Home > History of Wine > Bomford, Lindsay, and Smith: The Early Vineyards of Washington, DC

Bomford, Lindsay, and Smith: The Early Vineyards of Washington, DC


In conducting research for my previous post “Near the President’s House”: The Advertisements of William Cox, Wine Merchant, Washington, DC 1826-1827 I came across Jonathan Elliot’s Historical Sketches of 1830. In this book he describes three vineyards in Washington, DC: John Adlum’s vineyard in Georgetown, Samuel Harrison Smith’s vineyard at Sidney, and Thomas W. Pairo’s near Rock Hill. John Adlum’s Georgetown vineyard has been described to some detail in Thomas Pinney’s History of Wine in America, Volume 1. In researching the vineyards of Smith and Pairo I came across two references to Adam Lindsay’s vineyard. It turns out that this vineyard was described by John A. Saul on April 9, 1906 when he presented a paper on the history of nurseries in the District to the Columbia Historical Society.[1] He also references David Baillie Warden’s District of Columbia book published in 1816. In this book a Mr. Maine is described as having a nursery about two miles north of Georgetown where he “grew grapes, fruit, and other trees.” Whether these were table or wine grapes is unspecified.

Capitol and part of Washington City. Kollner, Augustus. 1839. No. DRWG/US - Kollner, no. 9.Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Capitol and part of Washington City. Kollner, Augustus. 1839. No. DRWG/US – Kollner, no. 9.Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

John Adlum advertised the sale of grape vine cuttings and slips for both table grapes and wine grapes. According to Thomas Pinney, John Adlum noted that he was out supplied by the demand for his vine cuttings in 1824.[2] His advertisements appear in the Daily National Journal as early as March 4, 1826[3] and as late as May 20, 1829[4]. Thomas Pinney notes that John Adlum faded from publicity between 1830 and his death in 1836, though he continued to cultivate vines and make wine.

Topographical map of the District of Columbia. McClelland, Blanchard & Mohun, 1861. No. G3850 1861 .B6.  Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Topographical map of the District of Columbia. McClelland, Blanchard & Mohun, 1861. No. G3850 1861 .B6. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

All three vineyards featured in this post were described in publications from 1830. Colonel Bomford’s vineyard could have been planted as early as 1822 and Samuel Harrison Smith’s vineyard was perhaps planted in the mid 1820s. Colonel Bomford and Samuel Harrison Smith socialized together. Samuel Harrison Smith was friends with Thomas Jefferson with whom John Adlum corresponded with. It is plausible that these men were aware of each other’s vineyards. It is also plausible that John Adlum supplied Colonel Bomford, Adam Lindsay, and Samuel Harrison Smith with vine cuttings. I do find it interesting that the history of these vineyards appears to fall silent after 1830.

After publishing this post I came across reference to The First Autumnal Exhibition of the Columbian Horticultural Society held on September 21-22, 1837. In the Report of the Committee on Fruits the following people submitted grape vine samples: “The lady of the President of the Society” [wife of Colonel N. Townson] presented Catawba and Isabella grapes, Mrs Seaton presented a dishes of Isabella and Catawba grapes, Mr. George Shoemaker had “a noble display of Catawba grapes, Judge Morrell had “very fine black Malaga grapes, from a vine raised by himself from seed”, Georgetown College had a “handsome bunches of grapes”, Mr. Kurtz, Jr. presented “a neat frame containing bunches of Catawba grapes tastefully arranged”, along with grapes from Adam Lindsay which I have listed below. Clearly grape cultivation continued into the 1830s, whether wine was produced from these vines needs to be determined.

Colonel George Bomford’s Vine Hill

In the mid 18th century Anthony Holmead purchased large parcels of land near Georgetown and Rock Creek.[5] In the 1790s he had his property resurveyed and subdivided including a 56 acre estate named Rock Hill. He also sold 30 acres and his first house to Gustavus Scott who renamed the property Belair. The property changed hands a few times until Joel Barlow purchased it in 1807 and renamed it Kalorama. Anthony Holmead had died in 1802 leaving property to his wife and children. His daughter Loveday married real estate broker Thomas W. Pairo in 1805. Together they acquired and lived at Rock Hill. Colonial George Bomford purchased Joel Barlow’s Kalorama estate in 1822. He acquired additional property increasing its size to 90 acres. By 1826, Colonel Bomford had also acquired the Cliffbourne estate.

