Greater Greater Washington

History


Then and Now: Woodward & Lothrop building

The former Woodward & Lothrop flagship store bounded by 10th, 11th, F, and G Streets, NW did not achieve the form familiar to most Washingtonians until 1927. The historic building along G street was occupied by Woodies in 1887. They soon outgrew the space and began occupying other properties on the block. Though Woodies occupied nearly the entire block by 1897, it was largely in the 1920s that Woodies began to replace the older structures with newer facades and buildings.


Northwest corner of 10th and F Streets, NW. Early 1920s (left), from Library of Congress, and now (right).

The center of the building between 10th and 11th was rebuilt in 1925 followed by a new addition on the corner of 11th and F Streets in 1926. By the end of 1927 the dust had settled and the block appeared as it does today.

Woodward & Lothrop survived in downtown Washington until its closure in November of 1995.

Further reading: "1,000 at Ceremony Formally Opening Addition to Store," The Washington Post, Oct. 31, 1926, p. M10.

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 lives in the Park View neighborhood, and is the force behind the blog Washington Kaleidoscope

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My grandmother used to wrap packages at Woodies back in the 20's. She'd take the streetcar in from Seat Pleasant for a nickel, and the rest would go to the family.

Or at least that's the best I can remember the story. She's gone now, so she can't correct me.

by Michael Perkins on Jun 9, 2010 3:38 pm • linkreport

It's sad that such a gorgeous building houses a tacky and tourist driven site. I don't know of a single local who's ever stepped foot inside.

by w on Jun 9, 2010 4:27 pm • linkreport

Who cares if locals don't go there? My guess is most locals are just happy something's in the building and people aren't talking about demolishing it anymore.

by Andrew on Jun 9, 2010 4:37 pm • linkreport

Madame Tussauds only occupies the street and basement level of the red brick building on the corner of 10th and F. The upper floors of the red building are offices, as are the floors above level 2 of the Woodies Building. I work on one of the upper floors of the Woodies Building and there are some interesting original details still scattered throughout the building, especially in the old West Elm (soon to be Forever 21) space.

While the bus loads of tourists crowding the sidewalk can be bothersome, it is fun being in such an active area.

by mt p on Jun 9, 2010 5:16 pm • linkreport

A handsome exterior, but the store was surprisingly dowdy and neglected. When I moved here in 1990, the main floor lacked the elegance of a typical upper middle brow store and many of the upper floors hadn't been touched in decades. The basement had been done over as a juniors department with a Sbarro, neither ever seemed busy. I only went there to use the access way to the Hyatt. If I sound critical, it's because I spent a summer and many Christmases working at the Higbee Company in downtown Cleveland, another upper middle brow store store built in 1930 and remodeled in the late 50s and then again in the late 70s. Higbee's was wrecked by Dillard in the late 80s, but until then had an elegance that was surprisingly lacking at Woodies. Taubman really didn't know what to do with Woodies, which hastened its decline.

by Rich on Jun 9, 2010 7:25 pm • linkreport

Most locals also dont spend time at the dozens of DC museums, theyre packed with tourists. Sometimes, being frequented by locals isn't exactly the best indication of quality

by J on Jun 9, 2010 9:43 pm • linkreport

Can you shed any light on the corner building? I've long admired it as a particularily beautiful variant of the transition between Richardson's romanesque and Stanford White's Reinassance Revival.

by Thayer-D on Jun 10, 2010 7:32 am • linkreport

Woodies Downtown was a very nice store and the building was a grande dame whose years were easy to forgive. I think what lackluster it eventually might have had was more a general trend in DC due to local bad economics.

Woodies demise was due to the bankruptcy of their newer parent company, (same as Garfinkle and Raleigh) Hechts (now Macy's) was the poorer step sister in those days and its 7th Street location was a walk on the wild side.

by The Way We Were on Jun 10, 2010 8:24 am • linkreport

Yes, Woodie's was a very useful department store through the '80s and in fact right up until its demise. Its quality, scope and polish did drop off a little under the last owners, but it was their utter incompetence at the corporate games they tried to play that killed what could still have been a viable operation.

