The Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) provides a popular bus service known as “Metrobus”–the sixth busiest bus agency in the country. Serving over 11,000 stops on 325 routes, Metrobus transports passengers across DC, Virginia, and Maryland.
Many contemporary bus routes have a connection the long tradition of moving both residents and visitors across the region. Some of the routes in operation today are continuation of older bus routes established in the mid-twentieth century, and some of those routes have an even earlier antecedents as streetcar lines.
Among the current 300+ routes, there are a handful that stand out as being especially popular with riders. Whether because of the neighborhoods served or downtown attractions featured, these routes have become standbys for many in the area.
In the 1970s, a fledging historic preservation organization called “Don’t Tear it Down” wanted to highlight the city’s history and its beautiful buildings. They decided to do so by developing a series of tours along popular bus routes. The Take One Tour series took the form of a run of printed brochures distributed directly to riders on buses.
Don’t Tear it Down and the historic preservation movement in DC built up momentum and were able to pass a robust preservation law for the city in 1978 . In the intervening decades, Don’t Tear it Down changed its name to the DC Preservation League, and the number of landmarks added to the DC Inventory of Historic Sites climbed past 700.
In April 2021, we will mark 50 years since the founding of Don’t Tear it Down. To honor this history, we wanted to bring back a new version of the Take One Tour on popular bus routes.
DCPL manages a free resource called “DC Historic Sites”—a website and mobile application that has geolocated information about the city’s landmarked sites and historic districts. Through a series of six new tours on DC Historic Sites, users can explore the history all around them on bus routes throughout the city.
If you’re riding the bus, we recommend downloading the mobile application (from the App Store or Google Play) to easily follow along on the tour.
However, given the public health emergency, we recognize that many folks may not be riding their usual routes. Maybe you’ve found yourself even weirdly sentimental for some of your favorite Metrobus lines? If so, you can also explore the tours from your computer browser and click along the route to remind yourself of your favorite buildings and neighborhoods.
In November of 2020, the DC Preservation League submitted a landmark nomination for the Capitol Power Plant Pump House, located at First Street and Potomac Avenue SE. This distinctive structure played an essential role in supporting the modernization of the U.S. Capitol building, enabling the Capitol Power Plant to function for over forty years (during the plant’s establishment and considerable expansion).
Sitting on a pier in the Anacostia River, the structure is now owned by the DC Government and leased to a nonprofit known as the Earthworks Conservation Corps. The pump house was built between 1908 and 1910; its period of significance is from 1910 to 1961.
The Capitol Power Plant Pump House was constructed during the same period in which engineering firm Westinghouse, Church, Kerr, Inc. built the Capitol Power Plant, its equipment, and related buildings. This modern idea of a separate plant to provide heat, forced ventilation and electricity for the Capitol and new Library building was necessitated by the planned addition of an office building for the House of Representatives. House offices had suffered from considerable crowding, with the steady increase in members—from 303 in 1859 to 447 in 1901—since the Capitol expansion.
Connected to the northeastern bank of the Anacostia River by a short bridge, the pump house provided water to the power plant through a mile-long network of mains running beneath city streets. The power plant boilers originally used this water to produce steam to generate electricity and heat for the Capitol complex.
The Capitol Power Plant, and by extension the pump house, was praised early in its existence. In his 1914 Annual Report, the Architect of Capitol declared:
Referring to the Capitol power plant, I will state that the construction, operation, and final results have fully justified Congress in its efforts to combine for the Capitol, the two office buildings and the Library of Congress a central source of supply for all heat, light, and power.
The power plant constituted an important achievement in the development of central heating and power (and later air conditioning) in the District, a relatively new technology which was in time applied to many other campuses within the city. In 1950-51, with Capitol demand for electricity rising, the Superintendent arranged to procure power from the local utility, PEPCO, and so discontinued production at the Capitol Power Plant.
The pump house is a virtually unique example in Washington of a small water in-take facility and still shows its original use both inside and outside. For these reasons, the Capitol Power Plant Pump House qualifies for designation under DC Inventory Criterion B (History) and similar National Register Criterion A.
The fight for women’s equality has roots all across America, but many of its most important moments have taken place in Washington, DC. In addition to local activists who fought not only for women’s suffrage but for suffrage for all DC residents, women came from all over the country to DC to campaign for their rights. National organizations such as the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman’s Party, and later organizations like the National Council for Negro Women, have worked out of DC while lobbying the federal government for their rights and gathering resources and supporters.
