JE Martin Peaked-Dormer Bungalows

202, 206 & 212 East Nelson Avenue

202 East Nelson (ex 213 E Linden)

This, lot 26 of Cottage Park, was one of three lots purchased by the National Florence Crittenton Mission on January 1929. Presumably it served briefly in its intended role as a half-way house for women, but it was resold to Harring & Wohlfarth in December, the latter morphing into Wallace & Herring. They would keep it as a rental unit for the next twelve years, although the great depression was hardly an ideal time to either rent or sell.

Indeed, for much of that time the house simply remained vacant. The first tenant did not show up until 1933. At that time Charles W Fleet, a printer by trade, and his wife Elizabeth moved in. They only stayed about two years before move a few blocks over to Alexandria Avenue. The main tennants of the house arrived in 1935, Arthur and Mary Margaret “Maggie” Gray.

They had married in 1898 had daughter Jessie May in 1899, daughter Mabel in 1903, son Charles Kenneth in 1908, daughter Margarette in 1912 and son Melvin in 1920.

The backstory is significant. Jessie had married Byron Raulston in December 1916 and they briefly moved to Richmond before having daughter Madeleine and moving back to live with the Gray family on North Fairfax Street. Mabel married Milton Penn in 1919, they moved to Rosemont and had son Milton Jr in 1922 and daughter Naomi in 1927. In June 1929 Margarette married Anthony Agnew, who worked for Fruit Growers Express. The same month Charles married Vita Bowman in DC. Unfortunately, Byron Raulston had died of tuberculosis in 1928, aged only 28, leaving Jessie and daughters Madeleine and Vivian. By 1930, Jessie had remarried to Fenton Herbert and was living with her new husband and the two girls in DC.

By April 1930 the Gray household on North Fairfax held Arthur and Maggie, along with Margarette and Anthony Agnew and Charles and Vita Gray, and Melvin. In 1935 they moved to 202 East Nelson. Within a few years, however, Jessie and husband Fenton Herbert had decamped to California, taking Vivian with them. Daughter Madeleine, however, had married Thomas Pilkerton, a federal clerk, and, in 1937, gave birth to son Robert. The west apparently held less magic for them and instead they moved in with Arthur and Maggie, her grandparents on East Nelson.

Thus, by April 1940 the house held Arthur and Maggie, their youngest son Melvin, a public school janitor, and the three Pilkertons, four generations of the Gray family.

Wallace & Herring finally found a suitable buyer for the house in the form of Martin and Adeline Kidd, who purchased it in June 1941. Martin, then 23, and Adeline, 17, had married in 1927 and lived with his older brother Bradley, also a railroad car builder for Fruit Growers Express in the early 1930s. They moved around old town quite a bit, including after daughter Betty Jean was born in March 1932. By 1941 they had saved up enough money to make the down payment and take out $3,919 in mortgages to buy 202 E Nelson, with brother Edward co-signing the notes.

They raised Betty there through high school and then working as a secretary until she met Richard Spreitzer, a young Marine officer just back from combat in Korea. Betty and Richard married in December 1954 and he continued his Marine career, retiring at 20 years as a lieutenant colonel with combat service in Vietnam as well. He then picked up his MBA and started his second career.

With Betty gone Martin and Adeline had the house to themselves, as he continued to work as a car builder and inspector. They finally sold the house in November 1966, after 25 years there, to Warren and Lorraine Godfrey, with the buyers taking out a $15,900 mortgage that specified that the instrument included the kitchen's Maid-o-Matic range and Frigidaire refrigerator, along with storm doors and windows and venetian blinds.

Betty Jean Kidd's GW HS Photo in 1949

206 East Nelson (ex 209 E Linden)

This was yet another of Herring & Wohlfarth properties to serve as a rental unit until it was taken over by Wallace & Herring in late 1935. Once again, the great depression made finding long term tenants and, later, buyers, difficult.

In 1932 the tenant was Harry H Clark, a steamfitter, and wife Geneva. For 1934 it was Clarence and Emma Judd. In 1936 it was Ruth V Payne and her children Ralph, Francis, Harold, Grover, Nancy and David, of whom Ruth, Ralph and Harold worked. The father, Grover C Payne, appears to have left the picture by this point.

In May 1938 W&H finally succeeded in finding buyers, Ray and Bessie Hutcheson. Ray was a 43-year-old book binder with the Government Printing Office; while Bessie supervised, or tried to, 23-year-old Ethlyn Lorraine, 20-year-old Anita, and 16-year-old Howard In fact, Anita was pregnant and in the process of running away to get married to a fellow named Chapman, and Lorraine was engaged to William Dalkin, a clerk. By the end of the year they would be married and living in DC. Anita, on the other hand, quickly got a divorce and moved back home with daughter Ethlyn Rae.

