Riding the 50s?

Riders traveling along Fourteenth Street corridor can catch a Metrobus on the 50s line. Along this route, you’ll notice over two dozen historic sites, which range from the impressive Tivoli Theatre in Columbia Heights to downtown’s iconic Willard Hotel. A majority of the sites along Fourteenth Street relate to the expansion of the federal workforce during the early to mid-twentieth century--and particularly the residential and commercial infrastructure that developed around it.

On the northern end of Fourteenth Street, you’ll notice many apartment buildings. The concentration of these buildings in the Brightwood neighborhood reflects the growth of the city’s streetcar lines and residential construction patterns during the interwar period. In Columbia Heights, you may notice a unique mix of urban and suburban housing stock, which is indicative of the area’s changing demographics over the last century. While it was originally one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods, Columbia Heights’ popularity grew significantly during the 1920s and 1930s, which resulted in the construction of several large apartment buildings; some of these, including The Cavalier, Trinity Towers, The Olympia, and Clifton Terrace are featured on this route.

Further south, a densely packed assortment of hotels and office buildings characterize the area. For example, the Willard Hotel, an imposing Beaux Arts building at the northwest corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Fourteenth Street, is a well-known establishment. Opposite the Willard, the District Building houses DC’s local government, including the municipal offices. Renamed the Wilson Building in 1994, it is a beautiful Neoclassical Beaux Arts style office building constructed in the first decade of the twentieth century; its smaller scale distinguishes it from other, less ornate, Federal Triangle buildings, the bulk of which were designed between 1928 and 1938.

This tour hopes to draw your attention to the hidden gems along your daily commute or your trip from one historic site to the next. Start at the historic site that’s closest to you! If you're traveling south on routes 52/54, click “Next” to follow along. If you're traveling north, click “Previous.”

Walter Reed Army Medical Center Historic District

Walter Reed General Hospital is one of the oldest operating Army general hospitals, and has played an important role in medical advancements throughout its history. Since 1924, it has been associated with medical education as the site of the Walter…

Vizcaya Apartments (Chilchester Arms Apartments)

Vizcaya Apartments, formerly known as the Chilchester Arms, is a conventional low-rise apartment building, built in 1936. Designed with Moderne stylistic elements, such as geometric brick and stone ornamentation and Deco-inspired setbacks, these…

Military Road School

Established in 1864 to educate free people of color, the Military Road School was formerly located on Military Road, which connected DC’s Civil War forts. In particular, the Military Road School was near Fort Stevens barracks, where many people of…

Concord Apartments (Park Vista and Pine Manor)

Built in 1936, 1937, and 1938, respectively, these four low-rise buildings in Brightwood are representative of the modest apartment buildings constructed to address the city’s explosive population growth in the interwar period. The buildings are…

Capital Traction Company Car Barn

Also known as the Decatur Street Car Barn and the Northern Bus Garage, the Capital Traction Company Car Barn, built in 1906, is one of only seven (of the original thirty) streetcar barns in the city. Around the turn of the twentieth century, the…

Twin Oaks Playground

Twin Oaks Playground was established in 1920 to serve the rapidly growing rowhouse community of Petworth. Originally, Twin Oaks was little more than fenced lawns, with a clay tennis court on the northern section. It was not until 1933 that a…

Danzansky Funeral Home

Bernard Danzansky, a former tailor and ice cream and stationery seller, established the first Jewish funeral parlor in DC in 1912, meeting the needs of a growing population of Jewish residents of the city. In 1923, Danzansky moved the business to…

The Cavalier (Hilltop Manor)

This apartment building was one of a number of collaborations between architect Harvey Warwick (1893-1972) and developer Morris Cafritz (1888-1964). Originally named Hilltop Manor at the time of its opening in 1927, the apartments were renamed…

Tivoli Theatre

Completed in 1924, the Tivoli Theatre is the only theater still standing in DC by Thomas White Lamb (1871-1942), the leading theater architect of the Golden Age of motion picture palaces. The theater reflects Italian Renaissance revival and…

Riggs-Tompkins Building

Erected in 1922, this block-long, temple-inspired structure was designed as one of the first branches of the Riggs National Bank, which foreshadowed the nationwide expansion of the banking industry following deregulatory measures passed in 1927. The…

