2000-2008 Mt Vernon Avenue

For twelve years, starting in 1904, John Carpenter's stores were pretty much the only game in town if you needed groceries and sundries in the Del Ray development. Shopping was mostly done on foot and his only competition was Mary Woodward's much smaller shop at the corner of Del Ray and Clyde.

John had put up a large store, a smaller store and a storage building in a U-shape at the corner of Mt Vernon and Howell. He rented out the stores in 1912 to Russian immigrant Jacob Glassman and sold them in 1916, with his family owning them, on-and-off, for the next sixty years. The main store building was replaced in 1938 by the larger brick building that now houses the Evening Star restaurant, but the two smaller buildings, and the courtyard created by the U-shaped configuration, remain.

The original main store building housed a grocery at first, then an auto supply store and a hardware store. The current building is split in two lengthwise, and held Max Rumshin's DGS grocery store on the south side (now Evening Star) and “Doc” Carneal's Del Ray Drug Store in the current Planet Wine space on the north.

The tiny building at the back started out as a humble storage building, but assumed an importance well beyond its size in the 1950s and 1960s when it served as the law and realty office of Nick Colasanto, colorful former city manager and five-term council member.

The building on the north side of property saw its longest use most recently. It had served as the home of Critic Publishing, a printing house through the 1930s, but the record for the building was set by the Planterium and Comic Book Store which opened in 1977 and only shut down early this year.

Mystery surrounds the courtyard in the middle. Maps from 1921 to 1941 show gasoline tanks and a “filling station”, but there is no mention of such in the city directories. This was enough, however, to trigger an environmental survey in January 2011, when it was planned for conversion to an outdoor eating patio. The survey firm did find high levels of petrochemicals and then removed three large underground gasoline tanks and 45 tons of soil. In the event, old-timers in the neighborhood attest that the pumps were gone by 1948, although the concrete slabs remained for several more years. During 1910 to about 1930 many grocery stores had gasoline pumps beside the building until the advent of modern gasoline stations made them noncompetitive.

Next time you stop in, or just pass by, look around at the three buildings surrounding the courtyard. They all really do have stories to tell.

The mid-size building at the north end of the lot in 1991.