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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • STAY ONE JUMP AHEAD OF TROUBLE, 1945

Oysters Hot Waffles: 1920

Oysters Hot Waffles: 1920

Circa 1920. "Herald, Seventh and H streets N.E." Continuing our culinary tour of the nation's capital, we present the New Olive Cafe, next door to H. Bennett, Barber, and Blechman's Fashion Shop. National Photo Co. View full size.

 

1968 Riots

As mentioned at the end of the quoted article, much of H Street and the neighborhood around it burned in the riots that followed Rev. King's assassination in 1968. It sounds as though this building was spared by the rioters. The ensuing exodus and economic downturn in the neighborhood and city likely left these shops without customers -- and must have led to the monstrosity that exists on that corner now.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Washington,_D.C._riots

On a brighter note, I live only a few blocks from here and am happy to see significant revitalization is finally happening. Lots of interesting restaurants and bars have sprung up, and a new streetcar line is being built.

Stafford's Pharmacy

Prior to Blechman's this building was home to Stafford's Pharmacy. Not sure the actual dates but Stafford's advertised this address circa 1906-1909.

Date

Please check the date attributed to that Bob Levey column on McBride's...I don't think Levey was born when it claims it was written.

[Oops. 1977, not 1918. Thank you! - Dave]

Thanks for this post

Gus Blechman was my grandfather. I've never seen this photo of his store as it once was. As a young boy in the '50s I worked in the H Street store during school breaks. By that time it had a facade similar to a Woolworths. Thank you for posting this.

Blechman to McBride's

Blechman's store was at 700 H street which makes it the northeast corner of the intersection of 7th and H (note that H. Bennett next door is #702.) The "Fashion" store currently seen in Google streetview occupies the rebuilt McBride's building. A bay window of one of the brick row houses down the street appears to match a surviving structure as well. The McBride's chain shut its doors in 1986.


View Larger Map


Washington Post, Feb. 3, 1977

McBride's: High fashion, low
prices made a family's success

By Robert F Levey

Come, and get it, gang. A plastic banana for 49 cents. A statue of Buddha for $19.99. Records and soap dishes and earrings and peanut brittle. When they call them McBride's Variety Departmental Stores, they mean variety.

They also mean relatively low prices. That is the hallmark of a department store chain that has been a fixture in Northeast and Southeast Washington since 1918. While the "big boys" have chase the big incomes into the suburbs, McBride's has sought and established an image as "the city's black department store.:

Except that it isn't black.

Oh, the customers are, almost all of them. And all but a handful of the 250 employees are. And more than half the toy dolls have black faces. And all the background music is big-band soul.

But the owners are whites named Blechman. A third generation of them runs the three McBride's stores as well as the family's two Kopy Kat women's clothing shops.

If the last name sounds somewhat less than purebred Irish, Barry Blechman, the 40 year-old president of McBride's, offers this explanation:

"People couldn't pronounce Blechman," he said. It rhymes with Fleckman. "So my grandfather decided to mix Murphy, his chief competitor, with Blechman. He came up with McBride's."

Whatever you say, Grandpa.

But let us not make light of Gus Blechman. He opened a five-and-dime in his own name in 1918 at 701 H St. NE [ sic, other newspaper reports list address as 700 H St ne.]. It prospered until 1945, when a fire leveled it But it reopened in 1949 as McBride's, and it has been the chain's flagship store ever since.

Gus Blechman's three sons, Nelson, Milton and Sylvan, ran the McBride's chain from the '40s in the '60s. Since then, the torch has been in the hands of Barry Blechman; his brother Richard, 36, the executive vice president; and a cousin Arlen. Nelson remains chairman of the board, and Milton is treasurer.
...
McBride's strong image as a "black" store was nailed down in the late '60s, in a television advertising campaign that featured a 6-year-old girl. She was black and smiling and winsome, and she revealed endlessly that "my mommy shops at McBride's."

The store had a black following well before that, however. It emerged as the neighborhood around the H street store changed, in the middle '50s, from white to black. The image was nurtured when McBride's became the first store on the H street commercial strip to permit integrated seating at its lunch counter.

But the '60s brought the seeds of trouble. "I started seeing the horror story on H Street," said Barry Blechman. "All the hate, with the underlying pride." Just after the 1967 riots in Detroit, "I looked out the store one day an realized, "This is a riot street."

It became one the next April, of course. But the H Street McBride's suffered only a few broken windows. The fact that a security guard was standing in the front window with a shotgun had a lot to do with that, but Blechman likes to think that McBride's would not have been pillaged anyway.
...

I'm amazed

whenever I look at photos of these beautiful old buildings and then go to Google Streetview and see what is there now. It seems these beautiful old buildings are, for the most part, replaced with sterile, ugly boxes, and the neighborhoods are trashy. Dave, thanks for these glimpses of a beautiful past.

Gone

The building housing the Laundromat is still there, but the turreted building on the corner is long gone.

[Wrong corner. See above. - Dave]


View Larger Map

Gus Blechman

Washington Post, Dec 5, 1965

Washington Storekeeper, Gus Blechman

Gus Blechman, owner of Blechman's Fashion Shop on H Street ne. until his retirement 20 years ago, died Saturday at his home, 4201 Cathedral ave. nw. He was 94.

A Russian immigrant, he lived for several years in Richmond before coming to Washington in 1916. He was an H Street merchant for more than a half century. Mr. Blechman was a member of Adas Israel Synagogue.

Surviving are his wife, Mary; three sons, Sylvan of 4000 Massachusetts ave. nw.; Nelson, of 5034 Reno rd. nw., and Milton, of 6410 Western ave., Chevy Chase; eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren

 
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