Eastern Market, a Capitol Hill landmark that dates back to the 19th century, was ravaged by fire this morning.
The building was empty, and there were no injuries.
The southern half of the landmark was decimated by the blaze, which took firefighters two hours to extinguish.
The fire nearly demolished the collection of meat, produce and other shops that is a popular destination throughout the region.
Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin said investigators believe the fire began in a trash bin behind the market and then spread to the building.
"This is devastating," said Alan Etter, a spokesman for the D.C. Fire Department. "Basically everything is charred and destroyed."
The building is owned by the D.C. government.
D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty toured the market with Chief Rubin for about an hour early today. When he emerged, he vowed to rebuild the landmark.
"This building has such great history and importance to the city," Mr. Fenty said. "We'll bring it back 100 percent. How could we not? It's going to take some resources and some good planning but ... that's too much history to let get burned away."