Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Former Acme – Washington D.C.

 Photos courtesy of Michael of Fairfax, VA

Location:  45 L St SW, Washington, D.C. 

Michael shared some information on the history of this former Acme...

Here's what I remember: This Acme was a part of the redevelopment of Southwest Washington, DC. It was open for only about a year in the very early 1970s (1971-1972 I believe). The store just wasn't in a good location and the area wasn't (and still isn't) a great area of town. Acme pulled out of this store which I believe was the beginning of the end or the end of Acme in the District. Acme had a number of smaller storefront locations around town prior to this store opening. This is the only A-Frame style store that was built in the District. The address is 45 L Street SW Washington, DC 20024. Cross street is Half Street SW. The building has been a US Post Office for many years. The interior has a drop ceiling in the customer areas. I couldn't get a clear view into the mail processing areas to see if that area still has the high ceiling open. Sorry I don't have more pictures. As I said this isn't the greatest part of town. It is between the area around Nationals Stadium and the Southwest Waterfront. This area hasn't seen the improvements that those areas have seen. Incidentally Safeway was part of the same redevelopment that brought Acme in. However Safeway located further west at 4th and M Streets SW which is now also at the entrance to the Waterfront Metro Station. Safeway ended up with the better location and remains there to this day. 

The Safeway has moved to a new location just behind its original spot. It is now located on the first floor of an eight story building. You can actually switch in progress by zooming in and out on the address on bing maps.

Rather unusual Acme here. Very small. The front windows extend across the front of there building indicating there is no back room space running along either side.

Doesn't looking anything like an Acme in the back. Since the building is not very wide, the pitch doesn't go up high enough to allow for a second floor. None of the usual scars along the back either. We can see that the area where the white door is located used to be wider. The delivery bays on the left were probably original to to the Acme. Unfortunately it can't be confirmed in the historic images.

The Acme fish-eye sign was most likely mounted to the front of the store similar to how it was done at the Hallstead location...

The two stores are very similar in design and size although Hallstead did have a large addition to the left side which just about doubled the size of the store.

Aerial Views

Historic Images





  1. michael erwin... your comment has already been published and responded to under September Discussions. It was moved there since it is off-topic.


  2. I've meant to stop by and take pics. This is not far from the longtime DC car inspection site and I used to see it when I still had a car. The store was open 1970-71. This general area was the seen of a massive urban renewal project from the late 50s through the early 70s. Most of the new development and all of the relatively affluent development was South and West of the Safeway which was situated in a small mall a few blocks to the West. The Safeway and the adjacent retail have been redone redone in recent years and no longer a mall. This Acme was oddly located in an area with small industrial buildings near housing projects. The industrial buildings to the East (now mostly gone) buffered it from Capitol Hill. It seems odd that it a grocery was ever built here.

    BTW, the general area is actually in much better shape than it was even 10 years ago and is not far from the new baseball stadium and an area with new office buildings that have federal and private tenants. New condos are not far away. the housing projects also seem to be on the upgrade. At some point, this location will be a prime site for redevelopment, itself.

    Acme had otherwise exited DC proper by the time this opened. They had scattered small stores in an odd collection of locations that were slowly closed over the course of the early 60s. Some of these became Acmes when they bought a local chain in the late 50s. A couple stores (now gone) were near the old Walter Reed campus. Another is now part of the Dupont Circle CVS.

  3. As a postscript, it would be interesting to know why Acme never had much of a presence in DC despite having been there for a long time. They had stores in DC before WWII and probably back in the 20s. Yet, they never built up a large store count and they often had odd locations. Another shortlived Acme is now a long-running REI in College Park. After its short Acme life it was a shortlived ShopRite then an A&P. It's away from busy Route 1 in a late 40s/early 50s subdivision. Acme shared the S&H green stamp franchise in DC with Grand Union which they didn't do in frontier locations like Pittsburgh and Erie. They never had many stores in those places either--why did they bother? It would have been relatively expensive to operate in reasonably large markets.

    Food Fair had en even smaller foot print in DC but also long tenure (though not as long as Acme). There was a local chain with the Food Fair name (bought out by Grand Union in the 50s) which may have been an issue, but the Philly chain never had more than a handful of scattered locations.Kroger bought a local chain but never had much of a presence and A&P never had the kind of dominance they had in other East Coast markets--they usually seemed to take a background role when there was a local juggernaut like Safeway in DC or First National in New England.