Congress Street Methodist Church in Georgetown. He built many homes, including three for his children. He also constructed the house at 3053 P Street which President Kennedy's parents rented at the time of their son's Inauguration.

In 1923 Mary R. Libbey Chapin, Joseph's daughter, sold 1408 35th Street to Francesco Lo Bianco, a contractor, who lived at 3034 O Street. He rented the house a few years, first to a painter, and then to a laborer. In 1930 the house was vacant, but the following year, Lo Bianco and his wife moved into the house and operated a real estate business at the same address. They shared the house for some time with George F Hanoweil, a decorator, who lived there and operated his business in the building. By 1948 the Lo Bianco's were the sole inhabitants of the house, continuing to maintain their real estate business in their home until 1954. At that time the building was purchased by Nan Tucker McEvoy.

Over-all dimensions: Approximately 24'-0" by 26'-0" with a 30'-0" by 23'-0" ell on the rear. The front portion is two-and-one-half stories; the rear portion is two stories; there is a full basement. The facade is three bays wide.

Bronaugh-Bibb-Libbey House, Washington DC