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Atlas Performing Arts Center.
Photo via Victoria Pickering

10 Art Deco buildings every D.C. resident should know

From the Uptown Theater to the Folger Shakespeare Library

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Atlas Performing Arts Center.
| Photo via Victoria Pickering

Typically, when one thinks of architecture in Washington, D.C., the styles that pop in mind tend to be along the lines of Neoclassical structures, Brutalist buildings, or just plain boring glass boxes. Another architectural style took hold, though, at one point.

During the 1930s, Art Deco began making an appearance in the District with geometric shapes, bold colors, and machine and ancient motifs. According to Greater Greater Washington, over 400 Art Deco structures were constructed in the nation’s capital until the 1940s. Since then, many of the structures have been demolished or remodeled.

For the most comprehensive map of Art Deco structures in D.C., be sure to check out this map, created by blogger Anthony Hennen. For those who would instead like to learn about the most iconic Art Deco structures in the city, check out the below map.

Did this map leave out any notable Art Deco buildings in Washington, D.C.? Shout out your suggestions in the comments.

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The Uptown Theater

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While the interior of the 1936-constructed Uptown Theater has been remodeled over the years, the facade remains a notable example of Art Deco in the District. This single-screen movie theater in Cleveland Park was designed by John Jacob Zink, an architect whose firm went on to design over 200 theaters in the nation.

Uptown Theater Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Carol M. Highsmith

The Kennedy-Warren

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There were plans for The Kennedy-Warren to be an even larger complex, but the Depression halted construction. In later years, a northeast and south wing were constructed in the same style. Some of the decorative details to look out for when it comes to this 11-story structure include Aztec and other exotic motifs rendered in aluminum and brick. This building was built in 1931 and later listed as a D.C. historic landmark in 1989. In 1994, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/AgnosticPreachersKid

Lisner Auditorium

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Named after Abram Lisner, a trustee of George Washington University, this auditorium first opened in 1946. Before the Kennedy Center opened, this auditorium served as the focus of theatrical life in D.C. It has a seating capacity of 1,500 and is among the largest performance venues in Washington, D.C. In 1990, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/AgnosticPreachersKid

Park Tower

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This Adams Morgan building was completed in 1929. 60 years later, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Art Deco style in the building is displayed in the five-story structure’s ziggurat-like main facade, limestone and patterned brick, and golden buff-colored brick.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/AgnosticPreachersKid

Greyhound Terminal

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If you were to visit this site today, you wouldn’t find any Greyhound buses passing through, but during the 1940s that’s exactly what it was known for. The structure looks similar to a cinema with its glass bricks, exterior clock, and aluminum trim. In 1976, it was modernized and later slated for demolition before the Art Deco Society saved it and restored it.

Photo via Adam Gerard

Folger Shakespeare Library

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This is less Art Deco and more what Washington, D.C. architects describe as “Greco-Deco” due to its mixture of Art Deco styles with Greek and Roman traditions. In 1932, the building was designed by architect Paul Philippe Cret, the same architect behind the city’s Duke Ellington Bridge. On the facade of the building, there are frieze panels that depict scenes from plays by Shakespeare. Stainless steel is also displayed on the facade. The interior of the building is meant to display Elizabethan styles.

Photo via Ken Lund

John Adams Building

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Originally, this five-story building served as an annex to the Library of Congress. It was in 1939 when it first opened its doors to the public with sculpted bronze doors that displayed Mayan, Aztec, and Indian gods.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/USCapitol

Atlas Performing Arts Center

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This renovated Art Deco movie house first opened in 1938 and later reopened in 2005. The architect behind the structure is John Jacob Zink, the same architect behind D.C.’s Takoma Theater and Uptown Theater. Today, the structure houses a variety of arts organizations and houses one 260-seat theatre, one black box theatre, and two smaller “Lab Theatres.” There are also three dance studios, seven dressing rooms, and an office space.