Many sites throughout the city attest to this long, rich history of activism. Landmarks such as the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument and the homes of suffragists Mary Church Terrell and Charlotte Forten Grimké offer a look into some of the key figures who promoted women’s suffrage and equal rights in DC. However, the suffragist sites listed in the DC Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register are limited in number and do not tell the full story of how women’s suffrage advocates in Washington, DC came to win their fight for political representation.
There is no doubt that other historic sites throughout DC can help flesh out the complex story of the campaign for women’s equality— including the untold stories of many underrepresented female activists. The development of a context study will identify critical themes in the movement within the District of Columbia; organize a timeline of events; name critical players; and establish a preliminary list of places that define this time in history. Once the study is complete, a framework is set for nominating sites to the DC Inventory and National Register—a significant step towards honoring the contributions of generations of women throughout American history.
DCPL seeks proposals from qualified consultants interested in undertaking research to identify and document historic resources associated with the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Washington, DC.The selected Consultant will produce a context study to thematically address the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Washington, DC from 1848-1973 and present the study to the public and to the DC Historic Preservation Review Board.
On Thursday, December 17, 2020, the DC Historic Preservation Review Board is scheduled to consider the landmark nomination submitted by DCPL for Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse. The nomination highlights the important social history of this venue as a meeting place for the LGBTQ community in DC during the mid- to late-twentieth century.
The nomination is unusual; it argues for what is known as a non-contiguous landmarkdesignation. Annie’s has occupied two sites: it operated out of 1519 Seventeenth Street NW from 1948 until 1985, at which time it moved to 1609-1611 Seventeenth Street NW.
1519 Seventeenth Street is a two-story Italianate building (constructed in 1878) now operating as JR’s Bar. 1609-1611 Seventeenth Street consists of two interconnected commercial buildings in the Italianate style (1609, constructed in 1904) and the Tudor Revival Style (1611, constructed in 1926).
When George Katinas leased the property at 1519 Seventeenth Street NW in 1948, he changed its name from the Paramount Café to the Paramount Steakhouse. George’s younger sister, Anne (Annie) Katinas Kaylor, worked at the restaurant and became a favorite of the patrons. George added Annie’s name to the restaurant c. 1962 and it officially became “Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse.”
Under the ownership and operational leadership of the Katinas family, the restaurant gained a reputation as a friendly environment, accepting of individuals from all walks of life. As early as the 1950s, the restaurant became known as a local safe haven for the LGBTQ community. Annie herself once saw two gay men holding hands under a table in the restaurant and encouraged the couple to hold hands above the table. At Annie’s, the LGBTQ community could freely engage in getting to know each other at a time when society at large–and the federal government–rejected alternative lifestyles and forced many individuals to hide their sexual preferences. Before the widespread establishment of gay bars and nightclubs in the 1970s, restaurants like Annie’s were critical for DC’s LGBTQ community to meet and socially interact.
DC became an LGBTQ regional epicenter in the early twentieth century, during the post-Civil War Great Migration. The District’s growing community was not openly welcomed; rather, it was forced to develop largely in secret. By the mid-twentieth century, the LGBTQ community increasingly settled in specific areas of the city, and one of these areas was Dupont Circle. As the nation’s capital, DC was central to the LGBTQ civil rights campaign. Solidarity remained important within this increasingly politicized context, and it was critical for LGBTQ individuals to find safe havens where they could gather and socialize.
Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse built its ties to the LGBTQ community in its original location at 1519 Seventeenth Street and maintained those ties when it moved to its current location at 1609-1611 Seventeenth Street. The High Heel Race, a popular Dupont circle event, began in 1986 as a sprint between JR’s Bar (at 1519 Seventeenth Street) and Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse (at 1609-1611 Seventeenth Street). The annual event still concludes at Annie’s. Since 2010, when gay marriage became legal in DC, Annie’s has been the site of numerous weddings for same-sex couples. Although Annie Katinas Kaylor passed away in 2013 and George Katinas in 2014, the restaurant is still owned and operated by the Katinas family and continues be a significant local LGBTQ site.
Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse meets DC Inventory Criterion A for its association with events that contributed significantly to the heritage and culture of DC, and DC Inventory Criterion B for its association with social movements and groups that contributed significantly to the heritage and culture of DC.
If designated, Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse will join the Slowe-Burrill House, the Dr. Franklin E. Kameny House, and the Furies Collective in the DC Inventory of Historic Sites for its association with the LGBTQ history in the District of Columbia.
Testimony to the Committee on the Whole
B23-0736 – Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2020
Friday, November 13, 2020
Good afternoon, Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee of the Whole. My name is Rebecca Miller, Executive Director of the DC Preservation League (DCPL), Washington’s citywide nonprofit that for the past 49 years has been dedicated to advocating for the preservation and protection of the historic and built environment of our nation’s capital. I am pleased to be here today and thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony on the Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2020.
To start, DCPL would like to align itself with the comments put forward by the Committee of 100 on the Federal City which has studied these amendments extensively and will be submitting more extensive comments for the record. We also agree with the statements yesterday by the Citizen’s Association of Georgetown and the Cleveland Park Historical Society.
DC’s historic preservation law is one of the strongest and most successful ordinances of its kind in the country. We are thus disheartened by continuing efforts to undermine this law by the Office of Planning, questionable decisions by the Mayor’s Agent and some housing activists who blame preservation for the lack of affordable housing in DC. I would remind the Council and the public listening that, according to data provided by the DC Economic Partnership numbers for 2016-2018, 18% of new affordable housing units were developed within historic districts or within projects that had landmark properties. With approximately 20% of the buildings in the District designated, preservation is thus pulling its weight – and organization’s like DCPL and other preservationists are prepared to continue to work with the city to help do more with regards to affordability, economic vitality and sustainability. The city needs to promote affordable housing much more actively in areas where extensive new development is taking place without providing affordable housing for the families and other long-term residents who are being displaced by this new construction.
We have also heard testimony that the city needs to focus more on sustainability and climate change. DCPL couldn’t agree more. In the United States, 43% of carbon emissions and 39% of total energy use is attributed to the construction and operation of buildings. The impact of buildings is even more significant when the greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacturing building materials is taken into consideration. As a key element in sustainable development, the preservation, reuse and “greening” of existing, and historic buildings present excellent opportunities to reduce our city’s carbon emissions and energy consumption, thus is an important tool in the city’s efforts to combat climate change.
According to the Executive Summary (at page 5): “phrases like ‘protect neighborhood character,’ which has been documented to have been used to perpetuate racial exclusion and segregation, has been replaced with ‘respect neighborhood character’ to reframe this important objective using an inclusive tone. However, we retained phrases like ‘protect historic resources’ because that remains consistent with our current historic preservation policy.” Yet in more than a dozen areas of the document, “protect” has been replaced with “respect” with regards to historic resources, contrary to the OP’s own explanation of its use of terminology.
This language change is most concerning to DCPL. The Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978 is quite specific in stating that the “protection, enhancement and perpetuation of properties of historical, cultural and aesthetic merit are in the interests of the health, prosperity and welfare of the people of the District of Columbia.” It is a stated purpose of the law to “protect” properties of historic merit. Hence that word – not the more general “respect” or others that might be substituted – must continue to be used with respect to properties designated under the 1978 law. With more than 40 years of experience with the preservation law, its terminology has generally accepted meaning and the Comp Plan should not attempt to change it.
In a similar vein, I would note that the word “protect” is replaced elsewhere with “preserve” but without defining that term either. Has this word been tested with the public – is it inclusive? Is it preserving the building, the viewshed, the character? For historic properties, we should stick with the language of the 1978 law.
Overall, sorry to say but I will say it, this document has turned into a worthless word soup — the “shall’s” have become “should’s” and other directive words are now merely suggestive ones. What lasting value or value is supposed to be conveyed by the policies to be approved by the Council? Words matter and these small language changes throughout the proposed amendments strip the document of meaning.
DCPL feels strongly that any changes to the Comp Plan need to be consistent and meaningful. The Office of Planning has missed the mark. The City, while thriving in some areas, has planned itself into a corner from an equitable and inclusivity perspective. Nearly two decades of greenlighting projects to attract young professionals at certain income levels has resulted in a glut of overpriced glass rental boxes with a high vacancy rate, and a shortage of affordable units. People want to live in the District. They want livable, walkable, affordable communities. This document falls far short of its stated goals. It is word heavy but lacking real substance and direction for future development and neighborhood planning.
