Union Terminal Market, 2017. Photo by Maygene Daniels

Union Terminal Market, Then and Now

September 25, 2017

In her September 25, 2017, Overbeck History lecture "Union Market, Then and Now", architectural historian Laura Hughes described the history of the area from its earliest uses to future developments. Located on a 10-acre tract between 4th and 6th streets NE, just north of Florida Avenue (first known as Boundary Street), the site was once part of an early 19th century farm with an elegant Latrobe-designed mansion known as Brentwood. Later Camp Meigs, a World War I training camp, occupied the site. By 1926, the federal government began making plans for the demolition of Center Market and the nearby wholesalers' market buildings to be replaced by the Federal Triangle office buildings. Realizing that they would need a place for their businesses, a group of wholesalers formed the Union Terminal Market Association in 1928 to establish both a wholesale and farmers' market in northeast DC near the railroad lines and major roads. With the impetus of the looming loss of their buildings at the Federal Triangle site and despite the impact of the Depression, the market association forged ahead to purchase the needed land at the Camp Meigs site, create a site plan with appropriate streets and infrastructure, and establish a building style and form for individual buildings to meet changing market and transportation conditions.

The buildings, designed by E.L. Bullock, Jr., were a reflection of the turn to the Classical Revival style as well as the need for a different scale that would allow for a food delivery system based on trucks and train transportation rather than the horse and wagon. Ms. Hughes pointed out the various architectural features incorporated into the Union Terminal Market design: two-story buff brick industrial buildings, typically with a covered loading area supported by Doric columns of reinforced concrete, forming an arcade. On the second story, steel windows are topped by concrete bas relief panels featuring a classical swag design and recessed brick panels above. This style template was followed in the buildings built in the 1929-39 era.

Bringing the audience up to the present day, Ms. Hughes presented a number of the projects now rising or expected to be built in the Union Market area. She also noted that the early buildings and street system had been designated the Union Terminal Market Historic District by the DC Historic Preservation Review Board in 2017 and is now listed on the National Register.

Following the lecture, Brenda Kolker Pascal and her husband Paul Pascal, a lawyer who had represented many of the Union Terminal Market wholesalers added their memories and showed photographs of the early days of the market, the Kolker Poultry Company and the many owners, past and present, who have been part of the Union Terminal Market Association.

Laura Harris Hughes, a principal of the architectural research and consulting firm EHT Traceries, has worked closely with federal and state agencies as well as local groups to promote adaptive use of historic structures. She was the principal author of a historic research report by EHT Traceries on the Union Market area, which led to the designation of the area as a DC historic landmark site. She also served as the preservation consultant for the Office of Planning's Small Area Plan on the Union Market area. A graduate of Mary Washington College, Ms. Hughes received her Master of Science degree in historic preservation from the University of Pennsylvania.

Past Lectures