The property known as the Manhattan Laundry includes three separate buildings connected by two different enclosed bridges, the oldest of which was built in 1877 and the newest in 1936. In addition to the architectural heritage and shifting tastes these buildings represent, their history also reflects the history of the city around them.
Built in 1877, the earliest building first served as a car barn for the Washington and Georgetown Railroad Company, which had been one of the first public transportation companies in DC. This original streetcar building models a typical industrial style of the late Victorian era. The railroad company continued using this space until they constructed a new one in 1892 and moved their cars there.
At that time, the company sold the building to be converted into a publishing facility. Over the course of a decade, the building became home to several different publishing operations, including one run by John Sherman, the Ohio politician responsible for the Sherman Antitrust Act.
In 1905, the property was converted once more to house the Manhattan Laundry company, which gradually became the largest laundry operation in the city. An enormous company that employed many local residents, the Manhattan Laundry became an important site in its community and became the first black-operated laundry in DC later in the 20th century.
The distinctive Art Deco façade dates to 1936 and is one of the finest examples of Art Deco in the city. This style, enormously popular at the time, was well-suited to a modern laundry with its light, clean, and efficient design, and the façade drew praise from architecture critics.
The Manhattan Laundry Company ceased to operate out of the site as of 1973, but the name has remained. Although it was slated to be razed in 1979 after a damaging fire the previous year, the Manhattan Laundry was saved by a developer. It now houses various commercial ventures.
DC Inventory: June 19, 1991
National Register: November 21, 1994