Out of the Attic: Woodies on Washington Street

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Woodward&Lothrop, the Washington, D.C., department store chain, opened its first location in Virginia in 1952. This Woodies, as the store was commonly known, was located at 615 N. Washington St. and occupied the block between Pendleton and Wythe streets.
     
In 1951, the architectural firm of Starrett & Van Vleck, which had designed prominent retail stores in the New York City area, designed the Alexandria Woodies in a Colonial Revival style with brickwork in Flemish bond, entrances with broken scroll pediments; and a centered portico with columns. 
    
The location provided adequate space for parking, an important consideration at a time when the consumers were becoming more mobile. The basement level entrance on the St. Asaph Street side was convenient for shoppers who had parked in the lot and the street level entrance on Washington Street accommodated pedestrian traffic.
     
In the weeks leading up to its opening, Woodies ran an advertising campaign drawing comparisons between Alexandrias historic buildings, like Christ Church, Gadsbys Tavern and Carlyle House, and the new department store, but also touting the convenience of a parking lot and the interior design work by Raymond Loewry Associates. 
    
On November 28, 1952, the day after Thanksgiving, store and elected officials, citizens and school children attended the grand opening in time for the holiday shopping season.
     
A second Woodies in Alexandria opened at Landmark shopping center in 1965 and in 1968 chain officials announced plans to close the Washington Street store. The building became home to furniture stores W&J Sloane and later Mastercraft Interiors before being demolished in 1999 to make room for a new office and retail project. Woodward & Lothrop filed for bankruptcy in 1994 and closed or sold all its stores by the end of the following year.

Out of the Attic is provided by the Office of Historic Alexandria.

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