The Palais Royal was founded in 1877 by Abram Lisner (1855-1938). Lisner emphasized quality merchandise at low prices, which led to success at his DC store. Like many other businesses in the 1890s, the Palais Royal moved from the flood-prone Pennsylvania Avenue to the higher ground of the F Street corridor, a developing commercial district. The new, five-story building opened in 1893 and was designed by architect Harvey L. Page (1859-1934) in the "Chicago" style, a relatively rare style in DC architecture. The Palais Royal continued to expand in its new location, both in its workforce and physical space. In 1910, the department store added an additional floor and new roof, expanding upwards; new construction in 1911 and 1914 expanded the store outwards. By 1914, the department store employed 600 people.
In 1924, Lisner retired and sold his business to S.S. Kresge (1867-1966) for approximately $5 million. In 1942 and 1943, Palais Royal opened three suburban branches, one in Bethesda and two stores in Arlington. Kresge later sold the store to Woodward & Lothrop (also known as "Woodies") in 1946, for approximately $5.7 million. Woodies began picking apart its newly acquired assets, closing the branch stores. Woodies expanded into the old Palais Royal building, which conveniently connected underground to its adjacent store (located a block to the south). When Metro Center was built in the early 1970s, the subway station also connected to the Woodies passageway, giving customers easy access to the store.
By the 1980s, Woodies began to downsize and sold off the Palais Royal building for redevelopment, despite its historic landmark designation in 1964 and again in 1973. The DC Preservation League stepped in, trying to save the unique Chicago-style building. Testifying on behalf of the DC Preservation League, Michael Quinn argued that the building represented a transition from traditional masonry to the iron skeleton of modern skyscrapers. The Historic Preservation Review Board ruled against the raze request, but the Mayor’s Agent for Historic Preservation, who holds the authority to determine public interest under the DC historic preservation law, overturned the request. The DC Preservation League chose not to pursue the case in court, and the building was razed in 1987. The site is now the Washington Center office building.
DC Inventory: November 8, 1964, omitted from list July 24, 1968
DC Inventory Redesignation: October 24, 1973