Last week's opening of the new flagship store of the Hecht Co. is a case of history repeating itself. Public transportation was a determinant in its location, as it had been at the old site.
In the years after the Civil War, as stores expanded their stocks and got larger, lower Seventh Street north of Pennsylvania Avenue became the capital's retail center. It complemented the Center Market, the 19th century counterpart of today's supermarkets, which stood south of the Avenue on the site of the present Archives.
When Woodward and Lothrop established their first store, it was there. When Samuel Hecht came from Baltimore to open his first Washington outlet in 1891, he chose Seventh south of F Street, the hub of four major streetcar routes that reached all parts of the then-settled region.
By 1911, Hecht's looked like the picture above. The buildings at left, on the southeast corner of Seventh and F, were razed in 1924.
After World War II, public transportation went into a tailspin. Two major department stores, Kann's and Lansburgh's, closed their doors.
Then came the subway. Woodward & Lothrop sat atop the key Metro Center station, and punched a direct entry to its platforms. Hecht's toyed with a similar connection from its old store to the Gallery Place station, but decided to build anew at 12th and G and upstage its archrival with not one, but two, connections to the subway platforms.