Walking into LivingSocial's new live events venue at 918 F Street, NW in Washington, DC, is like walking into a posh hotel. Fashionable concierge, glossy black trim, giant HD screen showing off all that the young company has to offer. But this isn't a new building. Like a lot of creative firms around the country/world (can someone do a study on this please?), LivingSocial chose to place themselves into a historic building.
Built in 1890 for the National Union Insurance Company, the Georgian Romanesque building has sustained many uses and stories over the years (see Ghosts of DC's post on the building), and had been altered at various points - most notably at the storefront and open-air vestibule, which LivingSocial brought back to its original look using drawings and photos from newspaper clippings.
As you probably know, LivingSocial is a web-based company that offers deals on everything from dinners out to house cleanings to mani-pedis. The company recently launched "live event" deals, in which customers can purchase things like cupcake classes with local celebrity chefs, small-venue concert tickets, and photography lessons. This building's interior was restored/redesigned specifically for these live events.
On the inside, the building is a grand mix of very old and very new. One of the coolest features is the original cage elevator - one of the last in DC - now painted a high-gloss black and backlit with blue lights.
More tour and photos after the jump...
Walk to the back end of the first floor and you'll find yourself in a room called the Speakeasy.
The main level appears to be a relatively nondescript black box with a small stage (see above), but upon closer inspection, there's a hole in the floor and a small spiral staircase that leads to the basement bar. Hole in the floor/ceiling + basement bar = good times on more than one level. The band O.A.R. played a small show in the room last week.
Waiting for a class to start? Take a seat in this snazzy room. Yes, all of the building's windows are restored originals.
That awesome dragon fireplace in the corner? Hidden behind a wall before the renovation, and thus, still in relatively perfect condition.
Upstairs, the demonstration kitchen is fully tricked out with stainless steel everything...
...motion-sensing cameras hooked into hanging TVs...
...and a community table in back made of salvaged DC rowhouse floor joists.
Although it's crazy to imagine, just outside is the alley John Wilkes Booth used to escape after assassinating President Lincoln.
The top floor, once two levels, has been combined into one. This being a hot new web company, there will, of course, be a climbing wall attached to the exposed brick on the right, below. That wooden post at top? The original flagpole that literally went through the roof.
And there you have it, friends. The new LivingSocial live events venue in downtown DC. I'll be checking back in when their new office building, also in a currently-being-restored old building, is completed later this spring.
David Garber is the blog editor at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He also works in a cool old building and has a great office and isn't at all jealous of this new space.
All photos are property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.