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.

2004 Most Endangered Places

Anacostia Historic District

Bounded by Martin Luther King Jr., Avenue on the west, Good Hope Road on the north, Fendall Street and the rear of Frederick Douglass Home on the east, and Bangor Street and Morris Road on the south.

Steward: Various Private Owners
DC Historic District (1973)
National Register Historic District (1978)

Located in Southeast Washington, the Anacostia Historic District contains 550 buildings dating from 1854-1930, including frame structures with Italianate detailing and brick row houses, as well as commercial buildings located along Anacostia’s main throughfares. It encompasses the area originally known as Uniontown, one of Washington’s earliest suburbs, which was incorporated in 1854. Because of its location across the Anacostia River, land was less expensive and allowed members of Washington’s working class, many of whom were employed at the nearby naval yard, to purchase property and build homes. The condition of the Anacostia Historic District represents the plight of working class African-American urban neighborhoods in the District—communities where economic revitalization is long in coming. Despite the presence of the National Park Service’s Frederick Douglass Home 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 and lack of financial resources. Furthermore, new development proposed for city-owned lots and the nearby waterfront is inconsistent with the historic nature of the area. Row Houses within the Anacostia Historic District.

South Capitol Street

Bounded by G Street to the North, Anacostia River to the South, 2nd Street,
SE and 2nd Street, SW

Steward: Various Private Owners

The buildings within the South Capitol Street corridor are the remains of a once very large working-class residential and semi-industrial area. While little of the architecture is unique, the neighborhood as a whole represents a way of life that is seen in few places in the rest of the city. Some streets continue to show almost fully intact rows of housing and shops. The area includes a significant power station in art deco style, rows of “sanitary housing” from the early 20th century, World War II-era worker housing, and industrial buildings, warehouses, and rowhouses (both brick and frame) from the 1870s to the 1920s. Current redevelopment plans have few provisions for protecting the fragile historic buildings of this area and many have already been demolished. Only part of the area is slated for preservation.

Battleground National Cemetery
6625 Georgia Avenue, NW

Steward: National Park Service
DC Inventory of Historic Sites (1979)
National Register of Historic Places (1966)

Shortly after the Battle of Fort Stevens in the summer of 1864, General Montgomery C. Meigs, Quartermaster General of the United States Army, selected this site and instructed Captain Moore to evacuate and bury the Union dead. With a combined total casualty figure of over 900 killed or wounded during the conflict, 41 Union soldiers who fought and died in Fort Steven’s defense were interred in a specially created cemetery dedicated by Abraham Lincoln. Comprising just one acre of land, Battleground is one of the nation’s smallest national cemeteries. Two 6-pounder, smoothbore guns of Civil War vintage flank the entrance. In the center of the cemetery, a flagpole surrounded by 14 regulation marble headstones marks the remains of the honored dead. In the rear of the property stands a marble rostrum, which was built in 1914 in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Stevens and is used to conduct yearly Memorial Day services. Poor maintenance and lack of funding have led to severe deterioration of the cemetery. The former superintendent’s lodge, based on General Montgomery Meigs’s prototype, was restored in the mid-1990s but is now closed. There is no onsite professional staff to monitor the condition of the cemetery and the only routine maintenance done is lawn mowing. The threats to the historic integrity of Battleground National Cemetery are increasing every year without adequate maintenance or restoration of the historic structures.

Franklin School
13Th & K Street, NW

Steward: DC Government
DC Inventory of Historic Sites: Exterior (1964) and Interior (2003)
National Register of Historic Places (1973)
National Historic Landmark (1996)

During the late nineteenth century, the Franklin School was hailed in America and abroad as an ideal modern school building, winning awards for design in Vienna, Paris, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. The Franklin School was designed by prominent Washington architect Adolph Cluss and completed in 1869. Its clearly visible location on Franklin Square in a prestigious, residential neighborhood was meant to draw the attention of Congress and the nation to its housing of both the administrative and educational facilities of a school district under one roof. In addition to separate but equal classrooms for girls and boys, the school housed the offices of the Superintendent of Schools and the Board of Trustees (later the Board of Education). This arrangement allowed administrators to personally observe the benefits of the new educational system. Large windows that provided plenty of light, spacious and well-ventilated rooms, and fine architectural detailing enhanced the learning environment.

