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The Corner Store: 1932

Circa 1932. "United Food Stores." Whitman's Market at A and Sixth streets S.E. in Washington. National Photo Company safety film negative. View full size.

Circa 1932. "United Food Stores." Whitman's Market at A and Sixth streets S.E. in Washington. National Photo Company safety film negative. View full size.


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Cap Hill fixer-upper

This house is on the way to my son's day care and I walk by almost every day. It has not been maintained well by Capitol Hill standards. The stairs mentioned below were not actually replaced by nice cast iron stairs later. On closer inspection two are horrible metal knockoffs and the third is a hybrid wooden steps with a period handrail.

Cold Beer Next Door

I currently live in the first house to the right of the store. I knew that building used to be store, but was always amazed at how many stores were nearby. Eastern Market is two blocks away and a similar store that is still in operation on East Capitol is two blocks in the other direction.

I do think the original fence is still there, as is the fence on the right.

The staircases to the houses to the left of the store intrigue me. Those houses currently have cast iron staircases that are typical of other staircases on the Hill. I always thought those were original, but they seem to have wooden staircases in the photos. Those houses were built in the middle 1880s, so they were around 40 years old at the time of the photo. Do you think the wooden staircases were original?

Corner stores

Here in Oregon (Eugene) we still have corner groceries (there's one three blocks, another 7 blocks away from me). I was surprised at how many there were when I first moved here from California in 1979. Quite a few of them are natural food stores, many also have small delis. These are privately owned, not chains (7-11). Is this so unusual in the rest of the country?

The fence looks like the same one...

If you look closely at the Google photo, the little fence surrounding the small side yard looks like the same one that was in the original. If true, pretty amazing.

Corner Businesses

This corner is a mere two blocks south of Stanton Square (map): I walk by it all the time. One can see many private homes in the neighborhood which bear the the architectural indicators of former corner businesses. Two clues are large display windows and a street-level entrance -- most buildings constructed as houses have a few steps up.

I've searched all my usual sources in an attempt to find some information on Whitman's Market but, so far, to no avail.

Capitol Hill is said to have the largest collection of surviving Victorian buildings in the country. Several corner grocery stores survive but now the most ubiquitous corner business in the neighborhood seems to be dry-cleaners -- a testament to the importance of a professional image for workers in the Federal City.

I'm Asking

Was the United Food Stores part of a food cooperative or an association of similar merchants that were part of a buying and/or advertising group?

Corner Store

While in elementary school back in the late 40's we had a little corner store in my Kansas town. The lady that ran the store was about 70 years old. She had all her penny candy in a big glass case where all the kids could see. Even if you had only a penny to spend she would treat that sale like it was the most important sale of the day. Each kid could take as much time as needed to select that very important piece of candy. If you purchased two or more pieces of candy she had these very small little sacks she placed your purchase in. Every child that came in her store was important and treated like a grown up customer.


The building is still there. Although it is now a private residence. The pole sticking up from the roof is for a radio antenna.

No longer a grocery today

I'm not savvy enough to put the google street view in, but there is a fantastic shot of the site there. What's interesting to note, what was in 1926 brick walkway, is today concrete, and what was concrete is now brick!

Everything old is new again?

I miss the corner store. I wonder if environmental concerns and fuel savings might cause a turnaround soon, and small corner stores might again appear in neighborhoods?

Sure, they wouldn't have the variety that supermarkets have, but I don't think I'd miss the giant parking lots, huge crowds of people, long lines at the cash register, etc.

I also noticed the "public telephone" sign -- that's a reminder that public phones are fast going the way of the dodo bird.

[You'd use a lot more fuel distributing X amount of food to 10 small stores than you would to one big store. - Dave]


As a habitual watcher, when looking at stores, one always notices the old wooden crates used prior to corrugated cardboard boxes. I've often wondered when the latter began to push the former to obscurity. Behind the fence, just to the left of the basket is what appears to be a cardboard box cut in half. Am I right? Wrong?

This Old Store

You can see the newer brickwork where the display window was, while the base for the window remains. Wish someone would tend to that weedy little side lot.

Beer for sale?

1926 was during Prohibition; I think the "ICE COLD BEER TO TAKE OUT" sign is a little blatant for the era...

[Beer was legal during Prohibition, as long as it didn't contain more than a certain amount of alcohol. - Dave]

The building's still standing

View Larger Map

And it looks like the neighborhood's doing well. It's a nondescript, but nicely preserved, residential home. And there's a rather nice building to the left of the address, if you're curious. Looks original, as does most of the area.

In the Shorpy version, is that an action shot of a guy running out from between the buildings on the left? The legs seem blurred.

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