DCPL encourages the Council to reject this bill as currently written and we thank you for the opportunity to present our comments.
In collaboration with owner Gordon Kit, DCPL has filed a landmark nomination for the property at 3020 University Terrace NW. This residence was previously owned by David Bazelon, Chief Justice of the DC Court of Appeals, as well as Senator (and Presidential candidate) George McGovern.
3020 University Terrace is a two-story wood-frame and stucco house, designed in a mid-century modern style, with a distinctive overlay of Japanese stylistic elements. Japanese-inspired plantings and garden elements surround the house on all sides.
This residence is significant for its association with David Bazelon, Chief Justice of the DC Court of Appeals, who, with his wife Miriam Bazelon, constructed it as their family home in 1957. Judge Bazelon’s career included numerous significant rulings over the course of decades. His most famous decision redefined concepts of mental illness under criminal law. At his death in 1993, the New York Times stated that Judge Bazelon’s court was the most influential judicial body in the United States besides the Supreme Court.
3020 University Terrace is also significant for its association with Senator George McGovern, who lived in the house from 1969 until 1980. At the time he and his wife Eleanor purchased the house, Senator McGovern, a populist from South Dakota, was establishing himself as a strong opponent of the Vietnam War and a leading liberal voice in the Democratic party. During the spring of 1972, he became the front-running candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, which he won at the August convention.
During his quest for the nomination and the presidential election, the house was the scene of many political events and key meetings and was frequently pictured in the media. After a campaign marked by the national division and turmoil of the times, which included the Watergate break-in, McGovern was defeated by incumbent president Richard M. Nixon. He remained a leading voice in the Democratic Party and an influential senator before losing his seat in the 1980 Ronald Reagan-led Republican landslide.
Beyond its association with these famous individuals, the residence is also significant because it embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, style, and method of construction. Designed by Jean-Pierre Trouchaud–whose eight highly individual houses constructed between 1949 and 1958 helped define the Palisades as a leading enclave of modernist residential design–the house is a synthesis of modernist and traditional Japanese architecture.
While this fusion of elements appears unique within the District, it places the house at the conflux of national and international cultural and architectural trends. These include the growing influence of Japanese design in postwar America, increasing recognition of the synergy between traditional Japanese architecture’s emphasis on functionality and form and modernism, and modernism’s evolution into a broader and richer movement based upon its insistence on truth in materials, functional analysis, and rationalism–rather than strict adherence to the International Style’s catalog of forms and materials.
The house’s construction illustrates the growing openness of Washington residential design to more global and non-western influences. It represents the growing sophistication and maturity of modernism in Washington.
UPDATE: On February 25, 2021, the Historic Preservation Review Board voted to add the Bazelon-McGovern House to the DC Inventory of Historic Sites!
The DC Preservation League is pleased to announce that it has received a $50,000 grant from the African American Civil Rights Program, as administered by the National Park Service (NPS), Department of the Interior, to fund creation of a study entitled Black Power in 20th Century Washington, DC: A Context Study.
“This study is the first of its kind and by exploring the DC Black Power Movement, it will shed light on this critical time in the city’s history—beyond events like the Million Man March and already-identified leaders, like Malcom X and Marion Barry, who was the first black power activist elected as DC Mayor. DC’s Black Power Movement was incredibly well-organized and it involved a variety of local and national activists, alike,” DCPL’s Executive Director Rebecca Miller said.
The project will catalyze nominations to both the DC Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places. DCPL will also devise an outreach plan to educate the community on the research findings and significant associated properties.
“The activists involved in the Black Power Movement built up the community by adding schools, centers for art and music, and even oversight boards for the local police departments; they sparked important discussions about the city’s ongoing redevelopment; and they were catalysts for establishing DC’s first democratically-elected local government in nearly a century. These details and stories are largely unknown,” Ms. Miller said. “It’s long past time to tell them.”
Any questions aboutthis grant should be addressed to DCPL Director of Development, Kelli Knox: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following text is based on testimony given by DCPL Executive Director Rebecca Miller at the July 2020 meeting of the Historic Preservation Review Board.
