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DIY Del Ray: History Comes Alive with Art Deco

Take a closer look at one of Del Ray's biggest influences.

Del Ray is rich with architectural history—bungalows, Victorians, post-war rowhouses and century old farmhouses sprinkle Del Ray’s grid. But take a walk along Mount Vernon Ave. and it’s hard to miss one of Del Ray’s biggest influences, Art Deco.

I’m a huge fan of the fashion and style of the 1920s and 1930s, so when I found out the Del Ray Citizens Association was co-sponsoring a historic preservation conference with an emphasis on Art Deco, I knew I had to attend. The conference was held Nov. 10 in the cafeteria of George Washington Middle School, one of Del Ray’s finest examples of the Art Deco style.

The name Art Deco comes from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs held in Paris in 1925. The style’s characteristic geometric shapes, vertical lines and ornamentation can be seen in skyscrapers, offices and commercial buildings around the world.

In Del Ray, you’ll see Art Deco all along the Avenue—the Verizon building, Potomac West Antiques, Arlandria floors, the Post Office, Bean Creative, Cheesetique and Caboose Cafe all demonstrate elements of the style.

But Art Deco didn’t stop with architecture. Take a look inside Amalgamated Clothing and Dry Goods and you'll find stunning relics of Art Deco fashion. In the 1920s, women tossed their corsets and started wearing straight, loose-fitting dresses. Signature Art Deco geometric shapes and intricate beadwork gave these unflattering garments the glamour they deserved.

Art Deco is one of those styles that really seemed to have an impact on so many aspects of life. And with its impact so proclaimed in Del Ray, it’s a vivid reminder of our history. So the next time you are walking down the Avenue, spend some time marveling at the geometric shapes and limestone pilasters on our classic Art Deco buildings, pop into Amalgamated to see their collection of unique fashion and imagine what life was like so many years ago.

Visit DIY Del Ray for more examples of Art Deco architecture and Art Deco fashion right here in Del Ray.

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Pete November 27, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Don't overlook the Art Deco touches that exist in your own Del Ray home. Many Del Ray houses were built at the height of the Deco trend in the '30s. Bathrooms and kitchens most commonly were outfitted with tile walls and floors in Deco patterns, and Deco and Streamline Moderne fixtures were used in bathrooms (my own tub is a great Streamline example that I'll never get rid of). Sadly, these rooms also tend to be among those first remodeled, and I'm sure much of this history is already lost. Preserve what you can!
DIY Del Ray November 28, 2012 at 03:37 PM
That's a great point. We've seen a bunch of bungalows in Del Ray where the owners have opted to keep their vintage bathrooms and fixtures. Here's an excellent example of how homeowners salvaged what they could and renovated to fit the style and character of the original home: http://diydelray.com/2011/09/15/a-restored-1920s-bungalow-goes-off-the-grid/

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