Historic Structures

Lansburgh's Department Store, Washington DC

Date added: April 14, 2016 Categories: Washington DC Retail Commercial

The Lansburgh's complex functioned as a store until 1973.

Lansburgh & Brother Department Store at 418-430 7th Street, NW is made up of four separate buildings which have been united internally for over 100 years bv means of a common facade since 1940. The building occupies six city lots (all but the two northernmost lots of the northeast quadrant of square 431). The property commences about 75' from the northeast corner of the square and runs south for approximately 174'. It is 99'-2" in depth at its widest point. The two northernmost buildings are three stories in height while the remaining two buildings are four stories high. A basement runs under the entire four-building complex. The western (or rear) perimeter of this structure is connected to buildings erected in 1916 and 1924 which were built to augment the original 7th Street Lansburgh complex.

Both the 1916 and the 1924 portions of the building were designed by the architectural firm of Mitburne & Heister & Co. The 1941 addition was designed by the architect, Clifton B. White. The 1916 and the 1941 portions were built by the contracting firm of James L. Parsons. Jr. The 1924 addition was built by Parsons & Hyman.

In the 1940s the four independent 7th Street buildings were united behind an Art Deco/Moderne Facade. Constructed of large blocks of Alabama limestone with a polished black granite base, the elevation is characterized by narrow vertical slits with recessed windows and spandrels. Its overall composition is asymmetrical and features a taller central portion which corresponds to the original 420-426 7th Street Lansburgh building. The ground floor of the building has large show windows flanking the entry doors to the department store. A reveal line separates the ground story from those above. The stone blocks of the upper stories are laid horizontally between the tall, narrow window bays. A single row of square panels runs directly above the window openings of the center bays. The shorter side bays have two rows of square panels above the windows. Two incised horizontal lines are above these rows of unadorned blocks, approximately 2' from the top of each bay. One final row of square panels forms the crowning course of the building.

The graceful articulation of the terra-cotta ornamentation on the facades makes Lansburgh's one of the finest commercial style facades in the entire Washington downtown. The full height arched bays create a strong, rhythmic composition on the facades. In spite of its significant height, Lansburgh1s scale is compatible with its neighbors and presents a strong architectural image on its prominent corner location.

This building is located at the intersection of Eighth and E Streets, NW. It was once the most prominent structure of the Lansburgh's Department store complex on Square 431. This six-story building (plus basement) is constructed of brick, concrete and steel with a reinforced concrete slab system. The wall fabric is brick faced with glazed terra-cotta. Built in three stages, Lansburgh1s has an L-shaped plan and is abutted at the south east by other Lansburgh buildings. The central portion of the structure was built on Lot 821 in 1916 (Building Permit #5084, 5/20/1916) and measures approximately one hundred two feet by one hundred fourteen feet. In 1924 an addition was built immediately to the north on Lot 804 (Building Permit #7231, 3/12/1924) which measures approximately fifty-four feet by one hundred twentyseven feet. Finally in 1941, an addition was built on Lot 819 immediately to the south of Lot 821 (Building Permit #242626, 4/18/1941) which measures approximately twenty-five feet by one hundred and four feet.

The Eighth Street facade is divided by a five story arcade into twelve bays. The elaborate glazed terra-cotta facade is repeated on the E Street elevation where there are two five-story, arcaded bays. The street level facades on both Eighth and E Streets are continuous show windows built upon a granite base.

On the interior, the floor plans vary slightly on the basement, first and second levels. However, all floors are basically open plans, (except for the vertical circulation areas). There are banks of elevators in the northernmost bay and in the southeast corner, and fire stairs along the west wall and at the southeast corner of the building.

The Eighth Street facade of this building has an intricately patterned, white terra-cotta facing. It consists of twelve bays of full-height segmental arches with prominent keystones in the form of consoles. Each arch opening has a surround consisting of alternating paterae and honeysuckle ornaments. This repetitive motif descends through the pilasters at each bay. The surround is doubled at the juncture of the 1916 and 1924 structures and again at the 1916 and 1941 structures. Spandrels of the arcade have a floral pattern with a central raised disc above the centerline of the pier.

There is an entablature separating the first story from the five story arcade above. It consists of an egg-and-dart molded cornice, above which is a banding of tied papyrus bundles which are joined by two circular chain links. Beneath the cornice are cavetto, fillet and an unusual egg-and-dart molding. This egg-and-dart motif ornaments the pilasters at ground level and surrounds the ground floor display windows. It also frames the corner of the building.

The E Street facade of the building has detailing similar to that of the Eighth Street facade, but consists of only two arched bays of unequal widths. To the east of the arcading is a former lightwell, which has been filled and has exterior walls of brick. This new facade segment has a door at the ground level. Above, there is one window per story.

All windows are double-hung and contain one-over-one wooden sash. There are three windows per bay except for the wider eastern bay of the north facade which has four. The tripartite organization of each bay is established by mull ions in the form of clusters of colonnettes, which rise uninterrupted the full height from the belt course above the ground level to the intrados of the arch. Beneath each window is a terra-cotta spandrel panel featuring a deeply recessed rectangle.

On Eighth Street commencing at the corner of E Street, every fourth bay contains an entry with three pairs of double glass doors. The doors have aluminum frames and transom bars. A marquee clad in aluminum with horizontal fluting is above each set of doors. The original marquees may still exist, at least in part, beneath the cladding.