But I'm not sure even really competent management could ultimately have done more than Hecht's did and gotten itself taken over by a national chain. I think DC's downtown, thanks to Metro, is one of the very few in the country that could support more than one department store, but too many things would have had to go right simultaneously. (In fact, the removal of the competition was probably one of the major things that went right for Hecht's and allowed it to survive as a Macy's.)

by davidj on Jun 10, 2010 10:49 am • linkreport

I went on a construction tour of the Woodie's building with the architect/construction folks when it was being renovated a few years ago and they said someone found hundreds of left-only shoes in the basement of the red building. Evidently it was a shoe store awhile back and they were the leftover floor samples. Anecdotal only, but interesting.

by muckraker on Jun 10, 2010 12:31 pm • linkreport

hundreds of left-only shoes in the basement of the red building

You gotta wonder what they did with 'em ... (and whatever happened to the right-only halves of these shoes ...)

by Lance on Jun 10, 2010 1:17 pm • linkreport

I don't care if it attracts tourists or not -- MT is a crass commercial venture that I personally find distasteful. A notch below Spy Museum on the crass spectrum. I have no issues sharing NGA, Smithsonians, etc. with tourists.

I wouldn't settle for 'something occupying the space.' That's setting the bar awfully low.

by w on Jun 10, 2010 2:55 pm • linkreport

notch below Spy Museum on the crass spectrum.

Does a "notch below" mean even more crass, or slightly less crass?

People drink budweiser, which is a crass commercial beer that I personally find distasteful. But I live and let live.

by ah on Jun 10, 2010 2:59 pm • linkreport

I don't see whats crass about it. The building is restored, renovated, occupied, brings customers and vitality to the street, and contributes tax revenues. The exterior detailing and signage is almost exactly as it was when it was a shoe store. If it was painted or covered with garish signs or lighted signs, that might be "crass". But in its current state, from an urban perspective, it's completely fine.

by spookiness on Jun 10, 2010 3:35 pm • linkreport

I think DC's downtown, thanks to Metro, is one of the very few in the country that could support more than one department store, but too many things would have had to go right simultaneously.

I agree though there arent really any other department stores besides Macys. Saks, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales are really the only other options. Nordstrom would probably be the most likely.

by poncho on Jun 10, 2010 8:16 pm • linkreport

As the name implies, I was a retail buyer for over 20 years. Five of those years with Woodies. Other reatilers included Saks, Lord and Taylor, Bamberger's (now Macy's) and Garfinkel's. I too, long for that nostalgic time when shopping was an experience. When these palaces of merchandise offered exquiste service, had fabulous restaurants/tea rooms, merchandise quality and selection. When each store had its own style. The heyday of American retailing was the 40s-70s, when each store/buyer set a trend. It is an era gone by and will never return.

Woodies, on the other hand was not that store. Management was arrogant, non customer focused, rejects from other retailers...yes 80% of upper management was fired from other reatilers and Woodies was known in the industry as where they would end up. Vendors saw the store as a real joke and they did not have the wisdom to see Macy's and Nordstrom's entering this market as a threat.

No store tried harder or deserved to go out of business the way Woodies did. Their passing is not missed.

by ex-buyer on Sep 3, 2010 9:44 am • linkreport

I just found my Grandfather's Business card from when he worked in the furniture dept...
It reads....
woodard & lothrop
Washington 13, D,C,
C,S,Daggett

The business card looks brand new... I can't believe it survived.
Bud

by Bud S. on Jan 7, 2011 8:20 am • linkreport

Woodward & Lothrop occupies a special place in my memories as a young female executive living in Chicago. Every 2-3 months, I would fly to DC for the sole purpose of shopping at "Woodies" and dining at favorite restaurants. Contrary to the experiences mentioned by some, I found the staff of W&L most professional and accommodating. I particularly loved their shoe salon and appreciated their assistance with selections and willingness to quickly ship purchases back to Chicago for me (no fee). I miss them!!

