Farewell formstone…

A reader reports:

“Saw this on Friday. They are chipping the formstone off the old Fringe building on New York Ave. NW with a hammer and chisel.”

Ed. Note: Capital Fringe is now located at 1358-1360 Florida Ave, NE.

And thanks to a twitter reader for reminding me that this was also A.V. Ristorante Italiano’s space that closed in 2007. Here’s a couple shots from flickr:

Photo by Kate Mereand-Sinha

Photo by Shawn Honnick

31 Comment

  • I wish I could track down the inventor of formstone and dump all this debris in their backyard.
    Worst decorating trend ever (maybe behind vinyl siding over brick).

    • Isn’t it at least easier to remove siding from brick than to remove formstone from brick, though?

    • You might have a tough time tracking him down…

    • ugh. we have both on our house.

    • formstone is not decorating trend so much a reflection of poor quality building materials. Its was primarily used to protect poorly made brick to prevent it from deteriorating and collapsing.

      • It’s easy to think when looking at older buildings that they were really built to stand the tests of time. The reality is they weren’t. Formstone, vinyl, asbestos tiles likely protected buildings from collapsing or being torn down. They extended the lives of buildings that were past their life spans.

        • There’s a ton of housing stock in D.C. that’s 100 or more years old. I’d call that a pretty good show on standing the test of time.

          • Just because its standing doesn’t mean its safe. Unless your house has been pointed properly its either held together by sand or the bricks are slowly cracking apart due to losing the cement vs soft brick battle.

          • Gee, I guess we should all look out for an epidemic of collapsing rowhomes then. :eyeroll:

        • Let’s see how the treated lumber and siding in the mcmansions in the exurbs hold up in 50 years. I’m betting DC housing stock will still be looking good and much of Loudon county will look like Detroit.

    • I may be the only person who thinks this, but in certain settings like this one, I happen to like Formstone. It sticks out like a gangrenous thumb when it’s the only house on the block, but when it’s an entire building I think it’s kind of cool. It also reminds me of my 1970’s childhood, so it’s got nostalgia going for it in my book.

    • Good point textdoc. I guess a metric for “worst” should include both aesthetic qualities and lasting impact.
      I deeply miss AV though.

  • Kind of funny how a lot of people only know this as “the Fringe Building” and don’t remember A.V. at all.

  • I had my first dinner in DC at A.V.’s when I visited the city in April 1985. Thirty years later I live a few blocks away. That always amazes me.

    • My first meal at AV was in 1978. Dad picked up a pile of carryout pizzas for a Gonzaga game (my brother was a linebacker).

  • Tracey Ullman has a funny take on those who try to preserve formstone in her movie ” A Dirty Shame”.

  • Fringe has a new home in Trinidad, which will likely lead to the further gentrification of that neighborhood. It is sad they lost that space, it was a great location, but fringe lives on.

  • I remember it as a restaurant, run but an Italian family that catered especially to the police station directly across the street, back before it was reduced to a substation. But I also remember the 3-story row houses on H Street between 9 and 11 and house several Chinese families were displaced, some moved to the Wah Luck in 1982, when those houses were torn down to make way for the first convention center — It barely lasted 20 years, and later facade preservation laws ‘encouraged” if they did not mandate the integration of many of the historic fronts seen on 10th and 11 between F st and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. GWU did s fantastic job preserving the 3-story fronts on building at its campus.

    The family sold this restaurant was rewarded an paid, I believe 11 million, several years ago for the property. It was a very impressive amount. Formstone was always controversial. Even it in its day, it was seen as a faux-pas stone utilized by those who could not afford ‘real stone’.

    However, I am not worried about the buildings that will line New York Avenue. It represents a gateway into the city which eventually will be well-served and preserved in a tasteful manner. Unfortunately, other gateways like Georgia Avenue, will take decades to correct.

    The minds of earlier pop-up proponents, basically the architecturally ignorant, prevailed and destroyed much of the streetscape on that avenue, south of Kansas Avenue. I am perplexed by those who voice support for the ugliest of pop-ups. Construction practices, as I have said it the previously, that were banned 100 years ago for exactly the same reasons that we voice opposition against them now….

    Such construction was viewed as cheap, ugly, architecturally unimpressive, and most importantly — unsafe ,prone to fire. Still such pop-up structures favored by immediately greedy, the uneducated and the ill-informed. All of those reasons to oppose pop-ups and similarly cheap construction still exist today.

    We really need to focus on the preservation of the city’s streetscapes and buildings that we constructed to last 100 years and 100 of years.

    • Thanks for writing this thoughtful post, making many points, and keeping DC history alive and relevant. Do it often! I imagine I will find myself quoting you on this at some point: “Such construction was viewed as cheap, ugly, architecturally unimpressive, and most importantly — unsafe ,prone to fire. Still such pop-up structures favored by immediately greedy, the uneducated and the ill-informed. All of those reasons to oppose pop-ups and similarly cheap construction still exist today.”

  • AV was such a fun spot. My grandmother ate lunch there frequently while she was working as a switchboard operator at the Yale Steam Laundry just down the avenue. The place was pretty dark in the evening. I always had to hold the candle up to the menu in order to see it, and I still think about spaghetti Caruso lol

  • AV’s was such a wonderful place. I will only drink red table wine out of little glass “OJ” cups now because of that place. A carafe or two and the white pizza to start was the beginning to many many wonderful working lunches.

    The entire vibe of that place was awesome. Nothing like it in DC anymore…and if there is, please let me know so I can go there.

    • I still prefer red wine in small juice glasses too. My wife & I spent our honeymoon in Italy in mid-2006 where that was obviously very common place. We bought a house in Bloomingdale in late-2006 and AV was one of the first places we started going and the small juice glasses were my first tip-off to how authentic the place was. Back then it was one of the only places remotely close to our house, I’d even drive over there just to pick up some pizza and drive it home myself. So garlicly delicious.

  • I liked AV until the owner called me a faggot.

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