Northern Liberty Market (1875-1985)

Northern Liberty Market served as a market from 1875 to 1963, before the building was eventually left vacant and demolished in 1985.

The physical structure of Northern Liberty Market came as a result of the 1870s development initiatives of then DC governor, Alexander Shepherd (1835-1902). An earlier incarnation of Northern Liberty Market existed in Mount Vernon Square starting in 1846, consisting of a collection of "dilapidated sheds" according to a later 1901 Washington Post article. Shepherd planned to destroy the market in 1871, but vendors learned of the plan and appealed for an injunction. In the middle of the night on September 3, 1872, Shepherd and a force of men from the Board of Public Works arrived "with picks and axes and rapidly tore down the buildings and sheds and cleared the square," as recounted by Washington Topham in the Records of the Columbia Historical Society (Vol, 24, 1922).

Designed by architect James H. McGill (1853-1908), a new Northern Liberty Market was built two blocks east of the old market site in 1875. Many of the vendors from old Northern Liberty Market moved to the new market with 284 stalls. By 1891, the building expanded upwards to include a large hall above the market, becoming one of the biggest venues at the time. The new Convention Hall served numerous purposes: a movie theater for silent films, meeting space for religious conventions, a roller/ice skating rink, and a bowling alley. The Convention Hall also hosted the annual Pure Food Exhibit, the Washington Auto Show, and dog shows organized by the Washington Kennel Club.

In March of 1946, a fire destroyed the top floor of Northern Liberty Market where the Convention Hall was located. While the fire did not spread underneath, thanks to the reinforced cement ceiling, products in the market below were severely damaged. By mid-April, Northern Liberty Market reopened solely as a market until it closed in 1963, due to the expansion of commercial supermarkets in the area.

The National Historical Wax Museum occupied the building from 1964 until 1975; the museum's departure left the building vacant. Eventually, the empty building was demolished in 1985. Today, the site is a mixed-use development of residential and ground floor retail.

DC Inventory: November 8, 1964, omitted from list July 24, 1968



5th Street NW & K Street NW