Endangered Places

Endangered Places

Beginning in 1996, the DC Preservation League has announced annually a list of Most Endangered Places to draw attention to Washington, DC’s, historically, culturally and architecturally significant places that may be threatened with ill-advised alteration or demolition through neglect or abandonment.

DCPL solicits nominations for its annual list from individuals and organizations throughout the city. DCPL’s landmarks committee evaluates the nominations and advises the Board of Trustees on their inclusion on the list. In many cases, a task force is created to raise awareness and develop possible preservation solutions for the endangered resource.

2014 Most Endangered Places

Anacostia Commercial Corridor

Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE from Good Hope Road to Howard Road

Threat: Neglect and Proposed Demolitions
Steward: Various Owners
District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites (1973)
National Register of Historic Places (1978)

Located in Southeast Washington, the historic Anacostia Commercial Corridor contains 126 buildings dating from 1854-1930. The endangered area encompasses the buildings along Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue and Good Hope Road. Incorporated in 1854 as Uniontown, one of Washington’s earliest suburbs, the area’s location across the Anacostia River allowed members of the working class, many of whom were employed at the nearby Navy Yard, to purchase less expensive land and build modest houses and establish small businesses.

New development proposed for the corridor, calling for the demolition and relocation of historic buildings, is inconsistent with the historic nature of the area. Additionally, continued neglect of these invaluable historic resources threatens to erase the remnants of the neighborhood’s history and legacy. Despite the presence of the National Park Service’s Frederick Douglass House and the nearby Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Museum, the deteriorating buildings and blighted landscape stand as unfortunate witness to decades of disinvestment. There are a number of vacant lots and many buildings are in serious need of rehabilitation due to owners’ neglect, both public and private ownership. The DC Preservation League supports the activities of local community groups that are working to enhance economic development opportunities in Anacostia’s historic commercial corridor.

911 and 913 L Street, NW

Threat: Demolition
Steward: Square 369 Hotel Associates, LLC
Shaw Historic District (1999)

911 and 913 L Street, NW, anchor the southern edge of the Shaw Historic District and are slated to be demolished to make room for the development of two hotels and an apartment building.

911 L Street is a three-story red brick rowhouse with a raised entrance and English basement that was constructed circa 1854-1859. The graduated windows on the first two floors (and possibly the detailing around them) date from a façade alteration in 1904. 911 L Street is one of the oldest buildings to survive in the Shaw Historic District.

913 L Street is a three-story Romanesque brick and brownstone rowhouse with a raised entrance and English basement. The house was constructed in 1892 and designed by well-known Washington architect Appleton P. Clark.

Although these two buildings contribute to the sense of time, place, and pattern of development for the Shaw Historic District, the proposal to develop two new hotels on this block endangers their very existence. Demolition of these buildings is not consistent with the purposes of the DC Historic Preservation Act and DCPL seeks to work with the developer to ensure the preservation of these buildings and their proper inclusion in any redevelopment plan.

Carnegie Library

Central Public Library
801 K Street, NW


Threat: Neglect
Steward: District of Columbia
DC Inventory of Historic Places (1964)
National Register of Historic Places (1969)

Prominently located at Mount Vernon Square, the Central Public Library, known today as the Carnegie Library, opened its doors in 1903. The Beaux Arts-style building was designed by Ackerman and Ross, a New York architecture firm, and its construction was funded through large contributions made by Andrew Carnegie in 1899. The building served as DC’s central library until 1970 when that function was moved to the new Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library on G Street, NW.

The Library was one of the first monumental Beaux-Arts buildings constructed in Washington and is documented in the National Register of Historic Places as an excellent example of Neoclassicism. Few alterations have been made to the building since its original construction and the building retains a high degree of integrity. The library’s expansive and picturesque landscaped setting amplifies its prominence and plays a critical role in its significance as a civic space.

Incompatible plans for redevelopment advanced by Events DC (a city agency) have recently been withdrawn. DCPL continues to encourage the city to implement its stated commitment to “contributing a significant amount of funding to help restore and renovate the Carnegie Library and the grounds at Mount Vernon Square.” Any future plans should include a program that is compatible with the historic building and its setting.