Franklin School is one of eleven buildings in Washington DC with an interior landmark designation. Although the exterior of the building appears in good condition, the building is currently unoccupied and windows have been broken and boarded up. The building is unheated, which has contributed to the deterioration of the interior finishes including plaster and wood trim. The lack of use and maintenance threatens the condition of currently well-preserved paintings on the third floor. The winter of 2002-2003 saw the building used as an emergency hypothermia shelter for the homeless. In 2003, the DC Office of Planning issued a request for proposals for a tenant. Currently the OP is reviewing two proposals.

Tregaron Estate
3100 Macomb Street, NW

Steward: Tregaron Limited Partnership
DC Inventory of Historic Places (1979),
National Register Landmark (1990)
Contributing Resource Within the Cleveland Park
Historic District (1986)

Built in 1912 by architect Charles Adam Platt for owner James Parmalee, Tregaron is a twenty-one acre site consisting of open fields and woodlands with meandering streams. At that time most of this segment of northwest Washington was occupied by farms, summer homes, and isolated suburban villas. Charles Adam Platt was the era’s foremost architect and landscape architect of country houses in America. Ellen Biddle Shipman, an apprentice in Platt’s office, collaborated with Platt on Tregaron Estate. Shipman is widely recognized for her contributions to the field of landscape architecture, particularly as a horticulturalist. Tregaron was the second collaboration between Shipman and Platt. Platt planned the circulation pattern for the site along with the formal gardens and Shipman completed the plans in 1914.

In 1927 she was hired again to design a wild garden for the Causeway. The landscape includes hardscape features such as stone bridges, retaining walls, and the causeway along with a formal garden, a pond, bridle path, and a brook. In 1980, Tregaron Development Corporation and the Washington International School purchased the site. The school owns 6 acres in the northwest portion of the site that includes all of the landmark’s historic structures. The remaining 14 acres owned by the partnership includes many of the site’s landscape features. The landscape has been allowed to deteriorate and Shipman’s design is barely recognizable. Development has threatened the green space of the estate a number of times. Most recently, the owners of the 14 developed acres have sought permits to begin construction of 16 new houses and to carve a new road through the sloping, grassy meadow, drastically altering the appearance of the site.

Western Union Telegraph Company Building
4623 41St Street, NW

Steward: American Tower Corporation

This 73-foot limestone tower was built between 1945 and 1947. The Washington tower was part of an experiment by Western Union to use technology developed during World War II to replace century old wire telegraphy with microwave transmissions. Western Union constructed 25 towers between New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and Pittsburgh. The Washington tower is the nation’s only architect-designed building built solely as an antenna structure. Created by notable architect and engineer Leon Chatelain, it is a rare remaining structure associated with the nation’s first commercial microwave communications network, which used radio frequencies previously restricted to use only by military radar systems.

The towers in the former Western Union system and others today are endangered by FCC policies that exclude existing communications towers from compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Actions such as the removal or addition of antennas from existing towers may be excluded from review under Section 106. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires federal agencies to evaluate the effects of their undertakings (such as the issuance of licenses and permits and construction activities) on historic properties. Two years ago, the American Tower Corporation obtained permits to build a second 756-foot tower and make other alterations to the property. A complaint was filed with the Federal Communications Commission alleging that American Tower Corporation did not follow the FCC’s Section 106 procedures. In November 2003, the National Register of Historic Places formally determined the Western Union Telegraph Company Building eligible for listing but the tower is still not locally listed and, therefore, is not protected by local preservation laws.

Benjamin Banneker Park, Banneker Circle
Southwest at L’enfant Promenade

Steward: National Park Service

Designed by renowned landscape architect Daniel Urban Kiley in 1970, Banneker Park provides panoramic views of Washington and the surrounding area. Intended to balance the density of nearby development, the park serves as the southern terminus of the L’Enfant Promenade. The park is an example of the mature work of Kiley, combining many granite elements, including a large fountain, trees, and lighting as a transition to the open space of the Southwest waterfront. The site is culturally significant as the first public space in Washington named for an African American and is usually included in Black History tours. A number of development proposals currently threaten the park. These have included its use as the location for the Smithsonian’s African American Museum, an underground parking garage, a Major League Baseball stadium, or a presidential memorial.