Thus, by April 1940 the house held Ray and Bessie, along with son Howard, daughter Anita and her daughter, and Edith Peck, 30-year-old telephone operator living there as a boarder. Anita remarried in May of 1941, this time to Joseph Brooks a machinist. This appears to have been less rushed, and it lasted a lifetime.

With two of three kids out of the house they sold it in June 1942 to Charles and Margaret Butcher. Charles' parents had come over from England and set up, first a fruit stand, later expanded to a grocery store. Charles was born in Alexandria in September 1912 and took up work in his father's stall before marrying Margaret Finnell in November 1935 in Ellicott City.

Charles and Margaret, along with daughter Sharon, born in 1935, lived in the house for a little over six years. In December 1948 they sold it to Edwin and Carrie Thompson, he a trainman for the RF&P. They had no children, so when they needed money they sold the house in January 1950 to Charles A Barker, but retained a life estate – meaning they held the house for as long as they lived, Barker would just have to wait them out for his house.

Perhaps a bit dark, but it is possible Barker thought his ship had come at least partway home when Edwin suffered a massive heart attack and passed away at age 57 in July 1952. Carrie, however, was made of sterner stuff. In fact, Charles Barker himself passed away waiting. Unfortunately, on his death in February 1962 it was discovered that he had left no will, nor did he have any known spouse nor children.

Not to worry, Edward Barker and Lucille Barker Brown, a nephew and a niece, stepped forward to claim the estate. But not so fast said Mary Suelston Barker (AKA Mary Sue Carpenter). She came forward with her husband John H Carpenter to claim that she had married Charles Barker in Richmond in November 1920 and that that marriage had never officially ended in divorce or annulment. In any event, all that is known now is that in 1939 the DC government announced that Charles A Barker and Mary Suelston Barker were delinquent on their real estate tax there to the sum of $38. It thus appears that they actually were married. Presumably the delicate matter of her having a second husband without properly disposing of the first was a subject of some discussion in the lawyers' offices. In any event, the parties agreed to sell the house and hold the proceeds in escrow for distribution later when the dust settled. Thus, in November 1963 the house was sold to Louis and Cecelia Kelso.

The Kelsos and their two children lived there at least the next twenty years.

212 E Nelson (ex 203 E Linden)

JE Martin had actually managed to sell this house, in January 1928 to Norman and Mattie Spilman, but for some reason the sale fell through and they re-transferred it back to Martin a month later. Thus, it wound up as one of Margaret Polwarth's properties and she finally sold it to Ella Kaubler in October 1934, who sold it to Lesly and Elizabeth McWhorter in August 1937.

Lesly had been born in Fairfax County in 1873 and married Elizabeth Babbit in 1899. He began as an insurance investigator in Richmond and soon moved to Lizzie's sister's house in Washington, DC as an agent for the Universal Life Insurance Co. Elizabeth gave birth to five sons: William in 1901, Elbridge in 1903, John in 1906, Lesly Jr [he sometimes spelled it Leslie] in 1909, and Thomas in 1910. In 1916 John drowned after falling into a canal in DC and shortly thereafter the family moved to Alexandria.

The family seems to have done well in Alexandria. The sons all soon moved out of the house and married, serving as police and firefighters, although Lesly Jr, serving in the Navy, moved back into the family house between marriages in 1947. The health of the parents, however, was in decline, and in September 1948 they transferred title to the house to the four sons. Lesly suffered from diabetes and arteriosclerosis and finally passed away of congestive heart disease in June 1950. Elizabeth, at that point a frail 79 years old, could no longer live by herself and in October 1950 the sons moved her to a nursing home and sold the house. She passed away in June 1952.

The new owners were Louis and Edna Prisaznick, who took out a mortgage for $6,000. Louis was the son of Wesley (Vasily) Prisaznick, who had moved to the US from the Ukraine in 1910, married and worked as a car repairer for the Fruit Growers Express railroad company. He was born in December 1919 and grew up in his parents' home on 1301 Queen Street, and himself took a job with FGE, although as a clerk and time keeper. In October 1940 he married Edna Russell and they had three children including David in 1942 and Katie in 1948

They raised a fine family on East Nelson, but suffered a terrible loss in August 1966. Louis had suffered from diabetes since age 20 and when hypertension developed it was too much, he passed away at Circle Terrace Hospital in August 1966 at only 46 years old. At the same time the kids got married and moved out on their own lives and in December 1968 Edna sold the house, ending 18 years and a full family at that address.

The new owners were Carl and Judith Showstead, who got a mortage for $18,500 and owned it until 1973.

Wesley and granddaughter Kathi in front of 212 E Nelson in 1955

The floor plan of 212 E Nelson in its original (1950s) configuration, courtesy Kathi Yates