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.

2005 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. 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, much of which was employed at the nearby naval yard, to purchase property and build homes. Most existing buildings are residences dating from between 1870 and 1930, including frame structures with Italianate detailing and brick row houses, as well as commercial buildings located along Anacostia’s main thoroughfares. These buildings comprise one of Washington’s richest collections of small scale working class housing. The Anacostia Historic District also includes Cedar Hill, the home of Frederick Douglass from 1877-1895, designated a National Historic Site in 1964.

New development proposed for city-owned lots and the nearby waterfront is inconsistent with the historic nature of the area. 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. The DC Preservation League supports the activities of the local community groups that are working to enhance Anacostia’s economic development.

Actions/Next Steps:

  • Work with community members to seek specific funding for revitalization of the historic district from Congress as part of the annual appropriation for the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative;
  • Seek to increasing funding to Main Street Anacostia for façade work;
  • Work with the DC Historic Preservation Office and City Council to ensure that offset funding for the Historic Targeted Tax Credit is available and promote use of the credit to both affordable housing developers and residents;
  • Advocate to City Council for adequate staff for the Historic Preservation Office to conduct inspections and provide technical assistance t historic property owners in the Anacostia Historic District;
  • Work with community members to ensure that with the creation of a new Anacostia Waterfront Development agency, preservation of the Anacostia Historic District will become a higher priority.

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 National Cemetery 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 mark the remains of the honored dead. In the rear of the property stands a marble rostrum built in 1914 in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Stevens, which is used to conduct yearly Memorial Day services.

Poor maintenance and lack of funding has led to severe deterioration of the Cemetery. The former superintendent’s lodge, based on General Montgomery Meigs’ prototype, was restored in the mid- 1990s but is now closed. The lodge, flagpole and ceremonial rostrum are in poor shape. 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

Actions needed to alleviate threat:

  • Work with the National Park Service and community groups to raise sufficient funds for maintenance, restoration, and interpretation of the historical and cultural resources of the Cemetery.
  • Work with the National Parks Service to prepare preservation plan that explores options for use of the Superintendent’s Lodge such as making the building available for use by local civic groups or housing.

Franklin School Interior
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.

In April 1880, Franklin School was the site of a major scientific experiment when Alexander Graham Bell successfully tested his photophone, which transmitted sound over light waves, between the school building and his laboratory nearby on L Street. Though the invention had no immediate practical outcome, it was a pioneering step in lightwave communications.

Franklin School is one of eleven buildings in Washington DC with an interior landmark designation. 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. Since 2002, the building has been used as a shelter for the homeless.

In 2003, the DC Office of Planning issued a request for proposals for a tenant and in January 2005, Stanley Jackson, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, announced that the proposal from District-based Western Development Corporation and Jarvis Corporation to redevelop the school into a “hip hotel” was chosen over the proposal from the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars to use the building for its offices and classrooms.

Actions/Next Steps:

  • Contact the City to make the necessary repairs and provide minimum heating and ventilation to safeguard the interior structure until a decision on the building’s reuse can be made.
  • Work with the DC Historic Preservation Office and the future tenant to ensure that alterations made to the landmarked interior are compatible and enhance the historic landmark for current use.

Holt House
National Zoo, off Adams Mill Road

Steward: Smithsonian Institution/National Zoo
DC Inventory of Historic Sites: (1964)
National Register of Historic Places (1973)

Built about 1810 by owner George Johnson, the property known today as Holt House was one of more than a dozen large country estates built on the high grounds of Rock Creek, within the boundaries of an old land grant known as “Pretty Prospects.” Today, Holt House is one of the few that remain, and the last east of Rock Creek.

The residents of this rare surviving example of a five-part federal-era residence comprise a “who’s who” of Washington, DC’s diverse populace, including early entrepreneurs, presidential advisors, enslaved African Americans, farmers and scientists.

The surrounding area of the house is also very special and includes one of Washington’s oldest millseats, the city’s first Quaker burial ground, a post-Civil War African American Cemetery, and the Civil War hospital known as Cliffburne Barracks, where the “Invalid Corps” were headquartered.

Dr. Henry C. Holt, a former US Army assistant surgeon, purchased the house in 1844 and sold it to the newly created National Zoo in 1889.

The Zoo renovated it for use as administrative offices. In helping plan the zoological park, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. advised the park’s planners to look to the graceful architecture of Holt House as a source of inspiration.

In 1988, after almost 100 years as administrative offices for the Zoo, Holt House was boarded up. In 2002 the Holt House Preservation Task Force obtained a matching grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to hire Quinn Evans Architects to assess the house. Their findings were:

“Massive collapse of the house is a real possibility; partial collapse or failure of a segment of the framing is a distinct probability.”

