External Environmental Description: Changes Overtime in DC and S Street

The longer I have lived in and researched Washington, DC, the more I have realized how quickly environments and locations change. Nothing seems to last forever, and while this may be portrayed like a bad thing, the Hostess Cake building is showing me how change can be a great thing. The Hostess Cake/Wonder Bread Factory building is on 641 S St. NW. It is also located directly across the street from the New Community Church, and right next to the Shaw-Howard metro stop. The metro stop allows easy access for essentially anyone to discover and interact with my site. Additionally, there are several apartment buildings surrounding the store. The apartments were very modern, but some of them had a more historic character or tone with their brick structure. Similarly, the Hostess Cake building, which was established in 1913, originally as the Dorsch’s White Cross Bakery, also kept the original brick when the building was reconstructed. In addition, there is a small white cross located on the top of the building in between the Hostess Cake and Wonder Bread signs. All three of these symbols and signs are representative of the site’s complex ownership history. Although the format and interior is completely redone and new, there is still evidence of the building’s past.

The site is used by completely different individuals than its original purpose years ago. If it were not for the three signs, people would not know what the building’s purpose is. In fact, I struggled to understand what the building was used for until I watched individuals with business attire enter. The location is home to the Wonder Bread Factory office space, and the upper level of the factory is also leased to the company ISL. There is additional office space for the company “wework”, that is connected to Hostess Cake/Wonder Bread, and has an identical brick infrastructure. After the Wonder Bread section closes at six, individuals need an electronic key in order to access the interior. People who were entering and exiting seemed to be easily navigating the space, and had no difficulty getting inside.


Overall, the site was not very colorful, and only contained blue in the “Wonder Bread” sign, red in the “Hostess Cake” sign, and white in the cross. However, the surrounding apartments were vibrant. There was not a single apartment I could see that had two of the same colors. There were reds, purples, grays, and blues. The modern and colorful apartments, in combination with the historic brick of the Hostess Cake/Wonder Bread building, created a beautiful area. Although some sections of the location had similar styles, none of them were identical and they all created their own unique, but complementary, sector.


Combined with its surroundings, my site made me feel nostalgic. After speaking with a man named Keith, who lives next to the New Community Church, and has lived in the same home for several years, I got a good sense of how much has changed overtime in the area. With me, Keith reflected on how he and S Street have changed and adapted together. He commented on the nearly non-existent drug problem, which previously was rampant on the street and in the Hostess Cake/Wonder Bread alleyway. Even though this was my first time observing my location, Keith painted a picture in my mind on what the area used to look like years ago. His descriptions were what established the nostalgic feeling I had. I began to contemplate the changes in my own life, and wondered what physical changes I would observe when I returned to my hometown of Watertown, CT. Although my town would not be nearly as revised as S Street, I still wondered how even the smallest alterations would possibly impact my life for the better. All of these thoughts were brought up by observing the exterior of my site, and by reflecting not only on the its simple infrastructure of 2016, but also by imagining what may have been in my building’s place years ago.

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