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Kinney Shoes' Architectural Afterlife
Documenting the iconic retailer's physical footprint, long after its demise
Kinney Shoes was a major footwear retailer in the 20th century. Its iconic modern stores, like the one in the video preview below, were constructed by the hundreds in the 1960s. Kinney made it into the 1990s before giving up the ghost, though Foot Locker is a surviving division of the same parent company.
I haven’t been able to find info on number of locations or geographic reach, but a thread at Groceteria, a forum dedicated to the “history and commercial archaeology of chain supermarkets and other retailers,” identifies locations in California and even in Canada. The company is fondly remembered, and these stores were landmarks in countless communities.
There were quite a few of them in Northern Virginia, most of which are still standing. For this post, I identified and photographed what I believe to be all Kinney Shoes buildings in Fairfax County. Every location I could identify appears to still be standing. (I was aware of a couple of locations already, but a fellow on Facebook sent me a picture of an old NoVa phone book listing, which identified several location addresses. Old phone books are an invaluable resource.)
While these buildings may not have all been identical when first built, they all followed the same angled-roof and glass-front modern design. Every building featured in this post began life looking pretty much the same!
These are not large buildings, and they don’t occupy large lots. Their original interiors must also have been simple and open. They’re obviously very durable and adaptable structures, as they’re over 50 years old and are home today to a variety of uses. It’s curious that they’ve been altered in similar ways, almost always obscuring the roof. Unfortunately (to me) that modern look is out of style, or at least was when these remodels occurred.
Along with street-level visual clues, the giveaway in confirming the provenance of these buildings is actually the roof—which is still intact and visible on satellite imagery for most of them! They have simply been reskinned, with the new façade extending above and hiding the original roof. Many of the original signs, or at least signposts, also remain.
6610 Arlington Boulevard (U.S. 50), Falls Church
More of less fully intact, including the sign elements, this is the most fully preserved former Kinney I’m aware of in the region. This location is notable for having a sign that goes through the roof, which most Kinney signs did not do.
Here’s the back. You can see in most examples that follow that the roofline has been redone or covered over.
412 Maple Avenue East, Vienna
Divided into two storefronts, as seems common for these buildings, this location retains almost no original exterior features. Even the left brick edge has been opened up into a new entrance.
From the back, you can spot similar door placement to the Falls Church location, as well as the wall-like exterior façade which is hiding the original roof.
Check out this Google Maps 3D satellite view, which reveals the original roof—and also still shows one half of the old angled overhang, which remained in disguised form until 2019!
1013 Dranesville Road, Herndon
This one is heavily altered but a bit more recognizable. I’m not sure if the sign here is original; several other former Kinney buildings have a similar sign, despite it not being the design you see in vintage pictures. Kinney may have replaced some of their old signs at some point. This building also, per satellite, either lacks a sloped roof or had it covered over with a flat one.
The overhang, which was either built flat, or altered, is more obvious from the side. I’m not sure if the built-in planters, which are unique to this particular location, are original or not!
10937 Fairfax Boulevard (U.S. 50/U.S. 29), Fairfax
Now a bike store (the same local chain that occupies this former movie theater in Vienna!), this location has been remodeled similarly to the Vienna location.
Just like that one, the back view reveals that what looks like a tall building is a shorter building with a false façade surrounding it. Look at that “window” in the back of the façade!
7508 Richmond Highway (U.S. 1), Alexandria
The brickwork around the left and right side of the building’s front appears identical to the Falls Church location up at the top, and the angled roof remains visible from satellite here as well. However, the sign is the same as the Herndon location.
The overhang has been flattened out or was built flat, as with the Herndon location. This one, despite retaining a visible angled roof, has been remodeled very similarly to both the Herndon and Bailey’s Crossroads locations (directly below.)
5700 Columbia Pike, Falls Church/Bailey’s Crossroads
This one now has a square sign and no apparent angled roof. However, somebody on Facebook dug up this archive photo from 1966, showing that the building clearly had both the classic sign and the angled roof. (It is definitely the same building; the overhang remains in modified form, and the bricks are also the same.)
But given the apparently removed or rebuilt roof, and the similar but not original sign, I’m wondering if the same post-Kinney tenant once occupied and remodeled both this location and the Herndon one, and possibly the Richmond Highway location too. Suburban archaeology can get tricky!
6493 Little River Turnpike, Alexandria (between Annandale and Lincolnia)
This one has the classic sign like the first one pictured, the angled roof, and the overhang. Along with the first location featured here, this is the most fully preserved Kinney Shoes building in Fairfax County!
I hope you enjoyed this dive into suburban change and continuity! What other former chains would be fun to go back and reconstruct like this?
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