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Then and Now: W.B. Moses & Sons

Then (left): Circa 1910, the W.B. Moses & Sons building at 11th and F Streets, NW. W.B. Moses moved to Washington from Philadelphia during the Civil War, and within 50 years established the largest exclusively retail furniture, carpet, and drapery business in America. W.B. Moses settled on the corner of 11th and F in 1884, and the building was added on to in 1887, 1889, and 1898. Image from the Library of Congress National Photo Company Collection.

Now (right): Yet another, largely nondescript, office building.

Kent Boese posts items of historic interest primarily within the District. He's worked in libraries since 1994, both federal and law, and currently works on K Street. He's been an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner serving the northern Columbia Heights and Park View neighborhoods since 2011 (ANC 1A), and is the force behind the blog Park View, D.C.


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My understanding is that insurance laws that were put into effect in the late 1940's era spelt the end of turretts, spires, and decorative rooftop flourishes on regular office buildings in downtown DC. Perhaps this was as a result of the big church spire falling down on 8th & H street in what is now Chinatown- or because the buildings owners no longer cared to do much in the way of upkeep on "obsolete" structures. However it was- this city lost a lot of very very lovely and often eccentric looking and very fun and unique looking buildings.

The old Baltimore Sun Building, on F street,once had a very beautiful spire/finial on it's top. This building is considered by architectural historians to be one of the very first "skyscrapers" as it has a steel frame and a fully functioning elevator -possibly the oldest in the world or one of the oldest. Thank god Oliver T Carr or Donahue or Charles E Smith forgot about it.

They ruined a lot of the old city of DC.

by w on Apr 29, 2009 4:52 pm • linkreport

The newer building, while being nowhere near as fun to look at as the historic one, is not too bad when compared to other buildings of its time. It's ok. It's not ugly. It's not a supposed work of art. It just functions as a building without being hostile to anybody. Not bad. Could be much worse.

by Cavan on Apr 29, 2009 4:58 pm • linkreport

Aren't all the new, fairly unimaginative office boxes downtown primarily a result of the height limits? (i.e. maximum volume for a given area and height)?

I guess I like the sky more than spires . . .

by ah on Apr 29, 2009 8:50 pm • linkreport

All of these historical references are simply wonderful! Has any one contacted the DC Historical/DC Historic Preservation Office?

by Edna Barber on Mar 1, 2011 5:32 pm • linkreport

I have a table made by your company back in the late 1800's or early 1900's would like to see some of the photos of the past tables to compare. I live in Belair Maryland. Would love to know what it is worth. Hope you can help me out . It is a beautiful table with curly legs. You have you see it. Personally know the table is over 95 yrs old. Please get back with me . Your Truely, Donna Frye

by donna frye on Jan 6, 2012 3:31 pm • linkreport

I just got a bedroom set with carved nudes. Can you help or get me to someone that can. The tag reads B. Moses and sons wash. D C est. 1861 thank you.

by Roger Sannes on Jul 3, 2014 11:29 am • linkreport

Have 4 arrow back ash swivel chairs with cane seats from a Quaker meeting house from "WB Moses & Sons 1898." Stamped J. BURK, M2587 and No.2. They were purchased in 1970 in Maryland. Any info on them and possible metal parts from the bases?

by RK Romine on Aug 17, 2016 4:05 pm • linkreport

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