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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Dime-Store Disaster: 1929

Dime-Store Disaster: 1929

During the crowded lunch hour between 1 and 1:30 o'clock today, the oil burner in the basement of McCrory's Five and Ten Cent Store exploded, threw parts of the machinery to the opposite side of the street and making a great hole in the center of the building. The four alarm fire was turned in and every ambulance in the city put into action. Up to 5 p.m., the casualty list showed 2 dead, 3 dying, and 30 injured.

Aftermath of the McCrory disaster, a virtually forgotten chapter in the history of Washington, D.C.: At 1:32 p.m. on Nov. 21, 1929, a boiler in the basement of the McCrory five-and-dime store at 416 Seventh Street NW exploded, demolishing the ground floor and igniting a fire in a deafening blast whose final toll was six dead and dozens injured. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

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Below is the same view from July of 2017.

A Contender

The first sentence of that Washington Post article should be entered into one of those "longest run-on first sentence ever" contests!

A powerful explosion indeed.

It even broke the glass negative in the Camera!

Veritable Maelstrom

Washington Post, November 22, 1929.

Concrete, Steel, Wood Sent Hurtling Through Air as Basement Explosion of Undetermined Origin Occurs in Midst of Shopping Crowd.

Caught helpless and unwarned in a veritable maelstrom of flying debris, hurled into the street by an explosion of undetermined origin in the basement of the J.G. McCrory Five and Ten Cent Store, 416 Seventh street northwest, at 1:32 o'clock yesterday afternoon, five persons are dead, five more so seriously injured it is believed they will die, while nearly two-score others are less seriously hurt. Fifteen of these received treatment at hospitals. …

Three fire alarms and calls for first aid equipment brought all the downtown fire apparatus, the Fire Rescue Squad, ambulances from all hospitals, the Red Cross and public utility emergency cars to the scene, with police reserves arriving in squads. …

While the exact cause of the explosion had not been determined last night, it was learned that the welded end of a 500-gallon tank in the boiler room of the store, located under the sidewalk, had been blown out. Just what caused the tank to explode is what the investigators are endeavoring to learn. …

Frank Brown, colored janitor in charge of the furnace narrowly escaped being in the furnace room at the time of the explosion, employees of the store said. He had been mopping floors in the store and was just preparing to go to the furnace room when it occurred. He is understood to have told Acting Fire Marshal Achstetter that he had coaled the fire at 7:30 o'clock yesterday morning, and, as is customary, had not looked at it since.


It surprises me that McCrory's and Woolworth's would be right next door to each other.

Street View

Looks a little different today, but the building next door has some familiar accents.

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SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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