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Then & Now: Anacostia's neon sign

At the corner of Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, Historic Anacostia's gateway, is a landmark older than the famed Big Chair.

Anacostia's neon sign, circa 1947. Photo by Theodor Horydczak.

This photo by Theodor Horydczak (1890-1971), one of more than 14,000 photos of his available through the Library of Congress's American Memory series, captures Anacostia's iconic neon signage in January 1947.

Commercial neon lighting signage first appeared at a Paris barbershop a couple of years before the outbreak of World War I. The new signs, sometimes referred to as "liquid fire," arrived in the United States in 1923. From conversations with Anacostia residents and initial research, Anacostia's sign appears to date back to the early 1940s.

Anacostia's historic neon sign today. Photo by the author.
John Muller is an associate librarian, journalist and historian. He has written two books, Frederick Douglass in Washington, DC, Mark Twain in Washington, DC, and also writes at Death and Life of Old Anacostia


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Wow. I love that sign, and Horydczak's photo is gorgeous. Thanks so much for sharing it. Makes me want to go take some of my own!

by muckraker on Apr 2, 2012 4:32 pm • linkreport

Lot of really cool Horydczak photos on LOC. The storefront design looks a lot like the early retail work of Morris Lapidus early in his architecture career.

by spookiness on Apr 2, 2012 4:36 pm • linkreport

Love these! Thanks for posting.

by Pelham1861 on Apr 2, 2012 5:56 pm • linkreport

I grew up in Anacostia in the 1940's and 50's. My dad had a shoe repair shop across the street from Anacostia Liquors.
I remember walking pass the Liquor store and just looking in at all the clean shiny bottles. Children were not allowed to go into a liquor store. My dad's shop was Joe's Shoe Repair. I loved living in Anacostia during those years - it was a warm friendly neighborhood where everyone knew each other.

by nancy puglisi ciatti on Apr 3, 2012 9:14 am • linkreport

Joseph Puglisi was known by many as "The Mayor of Anacostia". Frederick Douglas would have been proud of Joe for his fondness of all people of all races. There is a story there - maybe Mr. Muller might be in touch with his oldest daughter, a commentator here, to open a chapter on the life and times of Anacostia in her father's, and my grandfather's, day.

by Daniel Ciatti on Apr 3, 2012 9:08 pm • linkreport

@Nancy & Daniel

Please contact me at 202.236.3413 or

Look forward to talking.

by John Muller on Apr 3, 2012 9:26 pm • linkreport

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