When Cao bakery closed its doors in 2013, the family behind it was devastated.
But the bakery, which specializes in cakes, biscuits, pies and muffins, didn’t go unnoticed.
Cao Bakary opened in the 1950s with the hope of becoming a national institution, but the bakery quickly found itself on the wrong side of history.
After the Civil War, it was one of the first bakeries to open in Washington, D.C. “I have a hard time talking about the bakery’s demise,” says Sandra Haddad, the bakery owner’s daughter and a member of the family that owns the bakery.
“It was just a great place to come to and eat.”
Cao is not the only one in Washington’s Old District that closed in the early 20th century.
There are also several other bakery businesses that are now gone: the Washington Bakery, the Chicory Bakery, the Delmonico Bakery and the Morton Bakeries.
But the bakeries of the Washington District remain an enduring memory.
“There’s a lot of history, but also a lot that we just don’t know about,” Sara Wootton, the owner of Moody’s Baking Co., says of the Old District.
She’s also an activist.
In the 1990s, Wootton fought against the federal government over an expansion of the Federal Way Freeway, and has campaigned for the restoration of the old Fulham Bakery.
The DelMonico Bakeries was the largest bakery in the District at the time, and it was a staple in the community for decades.
But in 2006, Del Monico was sold to a trucking firm, and the bakery was relocated to a smaller building in the neighborhood.
In 2008, Haddad and Hank Stolz moved into the new Del Monte Bakery to work with the delivery service that operated Delamonico.
Watts, who worked at the bakery until 2008, says she still has fond memories of working at the Delmonico bakery.
“[The bakery] was always open and welcoming,” Woots says.
“They were just always a little bit more laid back than the rest of the bakery in the district.”
And the bakery did have a special place in her heart.
Delmondo, a woman who worked there, was the only female baker in the area.
She was the one who made the family’s favorite pies for the family.
“When I first met Delmondo I was amazed that she was the only woman in that bakery,” Huddleston says.
Hildegard, who also worked at Delmonica, said she’s glad the bakery has been saved.
“We’ll always remember her,” Hildegar says.
The bakery closed for good after at least five years in 2019.
After the bakery had to close, Spencer Hendrickson, who ran the Bake & Pastry Company, put up a sign that reads, “The Delmonicos have left us.”
Hendricksons daughter Carla Beth remains hopeful that the bakery will reopen in the future.
She is excited to see how the bakery turns out in the new community.
“The community that we’re trying to build in this new community is just wonderful,” Brett says.
Beth has a few things she’d like to see the bakery do in the old district.
She’d like a bakery with a storefront and a food court.
She wants the bakery to have an indoor space.
She’s also hoping to have a bakery on the second floor.
And she’d love to see a bakery open in the old building.
“We want to make it a place that we can continue to be part of for generations to come,” She says.