Washington, D.C. Ruins of Kalorama Hospital. 1865. No. LC-B817- 7690. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Washington, D.C. Ruins of Kalorama Hospital. 1865. No. LC-B817- 7690. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Colonel Bomford was the Chief of Ordnance for the United States Army during the War of 1812. He subsequently speculated in real estate. His Cliffbourne house was located on the western most part of the property which jutted out to the Rock Creek Valley. In 1826 he used the property as collateral to secure a loan from the Bank of the United States.

In 1830 Jonathan Elliot described Thomas W. Pairo as having “a fine thriving vineyard of the choicest vines.” Thomas W. Pairo’s estate was described as east of Kalorama “on this beautiful ridge.” On March 18, 1830 Thomas W. Pairo advertised “VINE HILL FOR SALE OR RENT”.[6] The property was described as that of Colonel G. Bomford located one mile north of the President’s House and near Kalorama. It was of seven acres in size “well enclosed with 5 to 6 thousand Grape Vines mostly in a bearing state.” Applications could be made to Thomas W. Pairo at Rock Hill adjacent to Vine Hill.

Mr. Smith in his 1816 Chorographical notes only one grape vine at Joel Barlow’s estate. Near the summer house “is a white walnut of about a foot in diameter, perforated by a grape vine of three inches in circumference, which has been squeezed to death by the growth of the tree.”[21] General Henry Dearborn was noted in an 1846 report that “When I was in Congress…[o]n the plantation once the seat of Joel Barlow, a man of considerable reputation as a horticulturalist, the foreign vines had been dug up, and native substituted.” [20] General Henry Dearborn served as Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal from May 7, 1822 to June 30, 1824.[22] Upon being recalled at his request he returned to Massachusetts where he died on June 6, 1829. This implies grapevines were cultivated after 1816 and before 1822 or 1824. I have not come across any other references to Vine Hill.

Crop from District of Columbia. Evans & Bartle, 1892. Digital ID g3850m gct00007. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Crop from District of Columbia. Evans & Bartle, 1892. Digital ID g3850m gct00007. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

In looking at the 1892 cropped map, the Kalorama estate appears towards the bottom center of the map and was approached by a long driveway entered near Florida Avenue and R Street. Just north-east of Kalorama is a house with a circular drive in front of it. This is the Rock Hill estate. This map does not show any small seven acre property but it does help as a reference. Jonathan Elliot describes Thomas W. Pairo and Colonel Michael Nourse as possessing “snug little country seats” to the east of Kalorama.

Crop from Topographical map of the District of Columbia. McClelland, Blanchard & Mohun, 1861. No. G3850 1861 .B6.  Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Crop from Topographical map of the District of Columbia. McClelland, Blanchard & Mohun, 1861. No. G3850 1861 .B6. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

In the 1861 cropped map Kalorama is located just above “E. Lyons” and “Lyons Mill” which are located towards the bottom of the map just above Rock Creek. Just above the unlabeled Kalorama appear the properties of Mrs. J. Kall and Prof. C. Jewett. In comparing the 1861 and 1892 maps I believe that Prof. C. Jewett’s property is Rock Hill. That would make Mrs. J Kall’s property Vine Hill. However, Stephen A. Hansen notes in Kalorama Triangle that Thomas W. Pairo’s daughter Sophia Kall inherited Rock Hill. If the Kall property is in fact Rock Hill then perhaps the small square property to the northwest of it was Vine Hill.

The Vineyard of Adam Lindsay

Crop from Plant of the city of Washington. Elliot, William. 1829. No. G3850 1829 .E4. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Crop from Plan of the city of Washington. Elliot, William. 1829. No. G3850 1829 .E4. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Adam Lindsay was an early resident of Washington, DC. On May 9, 1810 “AN ACT making appropriations to pay certain balances due by corporation” was passed by the City of Washington. In it the treasurer was authorized to pay Adam Lindsay, “a commissioner for building a reservoir near the Eastern Branch market house”, $90 for the balance due in building the reservoir.[7] His name appears throughout the history of Washington, DC. For example, upon being alarmed at the construction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad he represented the Sixth Ward in a committee in 1827 to further the interesting of the Capitol City Canal.[8] On August 21, 1833 The Columbian Horticultural Society was organized with Adam Lindsay as one of the officers.[9]

