Since it’s a short month, I was looking for a short subject, something easy and not too time consuming. I found the answer in a stack of Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes.
There’s only one place to go in DC for Blue-Bucks, and that’s Eastern Market. We’d wanted to go for awhile, and when we woke up last Saturday to steady rain, the time had come.
Eastern Market, c. 1973
Eastern Market has been a landmark in the Capitol Hill community since 1873. It was designed as a neighborhood market in 1873 by Adolph Cluss, a prominent local architect who designed dozens of post-Civil War buildings in the District of Columbia. (Cluss is famous in DC for his uses of red bricks…almost all of the prominent historical buildings in DC built out of red bricks were Cluss creations, including the Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building and Calvary Baptist Church. His extensive use of red brick, and perhaps his personal sympathies with the Communist Party and friendship with Karl Marx led him to be derisively known as ‘the Red Architect’.)
Calvary Baptist Church, built in 1866
Part of a larger, city-wide public market system, Eastern Market was built to provide an orderly supply of goods to urban residents. It acted to keep residents from leaving Capitol Hill for a neighborhood with better civic services and as a magnet to draw new people. The Market also symbolized the much-desired “urbanization” of Washington. At the end of the Civil War, the city was under pressure to erase its image as a sleepy southern village or face having the Federal Government removed. Eastern Market became part of the attempt to reshape the city's image and became the first city-owned market to be built under the public works program of the 1870s.
The morning after. . .
The temporary building is the center of activity. As you enter the building, the line for breakfast will be coiled around and doubled back upon itself, usually 20 or 30 deep. The breakfast counter has a single table (it’s about 20’ long) but once the table is full, the counter stops taking orders. They will only resume once spots open up at the eating table.
Outside, under the metal awning, less perishable items are offered. Produce, clothes, jewelry, and fresh cut flowers are all displayed as a man playing a banjo entertains the shoppers. Even if you aren’t buying anything, it’s an entertaining place to go people watch, similar to Pier 39 in San Francisco or the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.
So the next time you are in town, stop by Eastern Market and pick up an order of Blue-Bucks. You’ll be glad you did.