Fragile from years of demolition by neglect and increasing development pressures, beginning in 1996 DCPL placed the Anacostia Historic District on its list of Most Endangered Places. The buildings at 1909-1913 Martin Luther King Jr., Avenue were contributing elements in the historic district-that is until the city allowed them to collapse in a windstorm in 2015.
The former commercial buildings that stood on land that is now known as the Anacostia Gateway Project were the victims of failure on the part of four mayoral admirations, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the Office of Planning and most egregiously, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). DHCD took control of these buildings in the mid-1990s. Although not in ideal condition when placed in DHCD’s portfolio, the buildings were left vacant and abandoned for years by the department, a clear case of the District Government eluding its own laws with regard to code violations and demolition by neglect. The apparent disregard by DHCD was evidenced by the former buildings being left open to the elements and to vagrants. The almost certain consequence of this negligence was a fire that gutted and destroyed the rear of the buildings and their interiors in August 2005.
In 2015, the buildings fell over in a windstorm. Yes, a windstorm. Despite the DC Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act being explicit in the treatment of landmarks or contributing buildings that are illegally demolished, no action was taken to require the District Government to rebuild the structures. I’ll note that DCPL doesn’t have standing under the law in this matter, so we were unable to pursue this. All the while, other buildings in the city owned by private property owners have been subject to the rebuilding requirement. The District of Columbia failed to enforce its own laws. A stellar example to the public once again.
In what appears to be an act of self-dealing, DHCD, the very agency that perpetrated the loss of the historic buildings is now slated to be the anchor tenant of the new MLK Gateway development. The DC Council has approved DHCD’s lease and the development team presented two concepts to the Historic Preservation Review Board in July. The proposals call for a larger five-story (note the original buildings were only 2 stories) building. DCHD’s lease also is driving the timeline for this development – requiring permitting by February 2021. With City actions like this – how are developers across the District, both large and small, supposed to take the law seriously. The fact is, they have no reason to do so.
Lack of action followed by a “shrug of the shoulders” is not how an effective building program should work in the District of Columbia. It has been shown time and again that commercial revitalization is critical to the economic vitality of our neighborhoods. DCPL has worked diligently with developers across the city to ensure that historic preservation interests are respected within projects. As everyone in this room has seen, rehabilitation of Washington’s small buildings can be a useful tool in revitalizing urban neighborhoods and in engendering community pride. We fully believe that the successes in other parts of the city can very much take place in Anacostia.
DCPL will continue to work with our partners in Historic Anacostia and across the city to ensure that buildings important to neighborhoods remain or return to productive use.
During the mid 1970s, Don’t Tear it Down–the predecessor to today’s DC Preservation League–created the “Take One Tour,” a series of brochures distributed on buses as a guide to historically significant buildings along the routes. These brochures were intended for commuters and tourists alike and sought to raise awareness of Washington’s unique built environment. One of these routes was the G-2: a popular bus route which runs from LeDroit Park to Georgetown. Along the route, riders not only pass many beautiful examples of Federal and Victorian architecture, but also several unusual sites that the casual observer might not notice at first glance. Here is a look back at the G-2 Take One Tour and how the sites along it have both evolved and stayed the same in the near fifty years since it was first created.
The first stop on the G-2 is located at Howard University on 4th and Bryant Sts. Founded in 1866 by General Oliver O. Howard, the historically black university’s main campus features many Georgian Revival structures. The quality education provided by the university to people of all races has attracted students and academics from all over the country. In the 154 years since Howard University was first established, it has continued to have a great impact on the larger community. Many of the immediately surrounding neighborhoods were occupied by Howard professors. In the 1970s, individuals in those neighborhoods worried that the physical expansion of the university would come to harm the community it helped create.
Next on the G-2 bus route is LeDroit Park, a neighborhood founded in the 1870s, making it one of Washington’s first suburbs. Many of the original row houses were designed by architect James McGill. After the first African American family moved into the neighborhood in 1893, the previously all-white suburb became home to many locally and nationally prominent Black Americans, including educator Mary Church Terrell and poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar. LeDroit Park was made a historic district in 1974, just two years before the G-2 “Take One Tour” was distributed, and it retains much of its character today.