St. Elizabeths East Agricultural Complex

Threat: Neglect
Steward: District of Columbia
District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites (2005)
National Register of Historic Places (1979)
National Historic Landmark (1990)

Beginning in 1852, the federal government established the United States Government Hospital for the Insane in the Anacostia Hills with sweeping views of the federal city across the Potomac River. This National Historic Landmark campus was in itself a self-contained and largely self-sufficient settlement. Across Nichols Avenue (now Martin Luther King Jr., Avenue, SE) was the 148-acre Shepherd Farm. The hospital acquired the farm in 1869 to provide grazing land for its herds.

Until the turn of the twentieth century, the land on East Campus was used almost exclusively for farming. The buildings that make up the agricultural complex included dairy barns, a horse barn, a poultry house, and piggeries that were grouped together on the northern part of the East Campus. Cultivation of crops and the raising of livestock provided food, meat, and dairy products for the hospital.

Facilities for patients were also built on the east campus beginning in 1902. In the years that followed World War I, the need for buildings increased and space needed for agricultural activities diminished. As a result, after World War II, agricultural production ceased and many of the buildings that made up the complex were demolished. Today, only two of the agricultural buildings remain – the horse stable and the dry barn. Some former staff residences were relocated to the area.

What little remnants of the institution’s agricultural history that remain are in deteriorating condition and are increasingly subject to demolition-by-neglect amidst on-going development plans. With the District Government’s desire to have an open and active campus with programming that includes farmers’ markets – a creative adaptive reuse for these buildings should be sought.

Washington Canoe Club

3700 Water Street, NW

Threat: Financial Hardship
Steward: National Park Service & Washington Canoe Club
District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites (1973)
National Register of Historic Places (1991)

Designed by Georges P. Hales in 1904, the shingle style Washington Canoe Club (WCC) has been a fixture on the Georgetown waterfront and an important center for Washington recreation for over a century. Its “flow through” design has withstood floods and ice jams with little damage. In addition to its being an excellent example of Shingle Style architecture, the building’s interior is decorated with a c. 1910 frieze by Felix Mahony, a cartoonist for the Washington Star and the founder of the National Art School that was restored in 1981. The club represents the role of athletic clubs in twentieth century recreational life and has produced numerous national champions and Olympic medalists.

Despite upkeep over the years by loyal WCC members, the structure is deteriorating both internally and externally. The shingles are in poor condition, the windows and window frames are in need of repair, the roof needs replacement, there are structural issues with the floor, walls, and building frame, and the building systems need repair. Due to unclear ownership of the property, neither the Washington Canoe Club nor the National Park Service has been inclined to invest in restoration of the building and in 2010 the NPS deemed the structure unsafe for occupancy. In the summer of 2014, NPS completed a Historic Structure Assessment Report on the building to aid in rehabilitation efforts; however, the agency does not have the funding to complete this work. Under its current partnership with NPS, the WCC is looking to launch a fundraising campaign; this process could be time-consuming and result in an uncertain start date for the critical stabilization and rehabilitation work needed. Inclusion on the Most Endangered Places list will draw attention to this building and should help the NPS and the WCC move forward in their efforts to begin to rehabilitate this important structure.

West Heating Plant

1051 29th Street, NW

Threat: Demolition
Steward: Georgetown 29K Acquisition, LLC
Georgetown Historic District (1964)

The West Heating Plant, completed in 1948, was designed by W.M. Dewey Foster to generate steam for nearby federal buildings. Authorized as part of the Federal Works Agency’s (FWA) building program, the project was managed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood, Supervising Architect for FWA’s Public Buildings Administration.

This monumental six-story building with its streamlined facades of buff-colored brick, illustrates a shift from the Art Deco toward a more minimalist version of the Moderne style. The building features rhythmically recessed and projecting wall surfaces, curved walls, and abstract imagery, but the design is more understated with smooth wall planes, linear brick corner embellishments, and subtle architectural details. The building successfully combines stylistic modern details into the design of a substantial industrial building.

In 2014, the General Services Administration sold the property at public auction. The building was conveyed with a covenant that requires that any redevelopment of the property comply with the Secretary of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation. The current proposal to redevelop the site as high-end condominiums calls for the demolition of more than 65% of the historic building. These plans do not comply with the Secretary’s standards and should be modified to retain the historic structure and enhance it for a new use.

The West Heating Plant has been nominated for inclusion in the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites as an individual Landmark, and is located within the already protected Georgetown Historic District.