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The Metropolist

Fond Memories of Downtown Washington Often Find Their Way to Woodies

A Woodward and Lothrop window decorated for Christmas in 1950.
A Woodward and Lothrop window decorated for Christmas in 1950. (The Washington Post)
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By The Metropolist
Friday, September 4, 2009

The memories of Woodward and Lothrop, the grande dame of department stores, by far outnumber anything we've covered in the long waltz down memory lane. They will appear for the next several weeks. Please enjoy, and don't send in any more, because the cupboard is full.

We called it "Woodies." I come from a family of shopaholics. We shopped the Woodies in Friendship Heights, the one in Wheaton and in Montgomery Mall, but there will never be a store like the one that was in the heart of downtown with the North and South buildings.

It was the total experience of being in a large urban department store -- the impressive main aisle that ran from the G Street entrance to the F Street entrance. I remember the always crowded area by the row of elevators, the very cool Down Under section that connected the two buildings when Metro came to town in 1976; the stamp and coin department and the large, luminous chandeliers above the endless perfume, makeup and jewelry areas on the first floor.

One Saturday a month, my mom, sister and I would go in from our house in Silver Spring and meet my aunt for a fabulous lunch in the full-service restaurant upstairs in the South building. I remember the potato skin appetizer, the French onion soup, the Reuben sandwich and the glorious hot fudge sundae we were allowed for dessert. On special occasions, my grandmother would treat us to the special chocolate fudge cake only available at Woodies.

It wasn't just the food. It was everything about this grand department store. I spent hours in the book section in the North building. It had a portrait studio, where the three of us kids went to have a surprise portrait taken for my parents' anniversary present. It had great clothes and reasonable prices; a whole sewing and fabric section; a food and bakery section; and a cool toy department.

At Christmastime, to stand on the steps looking down at the G Street entrance and see the beautifully decorated store was breathtaking. It was always a treat to see the windows decorated with puppets and all the holiday trimmings. When we were very young, my brother, sister and I would shop in Santa's Secret Shop to purchase the finest Christmas presents a dollar or two could buy us.

For my family and me, Woodward and Lothrop is at the center of our memories of our downtown experience.

-- Michelle Brennan,

Ellicott City

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