For a number of years Congress has limited the amount of money the Smithsonian and the National Zoo can spend on Holt House. The current Smithsonian funding law, Public Law 108-542, appropriates $122.9 million for facilities institution-wide, but the law states:

“None of these funds in this or any other Act may be used for the Holt House located at the National Zoological Park in Washington, DC, unless identified as repairs to minimize water damage, monitor structure movement, or provide interim structural support.” (HR 4568, the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2005.)

Actions/Next Steps:

  • Work with the National Zoo and community groups to raise sufficient funds for maintenance, restoration, and interpretation of the historical and cultural resources of the House.
  • Work with the National Zoo and community members to prepare preservation plan that explores options for use of Holt House, such as making the building available for use by local civic groups or community organizations.

McMillan Reservoir Sand Filtration Site

Bounded by North Capitol Street, NW; Michigan Avenue,
NW; First Street, NW, and Channing Street, NW.

Steward: DC Government
Nominated by: McMillan Park Committee
National Register of Historic Places (1991)

The 1905 completion of the McMillan Reservoir Sand Filtration Site was a Washington public health milestone. Its innovative system of water purification, which relied on sand rather than chemicals, let to the elimination of typhoid epidemics and the reduction of many other communicable diseases in the city. The 25 acre site consists of regulator houses, sand bins, washers and underground sand filtration beds. A legacy of the City Beautiful Movement, the complex is an engineering wonder that served its original purpose until 1986.

In 1906 Secretary of War William Howard Taft designated the site part of the McMillan Reservoir Park, a memorial to Senator James McMillan (R-Michigan), for his work as chairman of the Senate Commission on the Improvement of the Park System and his efforts in shaping the development of the city at the turn of the 19th century.

Conceived of as a large permanent reserve of open green space for the benefit of citizens, the site’s design and construction was the collaboration of pre-eminent civil engineers, urban planners, artists and architects including engineer Allen Hazen, planner and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., sculptor Herbert Adams and architect Charles Platt.

Since its purchase by the District government in 1987, the site has deteriorated severely due to lack of maintenance and is now threatened by pressure for commercial and residential development. The property has been selected by NCRC (National Capital Revitalization Corporation) in a land swap deal for Anacostia Riverfront property, necessary for the proposed baseball stadium. In advance of a Request for Proposals a development team has submitted a scheme that includes 1,200 units of housing of buildings up to 10 stories, a 100,000 square foot shopping center, a 125-room hotel and conference center and underground parking. Limited open green space would remain.

Actions/Next Steps:

  • Support the McMillan Park Committee in its efforts for the restoration of the site.
  • The DCPL Project Review Committee will review plans for the site and provide advice and assistance on any alterations made to the site to determine whether the changes are compatible and enhance the historic landmark for current use.

Mount Vernon Triangle

Bounded on the north and south by New York and
Massachusetts Avenues; and on the east and west by
New Jersey Avenue and 7th Street, N.W.

Nominated by: Dcpl Landmarks Committee

In 1791, the area east of Mount Vernon Square, known today as the Mount Vernon Triangle, was featured prominently on the L’Enfant Plan. For decades it remained a vast tract of open land with scattered frame buildings, situated just north of the developed city.

Growth in the Mount Vernon Triangle was spurred by the 1810 opening of the 7th Street Turnpike to Maryland and then again in 1845, when the first Northern Liberties Market was erected on the 7th Street side of Mount Vernon Square. Although none of the first-generation and less permanent frame structures remain, some isolated just post-Civil War brick buildings survive. They include houses at 902 Third, 453-455 I, 921 Fifth, and 444-446 K Streets NW, a number of which were owned or occupied by Civil War figures.

The move of the Northern Liberties Market in the 1870’s to the corner of Fifth and K Streets, prompted food purveyors to relocate to that area and spurred a new phase of development. Today, “Purveyor’s Row” in the 900 block of Fifth Street NW commemorates the neighborhood’s connection to the food industry, as does the magnificent art deco Wittlin-Deckelbaum Building at Fifth and K Streets NW. During the early 20th century, the automobile opened a new pattern of development in the Mount Vernon Triangle. Several surviving automotive service garages reflect an early 20th-century industrial design aesthetic characterized by large banks of steel sash windows.

During the early 20th century, the automobile opened a new pattern of development in the Mount Vernon Triangle. Several surviving automotive service garages reflect an early 20th-century industrial design aesthetic characterized by large banks of steel sash windows.

As the Mount Vernon Triangle area became increasingly commercial and the emerging suburbs more enticing, neighborhood demographics began to shift. The more solidly middle-class residents abandoned their center city houses, leaving them as multi-family boarding houses that attracted less stable and poorer residents.

Today, the remaining historic properties of the Mount Vernon Triangle sit amongst parking lots and overgrown building lots. This entire area has been slated for redevelopment by the DC Office of Planning, including 5,000 new housing units and 2,000,000 square feet of office space.

