A Brief History – 2010s

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

During the last forty years, DCPL has sponsored more than 200 historic landmarks for nomination to the DC Inventory of Historic Sites, engaged in hard-fought battles for numerous buildings including the Keith-Albee (Riggs) Building, the Colorado Building, Red Lion Row, and the Greyhound Bus Station. In recent years, DCPL’s landmark nomination efforts have moved beyond downtown and have reflected a diverse assortment of building types and sites with cultural importance to a wide variety of groups. More recently, landmark nominations, sponsored or co-sponsored, have included the On Leong Tong Chinese Merchants’ Association Building, the Tower Building, the Codman Carriage House, the Avalon Theatre, the L’Enfant Plan for the Federal City, the United Mine Workers Building, Emily Wiley House, Anne Archibald Hall, Mt. Vernon Triangle Historic District, thematic nominations for DC’s historic firehouses and schools, the west campus of Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital, and the Uline Arena.

DCPL continues to pursue its educational mission through a range of activities. Beginning in 1996, DCPL created a list of Washington’s Most Endangered Places. The annual announcement is not restricted to a fixed number of sites, and the release of the list has become a media event for the organization. Publicity generated by this list brings attention to the conditions of numerous sites and helps raise the public’s general awareness of historic preservation. In 2011, progress was made on several Most Endangered Places sites including the restoration, and re-opening of the DC War Memorial, Battleground National Cemetery in the Brightwood neighborhood, and the rehabilitation of the 1911 Howard Theatre (opening in April 2012).

DCPL has long valued its relationship with the DC Historic Preservation Office (HPO). One key ongoing partnership involves the pass-through of National Park Service Historic Preservation Fund grants to survey neighborhoods and conduct thematic studies of building types such as banks, warehouses, apartment buildings, firehouses, and office buildings. Among the neighborhoods DCPL has surveyed, or administered surveys for, are the Strivers Section, 16th Street, Columbia Heights, and the 14th Street commercial district. Another important cooperative project with HPO has produced a series of brochures that describe the social, cultural, and architectural history of Washington’s historic districts. To date, DCPL has produced brochures for the Cleveland Park, 16th Street, Striver’s Section, Sheridan-Kalorama, Kalorama Triangle, Greater Fourteenth Street and Logan Circle, Greater U Street, Foggy Bottom, and Mt. Vernon historic district, as well as the 14th Street commercial districts.

DCPL has dedicated itself to meeting new challenges that are at least in part the result of past successes. As the historic preservation movement has matured, it has become an accepted element of public policy nationwide. In the District of Columbia, Don’t Tear It Down/DC Preservation League can take substantial credit for this accomplishment. Over the last 40 years, DTID/DCPL has worked tirelessly to preserve Washington’s sense of place and to save many of the unique features that define the capital city. Washington’s historic character is one of its greatest assets and a vital component of local economic development efforts. Nevertheless, political and financial support for the only citywide historic preservation advocacy group ebbs and flows.

DCPL continues to make an inestimable contribution to the protection and understanding of the history of the District of Columbia. Every member and supporter should be proud of this legacy. Achieving a sound financial footing while continuing to preserve, protect, and enhance the historic and built environment of Washington, DC, through advocacy and education remains DCPL’s greatest challenge as it looks forward to its 41st Anniversary and beyond.