by Grateful Customer on Jan 29, 2011 1:50 pm • linkreport

As a child, going to Woodies during Christmas Time was certainly a real treat for a young boy to see all the decoration, especially the windows facing the street. What a classy place, not to mention the Tea Room...

by Frankie Davis on Aug 10, 2011 8:24 am • linkreport

Christmas time was the best for a young boy like me, to enjoy all the decorations and the true spirit of Christmas. A era that will never be repeated....

by Frankie Davis on Aug 10, 2011 8:28 am • linkreport

Does anyone know or remember anything about the great bakery in the basement of Woodies downtown. I would love to know where to get their recipes or if another bakery has their recipes. Any info. would help Thank you

by Rachel Turk on Nov 4, 2011 8:57 am • linkreport

I remember the beautiful Christmas windows - a true wonderland. And for me as a young child - viewing the first floor (from the mezzanine, I believe?) at Christmas time - was just absolutely breathtaking with all the festive, beautiful decorations and the wonderful red carpeting - so elegant!

We lived in Virginia, but the sales ladies would have our purchases shipped (at no charge) so we didn't have to schlep them all over town while we were shopping! I miss that, too! My Mother had a (Washington, D.C. area) Central Charge Card before we had Visa credit cards- that I believe
we used at Woodies, Hecht's, Garfinkel's, and Jelleff's. Not sure if we used it at Saks Fifth Avenue(?).

When I was about 16, my Mother and a couple of friends lunched in the Woodies' Tea Room. I had a watercress, bacon and mushroom sandwich on whole wheat toast - delicious. I've tried to replicate it at home, but it just doesn't taste as good! Guess I miss the ambience, locale and company!

by Ginny S on Dec 21, 2013 10:52 pm • linkreport

I bought a Hitachi color TV from Woodies in 1981 that still works. I also bough a suit, but still have the coat hangar. In bygone days we strolled the streets and admired the Christmas displays. A lot has changed, but not the nostalgic memories of snow days. And I too had that Central Charge card that got me into so much trouble.

by Joseph on Dec 22, 2013 12:50 am • linkreport

I was hired at Woodies in June of 1969 and worked there until September of 1983. I have great memories of my co-workers and customers! I sold men's cosmetics at the "Gentleman's Corner" at the 10th & F Street door. I sold Aramis cologne as ny main line as well as many others. Also; met many of the Cologne Inventors to include of course Estee Lauder. Mrs. Pat Edgington was my Supervisor and Doris Hawkins was my Supervisor. I sold cologne to Woodward's grandson, Andrew Parker & to the Chairman if the Board E.K. Hoffman. Si many great memories!! I met Pearl Bailey; Muhammad Ali; Joe Frazier; Flori Roberts; Gloria Vanderbilt; Charlie Taylor; Ralph Lauren; Bill Blass; Bob Hope; Patricia Roberts-Harris; and Judge Troussaint Alexander; and many others. I thanks God for a wonderful experience. I started preaching in 1975 and left Woodies only because of the need to assist my father ministry in 1983. I am going into my 39th year in ministry and 21 as Pastor of Gospel Bible Missionary Baptist Church. Praise God for all my past friends and co-workers! "Precious Memories" and the Grace of God" !!!

by Chester on Feb 24, 2014 6:49 pm • linkreport

My brother was the Director of Art Advertising at Woodies, in the 1960s; He died in 1971 while still in that position. I'm trying to search any article or photo of him; also, any knowledge of paintings he did (painted for relaxation while away from Woodies), many of which were sold at art shows in Washington. I have a dozen or so of his art, mostly water colors and 2 or 3 oils.

by Nancy Z. Moss on Mar 2, 2014 11:19 am • linkreport

Today is John Zimmerman's birthday; he would have been 84.

by Nancy Z. Moss on Mar 2, 2014 11:22 am • linkreport

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