The Sidney Estate



The Catholic University occupies what had once been the Sidney Estate, which was described as "three miles from the general post office..... The mansion" (now the Paulist House of Studies, "was approached by a long avenue of sycamore and locust trees and the entire way thither from the city was through a woodland of wild and romantic beauty, filled with singing birds and strewn with flowers as soon as spring had dawned."

Sidney was the home of  J. Harrison Smith, founder and first editor of the National Intelligencer.  The paper was started by Joseph Gales (1761-1841) a printer in Sheffield, England, who founded the Sheffield Register and got in trouble with the authorities for supporting the French Revolution. In 1794, he fled to the free city of Hamburg, and immigrated with his family to Philadelphia in 1795, where he worked for the American Daily Advertiser,  covering speeches in the U.S. Senate. In a few years, he founded
Independent Gazetteer and did printing work for a number of congressmen as a side business.  In 1798, members of the North Carolina delegation offered Gales the state printing contract, and he sold the paper  Samuel Harrison Smith in 1799. Gales eventually went on to establish what would become the  New Orleans Picayune.

Gales son,  Joseph Gales Jr., had been expelled from the University of North Carolina (His other son Weston Gales, was expelled from Yale) and bounced back to Philadelphia and formed a partnership with J. Harrison Smith in the National Intelligencer in DC.

Near the estate was  a deep hollow where a spring  ran “and all through the summer throngs of gallants and their ladies rode out to drink the healing waters.”   Thomas Jefferson, a firm believer in the spring’s medicinal properties,  was a regular visitor there and spent hours there talking politics with Harrison Smith “or some chance acquaintance while he quaffed great draughts and then made his Negro servant carry home a jugful.”

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