Plan of the Navy Yard at Washington, D.C. June 1, 1891. No. G3852.W352 1881 .P5.Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Plan of the Navy Yard at Washington, D.C. June 1, 1891. No. G3852.W352 1881 .P5.Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Adam Lindsay surely would have joined the Horticultural Society because on March 8, 1830 the Daily National Journal announced “Mr. Lindsay’s Vineyard.”[10] The short article claimed that Adam Lindsay had “succeeded in naturalizing some valuable foreign vines, and raising several species of the native grape not generally cultivated.” They recommended the vineyard to “the attention of citizens and strangers who may chance to visit the Metropolis.” On the very same page appears an advertisement by Adam Linday titled, “Grape Cuttings.” It states that a “Large quantity of Cuttings of the finest Grapes for sale at the Vineyard” which was “residing near the Navy Hospital.”

City of Washington from beyond the Navy Yard. Bennett, W. J. 1833. No LOT 4386-A. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

City of Washington from beyond the Navy Yard. Bennett, W. J. 1833. No LOT 4386-A. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

In the early 1800s the Department of the Navy “designed two small frame structures” to serve as the medical facility as the Navy Yard.[11] Whether the vineyard was located next to the hospital within the Navy Yard or adjacent to the hospital outside the Navy Yard is unclear. In Bennett’s drawing I do not see a vineyard but there are are grassy areas within the Navy Yard and several small hills surrounding it. Perhaps the vineyard was located on one of these hills.

Adam Lindsay was still cultivating the vine in the late 1830s. At The First Autumnal Exhibition of the Columbian Horticultural Society held on September 21-22, 1837 (?) he presented a branch from a grape vine. It “contained such abundance of the finest grapes as would have puzzled Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua, the son of Nun, to have borne off from the land of promise without detection.”[19]

The Sidney estate of Samuel Harrison Smith

Samuel Harrison Smith (1772-1845) was the son of Jonathan Bayard Smith, a member of the Continental Congress and signer of the Articles of Confederation. His early career involved writing and editing in Philadelphia before founding the first national newspaper The National Intelligencer. In 1813, he was appointed Commissioner of the Revenue for the United States Treasury, became Secretary of the Treasury in 1814, as well as serving as the president of the Bank of Washington then president of the Washington branch of the Bank of the United States. On September 29, 1800 he married his second cousin Margaret Bayard. She was the daughter of Colonel John Bubenheim Bayard and Margaret Hodge. Her father was a member of the Continental Congress and was later encamped with General George Washington at Valley Forge when she was born. She wrote several books including The Diversions of Sidney (1805), A Winter in Washington, or Memoirs of the Seymour Family (1824), and What is Gentility? (1825). In 1906 Gaillard Hunt edited a collection of her letters and notebooks in the book The First Forty Years of Washington Society. Her writings detail the close relationship with President Thomas Jefferson.

Samuel Harrison Smith moved to Washington, DC when president-elect Thomas Jefferson suggested he create an official record of the new administration. Samuel Harrison Smith had a house in the city of Washington, DC. Shortly after marriage he purchased “Turkey Thicket” as a country seat. Turkey Thicket was originally granted and surveyed for John Magruder in September 1736 when it was located within Montgomery County, Maryland.[12] It comprised some 160 acres of land.[13] Samuel Harrison Smith acquired Turkey Thicket in 1804 paying $10 per acre. At the time it had been owned by Henry Duley, who had died intestate prior to 1802, thus leaving his ten children as heirs. Samuel Harrison Smith sold the land on January 1, 1839 to Mr. France[14] after which it was purchased by the Middleton family in 1844 for $12,0000. On October 27, 1886, land was purchased for Catholic University included the Middleton estate for $27,000.[15] Unfortunately, Samuel Harrison Smith had never paid $74 for Eleanor Duley’s portion of the Turkey Thicket estate. It was not until June 26, 1889 that the title was cleared.[16] Samuel Harrison Smith’s house was incorporated by the Middletons and the University into a yellow brick addition on three sides. It was eventually demolished in 1970.

Mr. Smith in his 1816 Chorographical describes the “Residence of Harrison Smith, Esq.” He notes the “surrounding little hills, covered with trees, are truly romantic.” He lists some 23 “trees and shrubs” as growing on the property including “Wild Grape of different kinds.” Mr. Smith does not mention an orchard and gives the general impression that the land was undeveloped.

