“11 interactive time-lapse slides that basically allow you to stand on a street corner and pull up a photo of that same spot from 100 years ago.”

Photo Credit 1925: Library of Congress Photo Credit 2015: Google Maps

From Rent Cafe, Washington, D.C. Past and Present: A Visual Tour:

“Washington, DC is one of the nation’s most historic cities — but it has also undergone significant and striking transformations as its diverse neighborhoods have modernized throughout the twentieth century. These then-and-now images showcase the development of some of the city’s most iconic streets and structures, giving you a glimpse into Washington’s past and present.

7. The Arcade / DC USA

A century ago, The Arcade on 14th Street in Columbia Heights was one of the city’s premier multipurpose entertainment complexes, complete with a movie theater, pool room, bowling alley, and rooftop pavilion for dancing. The original structure was torn down in 1948, and the surrounding area later struggled to recover from the 1968 Washington riots, which hit the block where The Arcade once stood particularly hard. Forty years later, vitality and commerce returned to the very spot in Columbia Heights where The Arcade had been with the opening of the largest retail development in the city, the DC USA retail complex, in 2008.”

Check out the other 10 great comparisons here.

33 Comment

  • Very few of the modern images come out better and easier on the eye than the old ones.

  • I so love past/present comparisons like this. As a transplant from the midwest, where you’re lucky to find anything older than 80 years, it was the first thing I loved about Washington. So much of old, old DC was still pretty visible when I moved here in the late 80s. I’m glad for all the new and shiny but it used to be that you could drive through the streets and just imagine what there were like a hundred years ago.
    On a side note, it’s always puzzled me to imagine 1940s era cars on some of the smaller residential streets, but whatevs.

  • Wow. So interesting. How did the city every let some of these get demolished? The old Northern Liberty Market building was amazing.

    • Agreed! Number 3 shocked me. Why would you demolish that beautiful Victorian Portland Apartment building??

      • The Portland being replaced by the awful Marriott is a crime. DC in the 60s, 70s and 80s really didn’t appreciate the Victorian buildings around and razed quite a few and replaced them with soulless concrete monstrosities.

        • It’s not just DC where that happened – all in the name of “urban renewal” – ugh!

        • Jerry Grundle

          Just as people 30 years from now will look back and say, “people in the early 2000’s really didn’t appreciate the Brutalist buildings around and razed quite a few and replaced them with soulless brick and glass monstrosities.”

      • Yeah, that one stood out to me among the various architectural / modernization “crimes” that were committed against so many lovely buildings!

    • I’ve read something somewhere about Portland Apt before. A lot of those old apartment buildings straddled the line between what we’d consider an apartment and a hotel today. Many “apartments” did not have kitchens, and were basically residential hotels. Meals were served onsite in central dining rooms, and in those days labor was very cheap and most tenants were male non cooks anyway. As for why it came down, probably same reasons as a million other buildings. Floor plans can’t adapt to modern uses, cities changed, economic obsolescence of the product, costs, upkeep, maintenance, etc.

  • Technical nitpick, but I though the point of these sliders was to show two images with nearly identical perspectives. I wish the “now” shots were actual photos taken from the same shot at the same shooting angle, rather than just screencaps of google streetview. Some of these are hard to mentally line up which buildings are which.
    Yes, I realize I’m insufferable for bringing this up and I could go out and do it myself if I really cared.
    Either way, those photo are awesome. Kudos!

    • I’m totally with you. But that would cost money to hire the photographer and secure the rights to the photo. These photos are free.

  • maxwell smart

    Way to go DC… none of the “afters” are improvements.

  • LOVE stuff like this.. Love it.. I wish there was an app that would allow you to literally stand on a corner and see what it looked like 200 years ago. Better yet, virtual reality goggles! That would be some tripped out sh*t..

  • Vanished:Washington is a great architectural site if you love comparing old photographs of beautiful structures and how DC has replaced them with boring crap:


  • Oy. I know the city has to grow and change, but c’mon, some of these replacements are absolutely awful. In pretty much none of these photos does my eye think “Oh, that looks nicer! how well done!” ick.

    On a slightly related note, bring back hats! Hats for everyone!!!!

  • perhaps not as dramatic, but I do love our local version of this:
    The steps that the family are standing on in the second photo are still on the row house on 8th St, just north of Upshur (the steps lead to the side of the Rock Creek Baptist Church). The column molding is still pretty much unchanged in many of the homes on that block as well. Kinda cool.

  • Bring back the arcade!! That sounds sweet.

  • Would you rather have a pretty city that is affordable only for the very very rich, or a less-pretty city with much greater density that is affordable for even the moderately rich?
    I kid a little, but the point it, those lovely old places did not offer anything near the density that a city needs to thrive.

    • So how is it that the city 50 years ago managed to house a lot more people than it does today?
      To be fair, it is a two-step process – all those old buildings were removed for parking lots in the post-war era (and especially the post-riots era, as population in DC was plummeting), and those parking lots are now being replaced by the modern crap as people are moving back to the city, albeit not yet at the density we used to have.

      • Some of that was through alley dwellings, and much of it was due to larger family sizes within two-bedroom homes.

        Many of the alley dwellings were legit slums without sewer hookups. The “slum clearances” were horribly done and destroyed a number of neighbourhoods that did not lack appropriate infrastructure but were black and “in the way”, but let’s remember that differences in standards were certainly a contributing factor to historical population density and historical poverty. If you look at some of the photos taken of the alley dwellings, you can see why the concept of brand new construction surrounded by parkland looked like a very good idea (the housing projects look a lot better as architectural concepts and were originally well designed but then implemented cheaply).

    • It’s not an either-or. The current situation with pop-ups is about the worst of both worlds — a teeny-tiny increase in density accompanied by a humongous decrease in beauty.

  • It’s a shame they didn’t try to recreate the look of the arcade. Would have been a much better choice than what’s there now. Just a big box store that makes Columbia Heights look like a strip mall.

    • …or worse, like Clarendon.
      But yeah, I feel like it wouldn’t have been more difficult or expensive to build something identical.

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