The Brookland Bowling Alley was constructed in 1938-1939 for the Brookland Recreation Center, Inc. to accommodate lanes for duckpin bowling. The building’s designer was William Edward St. Cyr Barrington, an architect who learned drafting as a youth in the office of Jules Henri di Sibour. In the mid-1930s, Barrington was known mostly as an interior designer of restaurants, nightclubs, and hotel dining rooms, although in later years his emphasis shifted toward designing mostly single-family homes, along with several apartment buildings, a hotel, warehouses, stores, a gas station, a factory, and a dairy. He was employed by the Home Construction Corporation on commissions for a number of affordable, single-family homes in the late 1930s.
Late in the Depression, bowling was increasing in popularity as inexpensive entertainment for a rapidly growing D.C. population. When the Brookland facility opened, there were 13 other commercial bowling alleys in Washington, plus lanes in clubhouses, universities, government bases, and other such buildings. Most are gone, including all of the public lanes themselves, but about a half dozen of the buildings remain from that time, only one other in Northeast (at 1123 H Street).
The sport’s popularity induced the property owners to add a second story and additional lanes to the Brookland facility within a year of its opening, still perceptible as a change in brick color on the exposed side and in the more subtly distinct set-back second-story façade. Nationally, bowling’s popularity peaked in the early/mid-1960s, but the number of District alleys peaked during World War II—with the number rising to 22—thereafter presumably crowded out by “higher and better” uses.
DC Inventory: July 28, 2016
National Register: August 19, 2019