JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Elite Laundry: 1924

Elite Laundry: 1924

"Palace Laundry." The Elite Laundry in Washington circa 1924. View full size. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. The Elite today.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

901 U Street NW. Currently home of The Brixton.

The address of the 1924 Elite Laundry photo is 901 U Street NW. Today it is the home of The Brixton restaurant and bar. The corner entrance and facade have been painted, but it's still the same as in the 1924 photo.

Much to admire

Much to admire in this architectural treatment of corner façade. In the Spanish-speaking world, this type of corner is known as "ochava" or "chaflan" with an accent on the second 'a'. "Ochava" literally means a one-eighth part, and you can see how removing the four corners of a square, if done from the midpoint of each side, creates an octagon. So "ochava" means an octagonal, or octagon-like, corner. "Chaflan" looks like it's cognate with what I believe is the equivalent term in English, chamfered. ("una esquina chaflanada" = a chamfered corner.) It is omnipresent, for instance, in Buenos Aires. It opens up intersections visually, allows better pedestrian passage, and also gives the storefronts or facades of such buildings a wonderful visibility, allowing them to face the entire intersection. A gorgeous example is the Palacio San Miguel, corner of Mitre & Suipacha, downtown Bs.As.:

Scurlock Studios

I have written previously about the wonderful exhibit of Scurlock Studio photographs currently showing at the Smithsonian. Here is another one from the collection, photographed by George Scurlock during the April 1968 riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King. The photograph is taken from the window of the Scurlock Studios which stood across U street from Sabin's Records (formerly the Elite Laundry)

(click to enlarge)

Isn't it just

such a beautiful laundromat. Wish I could just step in there to get my sheets damp-washed.

Elite Laundry, today.

The corner structure

Reminds me of the cigar shop on Bleecker Street and Seventh Avenue in Greenwich Village.

Bravo Brendan

Bravo Brendan, Excellent sleuthing! I'm convinced.

I should have recognized this sooner as it's only a few steps from my favorite Ethiopian restaurant: Etete.

Thanks, Brendan...

for that learned disquisition on the laundry biz. Here at Shorpy, the byword is Semper Paratus.

Ninth and U

Follow me.

Elite is "901 something" assuming it's in NW that means it must be on a northwest corner somewhere along 9th Street. Ballard's is 2004 something on the west side of the street. The 2000 block of numbered streets is the block above U Street.

Here's a bird's eye of 9th & U. Note the corner entrance now covered in permastone.

Here's an image of 2008 9th Street, NW Note the matching cornice line to Ballard's.


I love how delightfully worn the stepping stone is in front of the door, and I too, love the corner entrance.

Ruf Dry is...

From Grady, Noel, "Designing the Postwar Laundry" (Architectural Record, October 1944, p. 93-108) Yes I just happen to have an article on laundries sitting in my office.

"There are four basic laundry services: (1) 'Damp Wash' in which everything is washed, extracted, bagged, and delivered damp, ready for ironing by the housewife; (2) 'Thrifty' in which everything is washed and extracted, the wearing apparel is bagged and delivered damp, ready for ironing by the housewife, the flatwork is finished--sheets, pillowslips, bedspreads, tablecloths, napkins, etc., ironed on the flatwork ironer with bathtowels tumbled (hot-air dried) and separately wrapped and delivered; (3)'Rough-Dry' in which the wearing apparel, after washing and extraction, is tumble-dried and delivered in that condition to be ironed at the customer's convenience, and flatwork is handled as in Thrifty service; (4) 'Finished' in which all articles in the bundle are ironed and delivered ready for use. Individual laundries may have their own trade-names for these services."

Ninth and N: Not?

I believe that 901 N street NW would be the northwest corner of Ninth and N. Older brick row buildings still inhabit this corner, however the details of the architecture don't seem to match the photo, at least to the extent that they are visible from the aerial photo. For instance, the building there now does not have the angled entrance at the corner and the buildings to the right don't seem to correspond. Of course, an actual street visit would be needed to be sure.

I've tried locating this branch of Elite Laundry by using the neighboring stores; to the left is a candy store but no discernible name. To the right is "Ballard's" which appears to have a striped barber pole in the window. Can Shorpy Zoom reveal any further identifying features?

Is it possible that "901" refers to something other than the street address?

Ruf Dry

Just guessing but suspect it means not thoroughly dry and, therefore, just ready for ironing.

Step on a Crack

As well as being another excellent commercial storefront portrait, this photo also provides an excuse for a meditation on sidewalk cracks. Although we all pass over them every day, they seem to form their own busy universe in this study.

Cursed Washingtonians

This must be where those infamous media types send their dirty laundry. Anybody know what ruf-dry is?

Stage directions

Rod Serling enters from stage right: "Mr. Jones had an ordinary day, filled with ordinary chores. Until he, and his dry cleaning took a trip... into the Twilight Zone!"

901 N Street, NW

A Washington Post search doesn't turn up any references to an Elite location at a 901 address, but a 3/11/33 article does note a branch at Ninth and N Streets NW. If this was on the southeast corner (as the address and angle to the street seem to suggest), the Washington Convention Center is now on the site.

Write Name Plainly

If we still had laundering services, at these prices (sheets 7 cents! shirts 15 cents!) ... I would never wash my own clothes again.

I especially like the concept of the after-hours dropoff box. Kind of like the night deposit at the bank.

It certainly looks bright and clean inside, doesn't it? Quite a contrast to every self-service launderette I've ever been in.

Elite Laundry

Good place for Obama to get his skivvies laundered whenever he's in DC.

Night Drop

Note the drop down at the bottom of the door. I guess it was akin to the night depository locked bins outside most commercial banks. This one looked large enough to allow a small person to enter. Also, the position of the door lock and handle seem lower than most of the ones we see today. The people of that era were much shorter. Compared to the dry cleaning stores I knew of, this one appears much cleaner and neater.

Standing on the corner

You know the thing I like best about this photo? They don't make corner entrances like this anymore. (At least not around here.) There's a certain charm to the symmetry of the corner entrance.

Ruf Dry?

does that mean a dog shook it like a rat?

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Site © 2022 Shorpy Inc.