Harewood Estate
Harewood Road, NE, North of Michigan Avenue

Steward: Catholic University of America

The Harewood Estate was the country residence of William Corcoran, one of the founders of Riggs Bank and of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Corcoran sold the property to the Soldiers’ Home in 1872, which has very recently sold it to the Catholic University of America. The property is surrounded by Corcoran’s original iron and stonework fence; the lodge at the southern end, in Second Empire style. Research is not complete, but the architecture is consistent of that designed by James Renwick, architect of the original Corcoran Museum (now the Renwick Gallery), the Smithsonian Castle, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York; the gatehouse at the north entrance dates from the 1880s. All of these structures continue in good repair, while remnants exist of John Saul’s landscaping of the 1850s. The University has not announced its plans for the property.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library
901 G Street, NW

Steward: DC Government

UPDATE: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library was awarded Landmark status by the Historic Preservation Review Board in June of 2007. Long-deferred maintenance has started to take place and, for now, the building seems to have a brighter future. DCPL will continue to monitor this important modernist DC Landmark.

The District of Columbia’s central public library, designed by Modern master Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and completed in 1972, is the only building in Washington, DC by any of the ‘big three’ (Mies, Wright, and Le Corbusier) Modernist architects. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library has stood as the only monument to Dr. King in the nation’s capital for the past 30 years. It holds special significance to the millions of Washingtonians who have come to the library over the past decades to participate in a wide variety of programs and activities, and is a center of community life in the District. The library, the only one ever designed by Mies, was constructed with a flexible interior plan and the capacity to add a fifth story when needed. These measures were taken to ensure the building could continue to serve its intended purpose for approximately 150 years. But because of three decades of lack of preventive maintenance and system upgrades, and despite a concept plan for an extensive renovation that would cost half as much as a new building, the District government’s plans for the library are uncertain. Currently there is no immediate threat to the building. If the building were sold with no landmark protection a private owner would be able to tear the building down or modify it with no input from the community.

The “New Southwest”

Steward: Various Private Owners

The “New Southwest” section of Washington is a near-pristine example of American urban planning for the 1960s, with rich examples of the period’s best architects’ and landscapers’ work. Current plans for redevelopment of the area’s commercial center and the Southwest Waterfront itself are proceeding in cooperation with the local community. However, the residential developments are currently threatened by demolition and infill development, and residents are concerned about protecting the quality of life of Southwest Waterfront and Capitol Park by maintaining the character of living in an urban park-like setting. DCPL would like to establish a template for the future, which encourages development that is sensitive and complimentary with the design intentions, character, and context of the original plans and strives to protect the green space and urban park settings.

The Uline Arena
Between 2nd & 3rd and L and M Streets, NE

Steward: Douglas Development

This building is located on Third Street, NE, directly adjacent to the railroad tracks just north of Union Station and bounded by L and M Streets. It was built in 1941 and operated by Miguel L. “Uncle Mike” Uline for the Washington Lions of the Eastern Hockey League. The building seats 9,000 people. This concrete vaulted building was the site of the Beatles first North American performance (before the Ed Sullivan Show) and also noted as the home of Go-Go music where local musicians such as Chuck Brown, Trouble Funk, and Rare Essence performed. Political rallies and speeches were a tradition in the arena including a rally stated by Fight for Freedom, Inc. in support of the US involvement in WWII a month before Pearl Harbor and a speech by Nation of Islam Founder Elijah Muhammad in 1959. Since its construction in 1941, the arena (later known as the Washington Coliseum), has been a place for figure skating, jazz, wrestling, ballet, basketball, Washington’s Go-Go music style, midget auto racing, rock, hockey, karate, politics, tennis, boxing, and Indian ragas. DCPL nominated Uline Arena to the DC Inventory of Historic Sites in June 2003. The application is pending hearing by the Historic Preservaton Review Board.