Long before work began in earnest in the 1990s for the Metro station at 3701 Georgia Avenue, the northeast corner of New Hampshire and Georgia Avenues became associated with transportation when the York Auto Supply Company opened in 1920.

York Auto Supply Co. (1920)Georgia Ave/Petworth Metro

Historic image from the Library of Congress.

Prior to 1910, this property was vacant. Surprisingly, the structure that came to be associated with the site for over 65 years was not the first to be erected there. That honor belongs to the Petworth Presbyterian Church, which was begun in 1910 and in use by 1911.

From Baist’s real estate atlas of surveys of Washington, DC (1909)

The use of this corner by the church was short-lived, however. By August of 1919 a new building permit was issued for another building to be located there: a single story brick structure owned by Morris Collins and built by Winfield Preston.

When the new building opened in early 1920, it housed True & Co. Cleaners and Dyers at 3703 Georgia Avenue and the York Auto Supply Co. on the corner at 3701.

To fully understand the significance of the new business supporting automobile owners, one needs to understand that in 1920 such a business was still a relatively new idea.

In the District, there were 4,833 residents with registered vehicles in 1914. This rose to 8,009 in 1915. From 1916 to 1919, ownership continued to rise, from 13,118 to 35,400, respectively. By the time the York Auto Supply Co. had broken ground, Washington had one vehicle for every 10.73 residents, ahead of the national average of 14.14 persons per car.

Between 1924 and June, 1927, a second story was added. This appears to have been used as an apartment. Ultimately, it was the dry cleaning business that was most suited to the structure over time. Sometime prior to 1965, Orchid Dry Cleaners was in the lower level where the service station had been, the drive through bay enclosed in a modern glass front.

Kent Boese posts items of historic interest, primarily within the District. He’s worked in libraries since 1994, both federal and law, and currently works on K Street. He’s been an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner serving the northern Columbia Heights and Park View neighborhoods since 2011 (ANC 1A), and is a candidate for the DC Council, Ward 1. He has a MS in Design from Arizona State University with strong interests in preservation, planning, and zoning. Kent is also the force behind the blog Park View, DC.