Then & Now: Powerful images show 1968 riot damage and rebuilt DC neighborhoods

This story is part of the WTOP series “DC Uprising: Voices from the 1968 Riots.” Each day this week, we’ll tell the stories of the upheaval and tumult 50 years ago through the eyes of those who experienced it.

WASHINGTON — The eruption of unrest in 1968 left scars on D.C. neighborhoods for years.

Many residents didn’t think some areas — marked by burned-out husks of buildings and boarded-up stores — would ever recover.

The following interactive photo gallery shows how the cityscape has transformed over the last 50 years.

The photos depicting damage from the 1968 riots are from the Darrell C. Crain Jr. photo collection and maintained by the D.C. Public Library. They are reposted here, with permission, alongside photos showing those areas in 2018 taken by WTOP photographer Dave Dildine.

The changes are startling, but what remains — the landmarks that endured — also tell a revealing story about the city.

Drag the slider left/right to see what DC neighborhoods looked like in 1968 and today.

An old, mixed-use building on northwest corner of 14th Street and Columbia Road still stands today. A 7-Eleven store currently occupies the space where a clothing store once stood. In the distance, the old Savoy Theater no longer exists. (Before: The Dr. Darrell C. Crain Jr. Photograph Collection/DCPL; After: WTOP/Dave Dildine)
Facing south on 14th Street toward Irving Street. Where Lerner Shops once stood, an expansive mall exists today. The Kay Jewelers on the southeast side of the development is the site of a present day Bank of America branch. Most of the structures immediately south of Irving street in the distance have disappeared. (Before: The Dr. Darrell C. Crain Jr. Photograph Collection/DCPL; After: WTOP/Dave Dildine)
The old Safeway location on the south side of Park Road east of 14th Street NW is pictured. The store was replaced with a six-story, mixed use building. The distant row houses with their turret roofs remain. (Before: The Dr. Darrell C. Crain Jr. Photograph Collection/DCPL; After: WTOP/Dave Dildine)
The structure on fire pictured on the northwest corner of 14th Street NW and Harvard Street NW no longer exists. It was replaced with a 10-story midrise. A firetruck from Engine Company 4 is seen responding to a routine call at the new building. The building north of it has also disappeared since 1968. The short, three-story building in the distance remains. (Before: The Dr. Darrell C. Crain Jr. Photograph Collection/DCPL; After: WTOP/Dave Dildine)
Facing southwest toward the intersection of 14th St and Park Road. Portions of the original structure remain, including the bank in the distance, formally Riggs Bank, now PNC Bank. (Before: The Dr. Darrell C. Crain Jr. Photograph Collection/DCPL; After: WTOP/Dave Dildine)
A demolished building east of Mt Vernon Square along K Street NW. The street has changed dramatically since 1968. The building now houses the Association of American Medical Colleges and a CVS Store. (Before: The Dr. Darrell C. Crain Jr. Photograph Collection/DCPL; After: WTOP/Dave Dildine)
The main drag through Columbia Heights, 14th Street, has changed dramatically since 1968. The C.G. Murphy Co. and Woolworth Co. buildings have been replaced with a taller, expansive development with a mall and bottom-story vendors like Modell’s, Sports Zone and Gussini. (Before: The Dr. Darrell C. Crain Jr. Photograph Collection/DCPL; After: WTOP/Dave Dildine)
Facing east on F Street NW, motorists pull aside to make way for a police vehicle as the 1968 photographer snaps a photo. F Street has seen immense change in 50 years, but a historic street clock erected in 1912 can still be seen in the distance. (Before: The Dr. Darrell C. Crain Jr. Photograph Collection/DCPL; After: WTOP/Dave Dildine)
The Woodward & Lothrop building on F Street between 10th and 11th streets was declared a historic landmark just four years before the riots. The logo on the flagship store has changed since the ’60s and and H&M store merchandise now occupies some of its window space. In the 1968 photo, a national guardsman stands outside the store. In the 2018 photo, a security guard keeps watch over the southwest corner of the building. (Before: The Dr. Darrell C. Crain Jr. Photograph Collection/DCPL; After: WTOP/Dave Dildine)
The architecture of the Tivoli Theatre building has been preserved over the last five decades. The space previously occupied by an electronics store, barber shop and sewing studio has been replaced with a Tex Mex restaurant, The GALA Hispanic Theater and a Wells Fargo Bank. (Before: The Dr. Darrell C. Crain Jr. Photograph Collection/DCPL; After: WTOP/Dave Dildine)
A newsstand is seen destroyed by looters and vandals. The stub of Kenyon Street pictured in the left foreground no longer exists. A building and the patio of the Heights Taproom current overspread the space where the newsstand, a gas station and Kenyon Street used to be. The charred Woolworth building can be seen across 14th Street. (Before: The Dr. Darrell C. Crain Jr. Photograph Collection/DCPL; After: WTOP/Dave Dildine)
Facing south down 14th Street, a truck carrying national guardsman idles in the southbound lanes. Behind an old Chevy Impala, the building hosting the paint store and liquor store no longer exists. A community plaza with a circular theme was constructed in 2009. (Before: The Dr. Darrell C. Crain Jr. Photograph Collection/DCPL; After: WTOP/Dave Dildine)
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More from the series, “DC Uprising: Voices from the 1968 Riots.”


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