Built in 1906 by George M. Barker Company, this warehouse accommodated the millwork and lumber firm established just after the Civil War. As DC experienced rapid population growth, construction projects proliferated across the city, and the Barker Company, whose adoption of water and steam-powered woodworking machinery allowed them to mass-produce millwork, benefited considerably. This new warehouse brought enormous benefits for their production, and the Barker Company’s adoption of new technology such as motor vehicles kept them ahead of their competitors throughout the early decades of the twentieth century.
For a while, the company remained successful, but gradually began to fade from prominence. The deterioration of the surrounding Shaw neighborhood in the 1950s and the destruction of nearby buildings following the events of the 1968 riots led the warehouse to vacancy. It remained so until the mid-1990s, when it was renovated and repurposed as the offices of the community-based organization, Bread for the City.
The Barker Warehouse stands as a reminder of a largely forgotten kind of building and economy. In a city that was never strongly industrial, small workshops and storage yards were scattered along streets and alleys throughout the city, where they would be close both to their customers and housing for their employees. The warehouse recalls the mixture of uses once found in the city’s urban neighborhoods, especially in the days before zoning.
DC Inventory: May 22, 2008
National Register: August 26, 2008