Just before reaching Logan Circle, the G-2 passes through the Shaw neighborhood. This area takes its name from Shaw Junior High School, which in turn is named for Robert Gould Shaw: a Union officer who led one of the first African American units during the American Civil War. As the brochure notes, this large, densely populated residential area was first developed between 1880 and 1910, and still contains some of Washington’s best examples of row house architecture. The neighborhood has not significantly changed since the bus tours began in the 1970s, and in 1999 much of the area was included in the then newly-formed Shaw Historic District.
Located within the Shaw neighborhood is one of the more unconventional sites listed on the G-2 Take One Tour brochure: the John F. Kennedy Playground. Dedicated in 1964 by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the park is located on P St between 7th and Marion Sts NW. When it was first established, the unusual playground’s equipment was made up of old tanks and jets, a steam locomotive, and a huge slide. Although the playground was extremely popular for some time, it fell into disrepair by the late 1970s and became unsafe for children. Most of the tanks and planes were turned into scrap metal, but the locomotive was restored and put on display in the National Museum of American History. Today, the JFK Recreation Center and a more conventional playground occupy the lot, continuing the site’s legacy as a place for children to play.
As the G-2 continues its route, it intersects with Logan Circle. In the 1970s and today, Logan Circle is the only original traffic circle in Washington to retain a residential character. The houses on the circle– ornamented with carvings, chimneys, turrets, and ironwork–serve as strong examples of Victorian architecture. Designated a historic district in 1972, many of the mansions and row houses were undergoing restoration when the brochures were being distributed. Although most of the houses and mansions have been converted into apartments or boarding houses, the exteriors of most buildings remain relatively unchanged.
On the opposite end of the G2’s route from LeDroit Park is Georgetown, the popular, upscale neighborhood along the Potomac River waterfront. Georgetown is undoubtedly one of DC’s most well-known historic districts, and the G2’s path through Georgetown along P and O Streets is densely packed with historically significant sites. These sites range from the prominent Georgetown University to the oldest Black church in the District (Mt. Zion Methodist), and also include many smaller ones such as old streetcar tracks and a gun barrel fence. Of particular note are the many different styles of houses which coexist on Georgetown streets. As Georgetown began to decline economically during the late 19th century, it continued to grow, but within itself, by subdividing. The result: mansion and modest; brick and frame; Georgian and Modern may all be found in one city block. In combination, these places make Georgetown an urban setting unlike any other in the nation’s capital–and like few others in the world.
Throughout the brochure, the “Take One Tour” for the G-2 bus line emphasizes the importance of the physical environment in Washington. It encourages the public to learn more about the structures along public transportation routes by not only talking about specific sites, but also by discussing stylistic traits shared by several buildings and neighborhoods, such as fanciful red brick detailing, turrets, and mansard roofs. These characteristics are a part of what makes Washington special. Don’t Tear It Down used the G-2 and other “Take One Tour” brochures to emphasize the importance of protecting the physical environment and advocating for preservation as a way to strengthen a community. As its fiftieth anniversary approaches, the DC Preservation League continues its mission to make learning about DC’s history and preservation easy and accessible to all through several online resources–such as the DC Historic Sites App–and actively works towards the protection of the physical environment.
DCPL kicked off 2020 by filing a landmark nomination for the Modernist Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) headquarters!e 1965 PAHO building is distinctive for its dramatic Modernist design as well as for the history and achievements of the distinguished organization it houses. It is located at 525 23rd Street NW.
From this building, PAHO has led campaigns for improving health and fighting infectious diseases that have affected all the peoples of the Americas. The Pan American Health Organization was founded in 1902 and is the world’s oldest international public health agency. Its core mission is to strengthen national and local health systems and improve health outcomes for all people in the Americas.
The PAHO building embodies the distinguishing characteristics of the Modernist architectural style and represents a unique building type associated with the headquarters of large organizations. It also epitomizes the materials and methods of construction associated with the mid-20th century, including the use of pre-cast concrete and an innovative steel-frame technique to create the large, open Congress Hall auditorium in the building’s annex. It also represents the unique role of Washington in hosting and supporting large international organizations. The building possesses high artistic value and is a notable work of a key Modernist architect, Román Fresnedo Siri.
The PAHO building retains a high degree of structural integrity with only minimal modifications since its initial construction. The building is significant under DC Criteria B (History), D (Architecture and Urbanism), E (Artistry), and F (Work of a Master) and similar National Register Criteria A and C. It has local, national, and international significance.