Historic Structures

Beckers Leather Goods Store, Washington DC

Date added: October 14, 2010 Categories: Commercial

This building forms part of the low scale commercial area north of Pennsylvania Avenue erected in Washington in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The building is one of three similar commercial structures designed by the local architectural firm of Marsh and Peter. It was demolished in 1980.

Becker's is a three-story rectangular building with a basement. This building measures 50' x 100', and is 50' high from street level to the top of the parapet wall. The building is three bays wide by five bays deep.

Clad in limestone, the building's three-story front facade features a wide, central bay with two narrow bays at the sides. The vertical articulation emphasizes this three-bay division through the use of piers that express the building's structural organization. In addition, the narrow lateral bays project slightly to suggest end pavilions. At the first floor, although only partially visible due to the storefront addition, piers have smooth rustication and support a full entablature at the first floor line.

At each lateral bay, the frieze on the entablature carries the store's elliptical embelem, and on the center bay panel the store's full name appears. Sitting on this entablature, composite colossal pilasters rise above each base pier to support a second entablature at roof level. The side pavilions are treated with recessed rustication forming the window jambs, similar to the ground level. The two upper floors are separated by a stone allege with a foliage design. The second floor lateral openings have a bronze balconet railing. On the central bay the two upper levels are articulated with a wide metal allege that repeats the foliage motif. Both floors present a tripartite subdivision established by narrow metal pilasters that act as mullions.

The northwest portion of the basement is finished with wood paneling and served as a gift-wrap and engraving area for many years. The remainder of the basement acts as storage space and mechanical equipment placement.

The first floor, entirely open, is used as a sales area, interrupted only by the freestanding column grid. The main stair and elevators are located along the west party wall. A mezzanine at the rear of the sales area contains offices and waiting areas, and is reached by an open staircase. Large windows in the rear wall light this area. In the early 1950's an enclosed one-story bridge was added at the first floor level, connecting this building with the one directly behind it.

The second floor was open with windows at each end and had been left vacant.

The third floor, similar to the lower level, was used by the adjoining Raleigh's with access through the party wall. In addition to a sales area, dressing rooms and mechanical rooms occupied this level.