Union Market Historic District

Union Market continues to be a commercial, as well as historic district.

Union Market Terminal is a large complex of wholesale warehouse buildings occupying an approximately forty-acre tract of land located east of Union Station between Florida and New York Avenues NE. Conceived in 1928 by a federation of wholesalers called the Union Terminal Market Association, these merchants anticipated the demolition of Center Market and the associated wholesale buildings for construction of the Federal Triangle. Since the wholesale merchants were not in the Center Market building itself, rather in adjacent privately owned buildings, there were no government contingencies made for their displacement as there were being made for the farmers and merchants of Center Market itself. So, acting on its own, the private association purchased the land, devised a street plan for the wholesale market complex, and established a standard building form and style for the individual market buildings.

Opened as the Union Market Terminal, the warehouses that were constructed in the first years of the market’s establishment (1929-1931) are all two-story, buff brick industrial buildings that feature overall symmetry and repetitive Classical Revival-style features. Many of these warehouses were historically connected to the nearby railroad freight lines via railroad spurs. By August 1931, about one hundred merchants had moved into the complex and plans were underway for expansion. Although the local press anticipated an equally vigorous building campaign in ensuing years, construction continued at a relatively modest pace. To begin with, designs for the individual buildings followed the uniform model already established for the complex. Following a World War II building hiatus, however, the standard building type and style had been abandoned as longer and lower, utilitarian buildings with little attention to design or architectural detail were built instead.

Today, many of the individual buildings dating to the original period of construction (1929- 1931), have been altered by filled-in loading docks, filled-in windows, additions atop the loading docks, missing flagpoles, and other alterations. However, as an entity, the complex retains its integrity and character, and as a building type, this collection of wholesale warehouses is unique to DC. Most of the alterations are reversible in character, providing incentives and opportunity for historic restoration and rehabilitation.

DC Inventory: November 3, 2016
National Register: January 31, 2017



Between 4th and 5th Streets NE; Florida Avenue and Penn Street NE