Jonathan Elliot describes Sidney in 1830 as “Among the commanding sites that surround the City.”[17] The house was approached through a long avenue of sycamore and locust trees, eventually reaching an altitude of 300 feet above the tide water. The house itself was surrounded with shrubbery from which, gradually descending down, were “a great variety of the choicest fruits”. From this point the ground ascended and in full view of the house were the orchard and vineyard. The orchard was “principally of Hughes’ Crab, with vines, of numerous sorts, occupying alternate rows.” Both foreign and domestic fruits grew well “with great luxuriance, and the fruit seldom fails of attaining maturity.” Exactly how many rows and their length are unstated. The soils were “chiefly silicious and so light and deep as to admit the roots to shoot with vigour.” Though the tree fruit grew well the “great staple will probably be the vine, to which the soil and the gentle undulations of the ground are so highly favourable.” Jonathan Elliot then concludes in confirmation of Volney that “this region of country, from its aspect and soil, bore a striking resemblance to that surrounding Bordeaux, in France.”

First Crop from Topographical map of the District of Columbia. McClelland, Blanchard & Mohun, 1861. No. G3850 1861 .B6.  Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

First Crop from Topographical map of the District of Columbia. McClelland, Blanchard & Mohun, 1861. No. G3850 1861 .B6. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

I still have not found any other descriptions of the grape vines of the Sidney estate. The early maps of the Library of Congress show detail within the city of Washington but outside lie only creeks, rivers, and major roads. The Middleton estate is labeled in the Topographical Map of the District of Columbia published by McClelland, Blanchard & Mohun in 1861 as surveyed in 1856-1859. In the cropped map the United Sates Capitol would be located in the bottom right-hand corner and the Middleton estate in the top left-hand corner. This is actually north of the Capitol but due to the orientation of the map it is diagonal.

Second Crop from Topographical map of the District of Columbia. McClelland, Blanchard & Mohun, 1861. No. G3850 1861 .B6.  Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Second Crop from Topographical map of the District of Columbia. McClelland, Blanchard & Mohun, 1861. No. G3850 1861 .B6. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

The second cropped map reveals the Middleton estate in the center. At the bottom, middle of the map the road splits with the long tree-line driveway branching off from the middle of the split. The third cropped map is from the District of Columbia engraved by Evans & Bartle 1892 – 1894. The estate layout remains the same despite the surrounding development of thirty years. It appears that mature trees are large green shapes with shrubbery or young trees as small green shapes. Both estate maps show forests, representing by random trees intermixed with shrubbery, and orchards and avenues represented by neatly spaced trees. In the 1861 map the house is surrounded by trees on the northwestern and southwestern quadrants. These trees are represented by neat roads with little dots in between them. In the 1892 map the trees in the southwest quadrant have been removed. There are no little dots between the northwest quadrant trees but there are little dots, what appear to be shrubbery, surrounding the northern half of the house.

Crop from District of Columbia. Evans & Bartle, 1892. Digital ID g3850m gct00007. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Crop from District of Columbia. Evans & Bartle, 1892. Digital ID g3850m gct00007. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

The orchard and vineyard were reached from the house by gradually descending down then ascending up. The fruit trees and vines were in full view of the house. The topographic scales vary between the two maps but that of the 1892 appear every five feet, thus offering better detail of the terrain. It appears that if one left the house facing due west you would descend from just over 205 feet to 185 to 190 feet in elevation. Continuing west would require a steep ascent to a small peak of 215 feet which would offer a direct view of the house. The 1861 map also reveals neatly spaced trees and small dots in the southeastern quadrant. Jonathan Elliot only described one location for the vineyard and orchard. Jonathan Elliot published his book in 1830 and Samuel Harrison Smith sold the estate in 1839, so it is possible he expanded both the orchard and vineyard.

In sticking to the northwest quadrant the 1861 map reveals approximately five long rows and two short rows of trees oriented on the diagonal. The trees approximately lie on a grid revealing some 36 trees. The rows of trees were planted 30 feet apart. With in a row of vines, they were planted six feet apart. This large spacing was to avoid shade. If the trees were planted on a grid then with a row the trees were spaced 30 feet. The five long rows contain six trees each thus was 150 feet in length. The 1892 maps reveal some eight rows of trees, oriented closer to the vertical, lying on a grid. There are approximately 90 trees in rows from three to 13 trees in length. The longest row would then be 360 feet in length. There is a discrepancy because the grid of trees represents the area of cultivation and not the actual number of trees. Using the scale from both maps I get approximately 525-600 feet as the longest row of trees. If we take the cultivated area to be a rectangle of 300 feet wide by 525 feet long then there would be approximately 17 rows of vines, each with approximately 88 vines. This yields almost 1,500 vines.

