Dorsch's White Cross Bakery (Wonder Bread Factory)
Dorsch's White Cross Bakery, located in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C., is a building complex that provides office, retail, and event space. Formerly a bakery complex, the buildings represent the Districts's once prominent baking industry. Featuring craftsman-style elements, the S Street structures are amongst the most notable examples of industrial and commercial architecture in the city.
Backstory and Context
In 1913, Dorsch built what was to be the first of several expansions to White Cross in Wiltberger Alley. His complex would eventually grow to include not only the factory, but also retail space, a baking plant, and stables and garages for delivery wagons. Dorsch's largest competitor was the Corby Baking Company, located at 2301 Georgia Avenue NW. In 1925, The Continental Baking Company acquired the Corby bakery. Dorsch sold his company to Continental in 1936, which used the plant for the production of Wonder Bread (originally a product of the Corby Baking Company) and Hostess cakes. When Wonder Bread moved its production out of D.C. in the 1980s, the facilities were shut down and abandoned.
Douglas Development purchased the property in 1997. Plans in 2010 to turn the structures into condos never materialized, and the property sat vacant for two decades. In 2012, the buildings were renovated and transformed into office, retail, and event spaces. The brick façades were maintained, retaining the structure's original character. The S Street side of The Event Space was excavated and floor-to-ceiling windows added in order to improve lighting. Additional upgrades included the addition of a parking garage, an additional story at the rear of the three-story building, and a third floor roof terrace. The Wonder Bread Factory was added to the Washington, D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites in 2011, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.
Architecturally, the complex is known as one of the most notable examples industrial and commercial buildings in D.C. The shorter 1913 building was designed by architectural firm Simmons & Cooper, the 1922 structure by Frederick W. Mullet of A.B. Mullett & Co. The two S. Street buildings feature craftsman-style elements and are adorned with white glazed tile crosses. The crosses, emulating those of the American Red Cross, were intended to alleviate food safety fears following the publication of Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel, The Jungle. The crosses, as well as the "Wonder Bread" and "Hostess Cake" lettering, are visible to this day.
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