A Brief History – 1990s

Intro | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s

The Old 1899 Post Office is a massive bulwark of the city’s historic charm. Without it, all that frozen bureaucracy on Pennsylvania Avenue would become unbearably oppressive. Besides, it was there first.

— Wolf Von Eckardt

The changing local economy of the early 1990s impacted the organization’s financial condition, but dedicated volunteers with the leadership of President James Rogers who served from 1989 – 1995 forged ahead anticipating better days.

In 1995 the Andrich Fund was established by family and friends in memory of Mark Collin Andrich (1952-1995), an architectural historian and longtime DCPL volunteer. For more than ten years, Andrich volunteered his services to conduct historic site surveys and to research numerous buildings as part of DCPL’s ongoing documentation of Washington’s apartment buildings, banks and office buildings. A gifted writer, Andrich’s analysis of the history, significance and design of city buildings resulted in the designation of numerous landmarks. Monies contributed to the fund continue to assist DCPL and other community groups in documenting historic buildings and places and achieving their designation as landmarks and historic districts.

Long-time volunteer and board member Sally Berk was elected President and served from 1995-1998. During Sally’s tenure, DCPL promoted the linkages between preservation and economic development in an improving economy that posed new preservation challenges. Fittingly, DCPL celebrated its 25th anniversary with a gala dinner and program at the Old Post Office on May 17, 1996. The event attracted significant publicity and brought together old and new supporters to mark the important milestone.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, DCPL faced several difficult challenges. The first was the 1995-96 proposed development of a sports arena on 7th Street, NW, known today as the Verizon Center. The project site was within the Downtown Historic District that DCPL had campaigned to establish in 1987. Although DCPL and other organizations expended considerable time and effort in opposition to the arena and in favor of a 24-hour, mixed-use project for that site, the arena was ultimately built at Gallery Place. The efforts of DCPL and others in this case helped establish a sound protocol for the review of such projects in the future including a Memorandum of Agreement codifying a mitigation plan that included among other things, the re-opening of long-closed sections of L’Enfant streets.

By the mid-1990s, Washington entered the greatest and most long-lived real estate boom in its history. The burgeoning local economy would pose new challenges for the organization and include new triumphs under the leadership of architectural historian Julianne Mueller (1998-2000).

In 1998, the construction of a new convention center near Mount Vernon Square was proposed. DCPL was a key player in creating the Memorandum of Agreement that provided a $1,000,000 revolving fund for exterior improvements to historic buildings in the vicinity of the project, additional funds to clean and repair the Carnegie Library, and an eighteen-month moratorium on demolition or significant alteration of nearby buildings in order to allow for the submission of landmark nominations.
Throughout its history DCPL, often in partnership with government, industry, or community groups, has presented educational programs, lectures, conferences, and tours. These programs have focused on architecture, adaptive reuse of historic buildings, urban planning, and the nexus between historic preservation and economic development. Notable educational programs have included a long-running lecture series sponsored by Hines Interests (1986-1996). More recently, DCPL co-sponsored a program on Heritage Tourism (with the Heritage Tourism Coalition) and Making Money With Preservation (with the DC Building Industry Association) in 1997. In 1998, a workshop on Strengthening Preservation Enforcement led to formation of the citywide Coalition for Greater Preservation Enforcement now called the Historic Districts Coalition.

DCPL has furthered its advocacy mission by lobbying the City Council to remove hurdles to the landmark designation process and adopt legislation prohibiting “demolition-by-neglect.” In 1997, the League lobbied the Council to adopt legislation authorizing a Historic Preservation Tax Credit. This program was finally funded and implemented in 2007.