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My column this week looks at the efforts of community members living around Kennedy Street NW to bring retail to the corridor, one of D.C.’s longest commercial strips that doesn’t actually have a lot of commerce right now. The street, like many once-vibrant areas in the District, suffered mightily during the 1980s crack epidemic and the half-century of population loss before that, which finally ended with the 2010 census. Now residents are trying to get it back on its feet.
But it’s unlikely it’ll be able to match its best days anytime soon. In 1948, according to the city directory from that year, the vacancy that plagues the street now was virtually non-existent. Jewish families and businesses dominated the street (at a time when the neighborhood, now largely black and Hispanic, was mostly white), complemented by Italian barbers and a whole lot of other retail. The photo above, from 1948, shows the 300 block of Kennedy Street, anchored by the Kennedy Theater. (Click on the photo to enlarge.)
Below is a sampling of some of the other businesses, among the more than 60 that existed on Kennedy Street on the nine-block stretch between North Capitol Street and Georgia Avenue in 1948. Take note of just how many grocery businesses there were in a small area, before the era of mega-supermarkets.
26 Kennedy St. NW: A&P Food Store 100: People’s Drug Store 102: Concord Market 116: Kennedy Delicatessen 300: Brooks Liquors 304: H. S. King Co. variety store 307: Tung Ah Laundry 308: Concord Valet Shop 310-312: Concord Restaurant 314: High’s Dairy Products 318: Terry’s Dress Shop 332: Kennedy Food Shoppe 400: Shankman’s Market 440: Kennedy 5 and 10 ¢ Store 443: Kennedy Pharmacy 450: Gulf gas station 500: Safeway 501: Kennedy Food Center 502: Eddie’s Friendly Tavern 620: Lustine Morris Liquors 626: Henyon Shade and Awning 629: Jos. Jimenez shoe repair 701: Whitley’s Drug Store 709: Kennedy Floor and Tile 825: Kennedy Market 827: Fleischer & Brotman Delicatessen 831: McCann Delicatessen
Photo courtesy of the John P. Wymer Photograph Collection at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.