The O Street Market exemplifies the large, functional, well-designed market buildings erected in DC under the massive public works campaign headed by Alexander “Boss” Shepherd. After the Civil War, DC sought to revamp its small-town image. To do so, it laid sewer and water lines, graded and paved streets, planted trees, and removed unsightly nuisances, like the city’s older public markets. Those older markets were replaced by well-designed brick markets such as the O Street Market, built in 1881. When it opened, the market was a popular destination for shopping and served a diverse community. At the time, the Shaw neighborhood was home to residents of many different races and socioeconomic classes, including Germans and other ethnic whites, as well as the Black community. Many residents earned a living working for the government, performing skilled and unskilled labor, and through commerce.
The riots of 1968 left the structure of the market unharmed, but the economic depression that hit the area afterwards resulted in its closure. In 1974, the Market was part of a two-block redevelopment project, the first of major commercial development plans for the Shaw Urban Renewal Area. The market was partially restored and rehabilitated by the Redevelopment Land Agency under the auspices of DC’s Department of Housing and Community Development. In 1977, the O Street Market, along with the entire block bounded by Seventh, Nineth, O, and P Streets was sold to the entrepreneur James C. Adkins for the commercial development of the land and further rehabilitation of the market. The O Street Market formally reopened on February 23, 1980.
In 2003, another renovation was planned when a severe snowstorm caused the roof to collapse. The building’s structure was mostly destroyed, except for parts of its facade. The market has since been restored and is once again being used for business.
DC Inventory: July 24, 1968 (Joint Committee on Landmarks)
National Register: April 28, 1995