Battleground to Community
Brightwood Heritage Trail
18 A Streetcar Named Brightwood
The Large Structure across Georgia Avenue opened in 1909 as a "car barn" for the Brightwood Railway. The facility could service more than 40 streetcars at once, and often did so late at night. As a young boy in the 1950s, Thomas Reardon remembered the busy barn as "a scary place" where streetcars' lights gleamed in the darkness "like the eyes of monsters." Powered at first by horses, the streetcars by 1893 ran on electricity provided by overhead lines. Congress prohibited overhead lines south of Florida Avenue, so southbound streetcars stopped there to switch to an underground conduit.
With two quick rings on the bell, the conductor alerted passengers that he was about to move. At night, residents recalled, the hum of the streetcar could be heard for blocks. Buses replaced streetcars here in 1960 (citywide in 1962). Subsequently the car barn housed a series of auto dealerships.
Next to the old car barn at 5921 Georgia Avenue, Sidney Hechinger opened his third building-supply store in 1927. Three years he built a substantial Art Deco Style store on the site. The longstanding and prosperous Hechinger family business had begun in 1911 with a wrecking and salvage company located at 6th and C streets, Southwest. Three generations of Hechingers directed the company with a strong sense of civic responsibility. John Hechinger, Sr., served as chairman of the first city council of the 20th century. The family sold the business in 1997, and the buyers closed its doors forever two years later.