Normanstone’s near neighbor came to be the seventy-six acres of Northview, purchased by Cornelius and Margaret Barber in 1834, located where the Naval Observatory complex now spreads. Margaret was the daughter of Revolutionary War veteran, land surveyor and horticulturist John Adlum, the author of the first book on indigenous American viticulture (1823). Adlum’s own estate, The Vineyard, was not far to the north, between the present-day Tilden and Van Ness Streets and Reno Road. Extant letters to Normanstone’s matriarch, Sophia Cropley, including ones from Robert Barnard while still in England, are addressed at Major Adlum’s, where she resided probably as governess to the two Adlum daughters. At The Vineyard, on the banks of Rock Creek, Adlum developed twenty-two varieties of grape, most notably the Catawba, a hybrid of American and European vines (although its precise origins are debated). It soon became the major grape in the fledgling American wine industry, producing a palatable product for European tastes. One customer was Nicholas Longworth, who took Adlum’s slips back to his farm in Ohio and grew the vine with great success, establishing the first commercially viable winery in the United States. Adlum is one among others called the “Father of American Viticulture.”
In other correspondence, with his brother-in-law in London, Barnard, a member of the Columbian Horticultural Society, considered becoming a vintner himself at Normanstone. While there were orchards on the land, wine-making was an enterprise that did not come to commercial fruition, although, as at Northview, wine was produced for home consumption. The Adlums, Barbers and Barnards relationships appeared to be close with Sophia Barnard as a witness to Cornelius Barber’s will. The connections with the two families reached a sad point when Margaret Barber sued to regain a loan of $2000 given after Barnard died intestate (the same year as her mother) and the family could not pay the death taxes (National Intelligencer, 6 November 1861). Barnard had been designated trustee for Major Adlum’s widow’s estate.
The evidence of what was once at the location of the British Embassy most likely would be obscured if it were not for both the archival tendencies through prodigious generations of the family, and that a granddaughter, Lucia Beverly Talcott (1865-1944), married the inventor and computer pioneer Herman Hollerith (1860-1929). Hollerith’s papers, a gift of his heirs, which include the early history of his wife’s family, are now divided between the Prints & Photographs and the Manuscript Divisions of the Library of Congress as well as the Special Collections Research Center of the George Washington University (Barnard-Talcott Hollerith Family Papers, 1790-1858) and The Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
Born in Buffalo, New York, and educated at Columbia University, Hollerith worked on the 1880 Census. After an academic position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a railway engineering stint in St. Louis, he came once again to government work, as a statistical engineer in the Patent Office in Washington in 1883. His future wife’s mother, Theodosia L. Barnard Talcott Hambleton (1840-1925), was also employed there as a clerk from 1869 to 1899, one of the first female government career employees. After her husband Charles Talcott’s death in 1867, Theodosia continued to live at Normanstone with her mother and sisters. According to Hollerith biographer Geoffrey D. Austrian, Theodosia’s professional position kept her family, including her son-in-law, financially solvent.
Hollerith started his own business, “Expert and Solicitor of Patents” (with Theodosia’s son, Edmund Talcott, as his first employee) and developed an earlier idea for the use of punched cards in combination with a machine. His Hollerith Electric Tabulating System (later the Computer-Tabulating-Recording Company) eventually became the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM). Hollerith’s machines were used for the 1890 Census and other countries sought his services and patented system. He was married at Normanstone on 15 September 1890, returned to live there as a newlywed, and, during a period of financial hardship in 1895 to 1896, moved back with his wife and (then) three children. Despite his aversion to property taxes (according to the IBM archives), Hollerith owned a house at 2612 P Street that he rented out (listed as “Heirs of Robert and Sophia Barnard”); a building for his operations on 31st Street and the Canal; a farm in Mathews County, Virginia; and built a grand new home for his family of six children, on the other side of Dumbarton Oaks, which was completed in 1911. The families would walk between Normanstone and the new property at 1617 29th Street along the old country road, Lovers’ Lane.