Housing Complex

A Glimpse Into the Best of Times on Kennedy Street NW

kennedy st

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.