Frager's Hardware caught fire this afternoon, unreeling plumes of smoke that were visible from two states. More than 100 firefighters battled the blaze, and lost. From beside the Capitol, the smoke and smell were unmissable - as were the warnings from the DC government to stay indoors and avoid breathing the air.
The view from the Madison Building of the Library of Congress.
For those of you who wonder why I've chosen to memorialize a hardware store, Frager's was not just any hardware store. It was a 93-year-old Hill institution and a "home center" in a way that the big box stores who coined the phrase will never be. Frager's was where children who romped in blanket tents and on wood crate boats went as adults, to build more adult domiciles, but still with a bit of magic in them. Frager's was full of friendly employees who could find you the nails or the garden pots or a length of chain or the tea towels or a plunger or some plate glass because the endless multi-storied maze of aisles and shallow shelving required a guide. Even better if that guide could help you figure out how to refinish a chair, or just recommend a good local restaurant.
Frager's was, in its own odd way, a community center as well as a "home center." Memorial Day and Labor Day, the aisles teemed with construction crews and DIYers, or new renters copying shiny new keys; Thanksgiving saw local folks grabbing a baster from the kitchen aisle; for Easter, a pot of lilies from the garden center; for Christmas, a fresh, fragrant tree.
For me, Frager's has been part of what it means to live in D.C., from my first move, to my first solo apartment.
Here is the home that Frager's built:
I scored this mirror in a thrift store for $30, painted it white, and then realized it weighed... a lot. And it had no proper hardware. And I didn't know how to drill into a plaster covered wall. So I went to Frager's, and a Frager's guide (quite literally, on those pokey stairs), held my hand, taught me what to do, and saved me from seven years of bad luck.
These are the walls, covered in the Hanging Vine paint by Mystic, that a Frager's guide helped me pick out, after I came in with a green porcelain bowl I hoped to match. Thank you for finding the perfect color! (Photo by Katherine Frey)
This is the white credenza, restored from its original eBay state of yellow cream with SLATE BLUE paint over the hardware. Thank you Frager's guide, for showing me how to strip paint (and reminding me to wear a face mask).
Thanks for helping me figure out how to paint a stubborn metal shelf when the paint wouldn't take. A Frager's guide knew it was no big deal and fixed the problem ASAP - look at the results!
Thanks for the wonderful Christmas memories, picking out trees with friends, finding choice paperwhite bulbs, discovering "shotgun shell" Christmas lights...
Thanks for everything, Frager's.