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Northern Liberty Market | by NCinDC
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Northern Liberty Market

Click here to see the same view 90 years later. (photo courtesy of the National Photo Company, via




The Convention Hall Market, originally named Northern Liberty Market, was located on the east side of 5th Street NW, between K and L, in the present day Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The market opened in January 1875 and was designed by architect James H. McGill.


Via Streets of Washington:

"Heavy stone foundation walls had to be extended 12 feet into the marshy soil; on top of them red-brick walls with granite trim were erected. Over 200 tons of iron were used to create 14 giant roof trusses, each spanning 126 feet, that carried the tin-covered wooden roof over the building. Inside the floor was paved with flagstones and canted slightly so that it could be easily hosed down. Merchants could rent the building's 284 stalls for $5 or $10 a month each...


...After a new owner came into control of the company in 1891, plans were soon afoot to make better use of the cavernous open space above the market stalls by adding a second floor to be rented out for public events. In this way the Northern Liberty Market came to be transformed—augmented, really—to become the city's first convention center. "Washington is no longer a convention city without a convention hall," the Washington Post proclaimed in May 1893, upon viewing the newly constructed space, which had a reported capacity of 6,000 seated or 10,000 standing. "The floor space of the hall is larger than that of the famous Madison Square Garden in New York, and it is unbroken by pillars. One of its first virtues is that it is as nearly fire-proof as a building can be. The body of the floor itself is of concrete, with only a layer of boards over it"."


Sadly, the building was not fireproof. In March 1946, a devastating fire resulted in the roof's collapse. The market was reopened, but with a flat roof. The building was painted pink (!) in 1955 and renamed Center Market City. The market finally closed in 1963, and from 1965 to 1974, it was home to the National Historical Wax Museum. The empty building was finally demolished in 1985.

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Taken sometime in 1920