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Downtown DC from Decades Past

by Nena Perry-Brown

Downtown DC from Decades Past: Figure 1
Image from Bill Barrett’s collection, 700 Block of K Street NW, July 20, 1963

The National Building Museum, in partnership with the Historical Society of Washington, DC, is currently running a curated selection of images, taken from the 1960s-‘80s in and around the Mount Vernon Square area in DC, that both preserve and pay homage to the architecture and residents of yore. The exhibit features the photography of Bill Barrett, Chris Earnshaw and Joseph Mills.

Downtown DC from Decades Past: Figure 2
Image from Bill Barrett’s collection, 1115 9th Street NW, January 4, 1966

Barrett’s photographs are mostly well-composed and unfussy images of blocks and rows of buildings commissioned by local publisher Kiplinger Washington Editors. One image from 1966 of the now-demolished 1115 9th Street NW (current site of the Convention Center) could easily be captioned “DC’s first pop-up”.

Downtown DC from Decades Past: Figure 3
Image from Earnshaw’s collection, 1102 G Street N.W., 1971

Earnshaw began taking pictures as a preteen in the 1960’s; his photographs are an interesting mix of candid shots of people and studies of architectural details, and his passion for historic preservation comes through.

Downtown DC from Decades Past: Figure 4
Image from Mill’s Inner City collection, 1982–1989

Mills’ photography immortalizes the city’s less illustrious side through the 1980’s, with images “shot from the hip” without being freaked through the camera’s viewfinder. The photographer printed his snapshots using film manipulation techniques that create a yellow-and-sepia tinge.

As the city rapidly develops, it is nice to go back and witness what DC was like decades ago. The District II exhibit runs at the National Building Museum until February 12, 2017.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/mount_vernon_square_from_decades_past/11939

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