The Smith’s both drank wine. On April 26, 1803 Samuel wrote a letter to Margaret after having dinner with Mr. Madison at General Dearborn’s house.[18] After a few bottles of Champagne had been finish Mr. Madison observed “that it was the most delightful wine when drank in moderation, but that more than a few glasses always produced a headache the next day.” Mr. Granger remarked “that this was the very time to try the experiment, as the next day being Sunday would allow time for a recovery from its effects.” This was not “lost upon the host and bottle after bottle came in.” On August 1, 1809 Margaret Bayard Smith described her visit to Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. At one dinner the “table was plainly, but genteely and plentifuly spread, and his immense and costly variety of French and Italian wines, gave place to Madeira and sweet ladies’ wine.”

Jonathan Elliot submitted Historical Sketches to the Clerk of the District Court for the District of Columbia on March 23, 1830. From Samuel Harrison Smith’s vines “Some experiments, of rather favorable issues, have been tried in making wine; but the vines are yet too young to expect much success in this respect.” Given the submission date of Historical Sketches the latest vintage Jonathan Elliot could have written about would be 1829. If the “experiments” consisted of a single vintage and he waited for the third year to produce the wine then the “young” vines could have been planted in the spring of 1826. Thomas Jefferson was a close friend of Margaret and Samuel Harrison Smith. He even visited the Sidney estate. While he might have encouraged Samuel Harrison Smith to plant a vineyard, he was never able to taste the wine.


[1] Columbia Historical Society Records, Volume 10. 1907. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=Dvs7AAAAIAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] Pinney, Thomas. A History of Wine in America, Volume 1. 1989. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=fmcwfK5G_YkC&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[3] Daily National Journal; Date: 03-04-1826; Volume: II; Issue: 486; Page: [1]
[4] Daily National Journal; Date: 05-20-1829; Volume: V; Issue: 1702; Page: [1]
[6] Daily National Journal; Date: 03-18-1830; Volume: VI; Issue: 1957; Page: [3]
[7] Acts of the Corporation of the City of Washington. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=T7IwAQAAMAAJ&pg=PP9#v=onepage&q&f=false
[8] Crew, Harvey W. Centennial History of the City of Washington, D.C. 1892. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=s1lIAAAAYAAJ&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[9] Columbia Historical Society Records, Volume 10. 1907. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=Dvs7AAAAIAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[10] Daily National Journal; Date: 03-08-1830; Volume: VI; Issue: 1948; Page: [3]
[11] Streitmatter, Rodger. History of the Old Naval Hospital. URL: http://www.oldnavalhospital.org/History_Streitmatter.html
[12] Boyd, T.H.S. The History of Montgomery County, Maryland, from its earliest settlement in 1650-1879. 1879. URL: http://archive.org/details/historyofmontgom00boy
[13] Ginck, J.L. Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. 1890. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=KGBJAQAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
[14] Nuesse, C. Joseph. The Catholic University of America: A Centennial History. 1990. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=m0qHDsqzc20C&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[15] St Thomas Hall, St. Thomas Aquinas College, Middletown House. URL: http://archives.lib.cua.edu/vanish/stthomas.cfm
[16] James Gibbons vs. David Duley et al, In Equity, No. 10,243. The Washington Law Reporter, Volume 17. 1890. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=nPMZAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[17] Elliot, Jonathan. Historical Sketches of the Ten Miles Square Forming the District of Columbia. 1830. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=cfsLHcNlHCMC&vq=rock%20hill&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=rock%20hill&f=false
[18] Smith, Margaret Bayard. The First Forty Years of Washington Society. 1906. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=cKEdAAAAMAAJ&pg=PR3#v=onepage&q&f=false
[19] Magazine of Horticulture, Botonay and All Useful Discovered and Improvements in Rural Affairs, Volume 4. 1838. URL:http://books.google.com/books?id=TvtIAAAAYAAJ&pg=PR5#v=onepage&q&f=false
[20] American Institute in the City of New York. Annual Report of the American Institute, on the subject of Agriculture. 1847. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=mg5AAAAAYAAJ&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[21] Smith. A Chorographical and Statistical Description of the District of Columbia. 1816. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=Jn8FAAAAQAAJ&pg=PR3#v=onepage&q&f=false
[22] Dearborn, Henry. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. URL: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=d000178

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