Developers Seek to Put the 'Wonder' Back in the Wonder Bread Factory | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : Metro Connection

Filed Under:

Developers Seek to Put the 'Wonder' Back in the Wonder Bread Factory

Play associated audio
The front of the Wonder Bread building in Washington, D.C.
Jonathan Wilson
The front of the Wonder Bread building in Washington, D.C.

It's almost as if the Wonder Bread building finally caught the revitalization bug that's been making its way around the block. Behind the old factory is the newly restored Howard Theatre, and next to it, a gleaming modern structure soon to be the new home of the United Negro College Fund.

The Wonder Bread building doesn't exactly look good, yet. A month ago, Douglas Development started removing its rotted innards, but now it's pretty easy to see what Douglas Vice President and head of construction Paul Millstein sees: that the old factory's skeleton is still, well, wonderful.

"It's four stories, it's brick, it's industrial," Millstein says. "[With] everything we do, we'll maintain the industrial character; from open bar joists—we're not doing concrete decks--every detail is put so we'll have a true industrial loft office, which really makes this building very different."

The restoration is scheduled to finish up in the spring of next year, with the building's first tenant, a furniture design company, moving in then as well.

Last year the D.C. Preservation League wanted to use the building for an anniversary party. Rebecca Miller, DCPL's executive director, who happens to live in Shaw, says simply making the building safe to enter took some work.

"The floor boards were up 6 feet tall off the ground just because they'd buckled up [due to] a lot of rotted wood," Miller says. "There were several feet of water in the basement, so a lot of this had to be rectified before anybody could really access it."

Though Douglas has owned the building since 1997, Paul Milstein admits even he was surprised at how rundown the inside of the building had become.

"Major sections of the roof were gone, which had caused this growth on the inside of the wood; plants can grow on a wood floor, it's amazing, so it was in pretty bad shape," he says.

Continental Baking Company, which produces Wonder Bread and Hostess products, left the building in 1988; the company first bought the property back in 1936.

But continental wasn't the first baking company to live here. The factory was originally known as Dorsch's White Cross Bakery, a bit of trivia hinted at by the two white crosses that still sit at the top of the building's S Street façade.

Douglas Development is preserving that front façade complete with the Wonder Bread lettering so familiar to local residents, along with the massive building's entire East and West walls.

"It's of course much more expensive than building new facade, but it's so far superior when you're restoring what was originally there that it's well worth it," he says.

So it appears the Wonder Bread building's time has come... again.


[Music: "Wonderwall (Made Famous By Oasis)" by Omnibus Karaoke - Karaoke Tracks from Audition Songs for Male Singers 4]

Photos: Wonder Bread

NPR

Getting A Tattoo Is An Unlikely Rite Of Passage For This Teen

Commentator Katie Davis helped with an unlikely coming of age ceremony for a young man she mentored and tutored for years. She took him to get his first tattoo.
NPR

There Are 200 Million Fewer Hungry People Than 25 Years Ago

That's the good news. The bad news is that there are still 795 million people who don't get enough to eat — and enough nutrients in their food.
WAMU 88.5

Virginia Candidates Spending Big On Consultants, Postage

The political consultants need to get paid, and that direct mail needs postage. Then there's the website and the campaign staff. These are the things candidates in the upcoming Virginia primary are spending big money on.
NPR

Threatened Online? Supreme Court Says Prosecutors Must Prove Intent

Justices declined to delineate exactly what sort of evidence could prove that an online post — such as "took all the strength I had not to ... slit her throat" — was intended to spark fear.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.