About American University Park (and American University Heights)
Originally part of the Friendship grant to Addison and Stoddert, the land on which the American University Park subdivision is located was part of the Addison holding and descended through that family to John Murdock, and then to his grandson, W. D. C. Murdock.
At the beginning of the Civil War, W.D.C. Murdock owned a tract of approximately eight hundred acres. Union forces cut much of the wood on this land for the construction of forts, perhaps nearby Forts Bayard and Gaines, and for fuel.
In 1865, land north and west of Murdock Mill Road was owned by Samuel F. Burrows and his brother Levi. The acreage, mostly farmland, to the south of Murdock Mill Road, including the site of American University was subdivided by W. D. C. Murdock (District Book 1, p. 33)
Though the nearby village of Tenleytown began to grow after the Civil War, American University Park remained rural and sparsely populated.
The founding of American University, which was incorporated in the District of Columbia in 1891 and chartered by an Act of Congress in February 1893, was a catalyst for development of adjacent land.
Real estate developers and speculators anticipated that the university – and the extension of Massachusetts Avenue – in addition to the beauty of the area and its healthful elevation, would provide a strong attraction to those seeking new homes.
J(ohn) D. Croissant was quick to seize a perceived opportunity. Trained in Illinois for the Methodist ministry, though he doesn’t appear to have pursued that profession, he arrived in Washington in 1877.
According to the 1880 census he was working as a postal clerk. Croissant does appear to have been active in Methodist circles and would no doubt have been among the first to learn of the plans for a university. By the early 1890s this visionary/opportunist, was active in real estate.
His initial subdivision was University Heights, platted in 1894 with George H. Corey. Four years later in 1898, Croissant and G. W. Rickett, Trustees, platted a first addition to American University Heights.
For the most part, these subdivisions, north of the University, east and west of Massachusetts Avenue at Wesley Circle, weren’t built up until the 1920s and 1930s.
In 1896 with David D. Stone, Croissant platted American University Park, an area of 54.367 acres. A first addition followed in 1897.
On April 11, 1897 The Washington Post reported the sale of 70 acres along Murdock Mill Road by Samuel Burrows, to H. Lloyd Irvine, who immediately sold the parcel to a syndicate.
In the case of American University Park, an effort was made to build homes immediately. The first permit was issued to H. Lloyd Irvine. Attached to that permit was a decorative plat.
It is possible that Irvine’s house was to serve as a model home. It is one of five built in 1897 in American University Park by builder B.J. Burgoyne. One of these houses is known to have been built to a pattern book design.