Trinity Towers

Built in 1928, Trinity Towers is a significant example of noted DC architect Harvey Warwick’s (1893-1972) Gothic Moderne-styled apartment building. Planned as a large, urban apartment building on the Fourteenth Street streetcar line, Trinity Towers…

The Olympia

Built in 1898, The Olympia is the only remaining apartment house from the first wave of construction along upper Fourteenth Street in Columbia Heights, spurred by the opening of the electric streetcar line in 1892. As is typical of most…

Clifton Terrace

The Clifton Terrace Apartment Complex, originally known as Wardman Courts, was constructed between 1914 and 1915, during an era of explosive residential growth in DC. The complex was erected on the site of Belmont House, a Queen Anne style mansion of…

Luther Place Memorial Church (and Luther Statue)

Formally known as Memorial Evangelical Lutheran Church, Luther Place Memorial Church was founded in 1873 as a memorial to peace and reconciliation following the Civil War; two of the original pews were even dedicated to Generals Grant and Lee. The…

Major General George Henry Thomas Statue

This sixteen-foot-high equestrian statue honors Major General George Henry Thomas, a US Army officer who gained fame during the Civil War as the “Rock of Chickamauga.” The statue was a gift of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland. The Society…

National City Christian Church

The congregation of the National City Christian Church organized in 1843. A physician and pioneering Stone-Campbell Movement missionary, James Turner Barclay (1807-1874) helped to organize the congregation. Designed in 1930 by architect John Russell…

Hamilton Hotel

Designed by noted local architect Jules Henri de Sibour (1872-1938), the Beaux Arts Hamilton Hotel opened in 1922. The eleven-story limestone and terra cotta building offered out-of-town guests and locals meeting rooms, a gracious dining room, and a…

Tower Building

The Tower Building is a twelve-story office building of steel construction and limestone veneer. Robert F. Beresford designed the building, as well as the architectural firms Bates Warren, WDG Architecture, PLLC, and Harkins Builders, Inc. Completed…

Real Estate Trust Company (Continental Trust Building)

The Real Estate Trust building stands out among DC’s early-twentieth century office buildings. The building is a steel and concrete frame structure, sheathed in ivory-colored terra cotta with poly chrome accents. Its ground floor is clad in white…

Bond Building

The Bond Building has been a pivotal structure in downtown DC’'s business and financial district since it was constructed in 1901. The seven-story Beaux Arts office building, designed by architect George S. Cooper (1864-1929), stands as a landmark to…

Western Union Building (Commercial National Bank)

The Commercial National Bank, designed by noted Washington architect Waddy B. Wood in 1917, is an excellent early example of the simplified and stylized classicism that distinguishes some of DC’s most noteworthy early-twentieth century buildings.…

Colorado Building

Constructed in 1922, the Colorado Building was designed by architect George S. Townsend. In designing the nine-story office building, Townsend adapted the style of the Italian Renaissance. Marble, stone and brick went into the construction. The…

Garfinckel’s Department Store (Julius Garfinckel & Co.)

Garfinckel’s Department Store, designed in 1929 by the New York architecture firm of Starrett and Van Vleck, is an excellent example of a 1920s department store. By 1928, founder Julius Garfinckel (1872-1936) was the leading clothier in Washington,…

Federal-American National Bank

Following the merger of two banks, this building served as an elegant headquarters for the new Federal-American National Bank. The bank was designed by skyscraper architect Alfred C. Bossom (1881-1965), in association with Washington’s leading…

Willard Hotel

Designed by New York architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh (1847-1918), the Willard Hotel opened in 1901 as DC’s first skyscraper. The building successfully adapts the eclectic Beaux Arts vocabulary of French domestic architecture to the rigors of…

District Building (John A. Wilson Building)

Built between 1904 and 1908, the District Building occupies an entire city block between E and D Streets south of Pennsylvania Avenue. The building is an excellent example of American Beaux-Arts Classicism, designed by Philadelphia architectural firm…

Auditor's Building Complex (Bureau of Engraving and Printing)

Built between 1878 and 1880, the Auditor’s Building was the first facility designed and constructed by the federal government for the U.S. Department of the Treasury Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The complex housed the necessary materials for the…