Gibbons v. District of Columbia
This is an appeal from a decree dismissing a bill in equity by the Roman Catholic archbishop of the diocese of Baltimore, of which the District of Columbia is a part, to clear the title of lots numbered 36 to 46, inclusive, (being the lots formerly numbered 5, 6, and 7,) in square 376, in the city of Washington, from a cloud created by the assessment and sale thereof for taxes amounting, with interest, to more than $5,000. The case was heard upon the bill, answer, a general replication, and the deposition of the pastor of St. Patrick's church, from which the facts appeared to be as follows: The lots in question front south on F street about 170 feet, and have a depth varying from about 93 feet to about 114 feet. They were conveyed by Anthony Caffray in 1804 to the Roman Catholic bishop of Baltimore in fee 'for the use of the Roman Catholic congregation worshiping in the place called 'St. Patrick's Church,' in the city of Washington;' and thence forward, until 1870, were occupied by the old St. Patrick's church. During that period the church inclosure included about one-half of square 376, bounded south by F street, west by Tenth street, and north by G street. In 1870 the old church building was found to be unsafe, and in 1872 it was taken down. Since 1870, and pending the completion of a new church now in process of erection, the congregation has worshiped in Carroll hall, on G street, within the same half square, and separated from the lots in question by a 30-foot passageway. The new church fronts on Tenth street, with a strip of open ground about 35 feet wide on its south side and in the rear for light and ventilation, all to the north of the lots in question. The reason for so placing the church, instead of putting it in the middle of the inclosure, was to enable a revenue to be derived from the sale or lease of these lots to pay off the church debt incurred in building; and it was not necessary for the enjoyment of the church that these lots should remain vacant. In February, 1881, the plaintiff obtained a decree in equity, authorizing him to sell or otherwise dispose of these lots, and to apply the proceeds to the completion of the new church building; and about that time he made leases thereof for 25 years to private persons. From 1804 until June 30, 1875, no taxes were assessed on these lots. Afterwards, until June 30, 1880, they were annually assessed for taxes and sold for non-payment thereof. The annual taxes since that time have been paid.
M. F. Morris, for appellant, James Gibbons.
A. G. Riddle, for the District of Columbia.