Then and Now: The O Street Market

Northern MarketThen: The Northern Market, aka the O Street Market, photographed in August, 1959 (Image from Historical Society of Washington, DC, #PR 0011B).

Northern Market aka O Street MarketNow: A shell of its former self since its roof collapsed in 2003.

Located on the northwest corner of 7th and O Streets, NW, the Northern Market dates to 1881, when a group of displaced vendors selected the land after Boss Shepherd demolished the original Northern Liberties Market in 1872.

By July 21, 1881, the market — which ran 192 feet on 7th street and 90 feet along O Street — had foundations laid and the walls five feet above the ground. The building was scheduled to be ready for rafters and roofing by August 1. When completed, the market was estimated to cost $19,200 with land costing $23,000. Land values in the immediate area began to rise as the new market was being constructed.

Serving the community solidly from the time of its opening, it gradually fell into disrepair. Seemingly without major structural problems, the building was emptied of tenants several months prior to construction in anticipation of its transformation into an upscale shopping center when the unthinkable happened.

Following a weekend blizzard, the roof gave way under the weight of snow on February 18, 2003. On the brink of a major renovation, the company leading that renovation was confident that work on the building would continue. Despite this, the hollow shell of the market still sits in limbo, with development hinging on financing. Facing yet another hurdle, last week the O Street Market was among listed projects with approved funding that may have funds diverted to finance the new Convention Hotel planned for the city.

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