Atlas Performing Arts Center Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Smallbones

The Hecht Warehouse

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Notice the curving forms and long horizontal lines of the Hecht Warehouse. Designed by Gilbert V. Steel in 1937, this Ivy City building is one of the most well-known Art Deco buildings in Washington, D.C. When it was constructed, it served as the central warehouse for the department store known as The Hecht Company. In 2014, D.C.-based developer Douglas Development totally redeveloped the 465,000-square-foot structure into a mixed-use space with residential units, retail, and a grocery store.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Superbass

Strand Theater

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When Deanwood’s Strand Theater first opened in 1928, it was the first motion picture theater constructed east of the Anacostia River for African-American patrons. Today, it’s vacant. Currently, there are plans to renovate the space, but this is still in the early stages. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Smallbones

The Uptown Theater

Uptown Theater Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Carol M. Highsmith

While the interior of the 1936-constructed Uptown Theater has been remodeled over the years, the facade remains a notable example of Art Deco in the District. This single-screen movie theater in Cleveland Park was designed by John Jacob Zink, an architect whose firm went on to design over 200 theaters in the nation.

Uptown Theater Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Carol M. Highsmith

The Kennedy-Warren

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/AgnosticPreachersKid

There were plans for The Kennedy-Warren to be an even larger complex, but the Depression halted construction. In later years, a northeast and south wing were constructed in the same style. Some of the decorative details to look out for when it comes to this 11-story structure include Aztec and other exotic motifs rendered in aluminum and brick. This building was built in 1931 and later listed as a D.C. historic landmark in 1989. In 1994, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/AgnosticPreachersKid

Lisner Auditorium

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/AgnosticPreachersKid

Named after Abram Lisner, a trustee of George Washington University, this auditorium first opened in 1946. Before the Kennedy Center opened, this auditorium served as the focus of theatrical life in D.C. It has a seating capacity of 1,500 and is among the largest performance venues in Washington, D.C. In 1990, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/AgnosticPreachersKid

Park Tower

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/AgnosticPreachersKid

This Adams Morgan building was completed in 1929. 60 years later, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Art Deco style in the building is displayed in the five-story structure’s ziggurat-like main facade, limestone and patterned brick, and golden buff-colored brick.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/AgnosticPreachersKid

Greyhound Terminal

Photo via Adam Gerard

If you were to visit this site today, you wouldn’t find any Greyhound buses passing through, but during the 1940s that’s exactly what it was known for. The structure looks similar to a cinema with its glass bricks, exterior clock, and aluminum trim. In 1976, it was modernized and later slated for demolition before the Art Deco Society saved it and restored it.

Photo via Adam Gerard

Folger Shakespeare Library

Photo via Ken Lund

This is less Art Deco and more what Washington, D.C. architects describe as “Greco-Deco” due to its mixture of Art Deco styles with Greek and Roman traditions. In 1932, the building was designed by architect Paul Philippe Cret, the same architect behind the city’s Duke Ellington Bridge. On the facade of the building, there are frieze panels that depict scenes from plays by Shakespeare. Stainless steel is also displayed on the facade. The interior of the building is meant to display Elizabethan styles.

Photo via Ken Lund

John Adams Building

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/USCapitol

Originally, this five-story building served as an annex to the Library of Congress. It was in 1939 when it first opened its doors to the public with sculpted bronze doors that displayed Mayan, Aztec, and Indian gods.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/USCapitol

Atlas Performing Arts Center

Atlas Performing Arts Center Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Smallbones

This renovated Art Deco movie house first opened in 1938 and later reopened in 2005. The architect behind the structure is John Jacob Zink, the same architect behind D.C.’s Takoma Theater and Uptown Theater. Today, the structure houses a variety of arts organizations and houses one 260-seat theatre, one black box theatre, and two smaller “Lab Theatres.” There are also three dance studios, seven dressing rooms, and an office space.

Atlas Performing Arts Center Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Smallbones

The Hecht Warehouse

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Superbass

Notice the curving forms and long horizontal lines of the Hecht Warehouse. Designed by Gilbert V. Steel in 1937, this Ivy City building is one of the most well-known Art Deco buildings in Washington, D.C. When it was constructed, it served as the central warehouse for the department store known as The Hecht Company. In 2014, D.C.-based developer Douglas Development totally redeveloped the 465,000-square-foot structure into a mixed-use space with residential units, retail, and a grocery store.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Superbass

Strand Theater

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Smallbones

When Deanwood’s Strand Theater first opened in 1928, it was the first motion picture theater constructed east of the Anacostia River for African-American patrons. Today, it’s vacant. Currently, there are plans to renovate the space, but this is still in the early stages. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Smallbones