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Samuel W. Woodward: Department Store Magnate and Real Estate Developer

By Stephen A. Hansen*

In 1886, Woodward & Lothrop department store co-founder, Samuel W. Woodward, built a large house for himself at 2015 Wyoming Avenue, NW. Designed by architect Eugene Clarence Gardner, it was situated on the highest elevation in what is now known as Kalorama Triangle, sitting at the top of the rise of the hill on Connecticut Avenue and looking down Connecticut Avenue before descending into the Rock Creek Valley.

Samuel W. Woodward. photo--author's collection.

Samuel W. Woodward. photo–author’s collection.

Samuel Woodward was born in Damariscotta, Maine in 1848. In 1873, he established a dry goods business in Chelsea, Massachusetts with partner Alvin Lothrop. After opening several stores in the Boston area, they moved to Washington in 1880. Woodward and Lothrop were not only business partners, but would also become neighbors when Lothrop built his stately mansion just south of Woodward’s on the site of the Tindall house in 1909. [Ed. note: see, “The Site of the Russian Trade Representative,” InTowner, October, 2014. ]

In addition to his success in the retail business, Woodward was also one of Washington’s noted builders. In 1903, he founded the Woodley Apartment House Company and constructed the Woodley apartment building at 1851 Columbia Road. It was the first apartment building constructed on Columbia Road and was designed by one of Washington’s most prominent architects, Thomas Franklin Schneider. In 1894, Schneider had designed the Cairo Flats (now the Cairo Condominiums) at 1615 Q Street NW, which is the still the tallest residential building in Washington, DC.”

Woodward's house at 2015 Wyoming Avenue. photo--Historical Society of Washington, DC.

Woodward’s house at 2015 Wyoming Avenue. photo–Historical Society of Washington, DC.

After getting his feet wet in real estate with the Woodley apartment building, Woodward then partnered with architect Frederick Pyle, who had previously designed many town houses along Calvert and Biltmore Streets, to build 11 town houses on Leroy Place and Bancroft Place in 1907 in the Sheridan-Kalorama neighborhood. Woodward also built another four modest apartment buildings in 1908 and 1912.

In 1909, Woodward selected a location on some land he owned not far from his house, along the curve where Connecticut Avenue connects to the Taft Bridge at 2311 Connecticut Avenue, to build his namesake apartment building, the Woodward. The reason today that Connecticut Avenue jags to the west before the Woodward building is that Woodward was successful in lobbying the District Commissioners to avoid his property while they were charting the course for extending Connecticut Avenue to the Taft Bridge in the 1890s.

Woodward's namesake apartment building, the Woodward at 2311 Connecticut Avenue. photo--Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Woodward’s namesake apartment building, the Woodward at 2311 Connecticut Avenue. photo–Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Woodward enlisted the architectural firm of Harding & Upman to design his seven-story, Mission Revival–style apartment building of brick and iron. When it was ready for occupancy in October 1910, it offered a total of 45 rental apartments. Three apartments located over the building’s entrance were duplex units, with a dining room, kitchen, pantry, parlor and library on the first level and three bedrooms and a bath on the second. The building originally offered many amenities including a roof garden, a summer pavilion and a doctor’s office on the ground floor. The basement contained a party room, billiard room and a barbershop. In 1973, the Woodward was converted into a condominium.

In 1910, Woodward undertook his final building project, the Airy View, located at 2415 20th Street, NW. The building remains unique in Kalorama Triangle, as it is the only one with a central bay pushed back from the street to create an enclosed courtyard, a popular configuration of Washington apartment buildings at this time.

Samuel Woodward died in 1917. His house on Wyoming Avenue was razed in 1926 for the construction of 2101 Connecticut Avenue.

The grand building at 2101 Connecticut is now on the location of the Woodward house. photo--Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The grand building at 2101 Connecticut is now on the location of the Woodward house. photo–Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.


*Stephen A. Hansen is an historic preservation specialist, Washington DC historian, author of several books and of the Virtual Architectural Archaeology blog.

© 2014 InTowner Publishing Corp. & Stephen A. Hansen. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part, including for commercial purposes, without permission is prohibited.