DCPL has filed 11 landmark nominations in the Triangle, and is working with the DC Office of Planning, the Historic Preservation Office, and developers to ensure the retention of the neighborhoods historic character.

Next Steps/Actions:

  • DCPL will continue to work the Office of Planning, HPO, and developers interested in the area.
  • DCPL’s Project Review

South Capitol Street Corridor

Bounded by G Street to the north, Anacostia River to the south, 2nd St, SE and 2nd St, SW

Steward: Various Private Owners
Nominated by: Hayden Wetzel & DCPL Landmarks Committee

This neighborhood is what remains of a once very large working-class residential and semi-industrialarea. While little of the architecture is unique, the neighborhood as a whole represents a way of lifethat is seen in few places in the rest of the city. Some streets continue to show almost fully intactrows 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 industrialbuildings, warehouses and rowhouses (both brick and frame) from the 1870s to the 1920s.

Current redevelopment plans including the city’s new baseball stadium have few provisions forprotecting the fragile historic buildings of this area and many have already been demolished. Onlypart of the area is slated for preservation.

In 2004, the South Capital Task Force prepared Prepare a detailed presentation of the buildings inthe area and identified clusters of buildings that have the potential for preservation and presentedthis to the Historic Preservation Office and to the public.

Next Steps/Actions:

  • Through a Task Force, DCPL is working to build a coalition of neighbors, community groups and preservationorganizations to work with the city’s Office of Planning and other agencies to ensure that historic preservation concernsare included in the planning and development of this area. The task force has already surveyed and documented thearea. Within the next six months the group plans to:
    • Form a coalition of neighborhood groups and individuals interested in this project.
    • Make initial but specific proposals to the city’s Office of Planning and Historic Preservation Office.
    • Consider preparation of landmark nominations for select buildings.

Tregaron Estate (the Causeway)
3100 Macomb Street, NW

Steward: Tregaron Limited Partnership
Nominated by: Friends of Tregaron Foundation
DC Inventory of Historic Places (1979)

Built in 1912 by architect Charles Adam Platt for owner James Parmalee, Tregaron is a twenty-oneacre site consisting of open fields and woodlands with meandering streams. At that time most ofthis segment of northwest Washington was occupied by farms, summer houses, and isolatedsuburban villas. Charles Adam Platt was the era’s foremost architect and landscape architect ofcountry houses in America. Ellen Biddle Shipman, an apprentice in Platt’s office, collaborated withPlatt on Tregaron Estate. Shipman is widely recognized for her contributions to the field oflandscape architecture, particularly as a horticulturalist. Tregaron was the second collaborationbetween Shipman and Platt. Platt planned the circulation pattern for the site along with the formalgardens and Ellen Biddle Shipman completed the planning plans in 1914. In 1927 she was hiredagain to design a wild garden for the Causeway. The landscape includes hardscape features such asstone bridges, retaining walls and the causeway along with a formal garden, a pond, bridle path and abrook.

In 1980, Tregaron Development Corporation and the Washington International School purchasedthe site. The school owns 6 acres in the northwest portion of the site that includes all of thelandmark’s historic structures. The remaining 14 acres owned by the partnership includes many ofthe site’s landscape features. The landscape has been allowed to deteriorate and Ellen BiddleShipman’s design is barely recognizable. Development has threatened the green space of the estate anumber of times. Most recently, the owners of the fourteen undeveloped acres have sought permitsto begin construction of 16 new houses and carving a new road through the sloping, grassy meadow,drastically altering the appearance of the site.The Friends of Tregaron Foundation, Cleveland Park Citizens Association, Cleveland ParkHistorical Society and the ANC have passed resolutions in opposition to the development.

The Friends of Tregaron are actively searching for alternative buyers that would purchase Tregaron andplace easements on the property and restore the landscape

Actions/Next Steps:

  • DCPL will assist by encouraging the Friends of Tregaron to work with the owner to restore the landscapeand find a suitable long-term arrangement (conservancy, etc) for the maintenance of the Estate.
  • The DCPL Project Review Committee will review the proposed development of the site and provide adviceand assistance on its placement and impact on the historic landmark.

Washington’s Symbolic Core
The National Mall and Beyond

Steward: Federal Government, With Some Quasi-Governmental Institutions
Nominated by: the Committee of 100 on the Federal City
DC Inventory of Historic Places (1979)

The area encompassed by Washington’s Monumental Core is the symbolic heart of the historic L’Enfant and McMillan Plans for the Nation’s Capital and the embodiment, in monuments, public buildings, and open public space, of the U.S. Constitution. The 1791 L’Enfant Plan located the Capitol Building, seat of representational government, at the city’s center and highest spot, which Peter L’Enfant called “a pedestal awaiting a monument.” Pennsylvania, site of the Constitutional Convention, gave its name to the avenue connecting – and separating – the Legislative Branch from the Executive in the White House. The National Mall was conceived as a 400- foot wide “Grand Avenue” extending from the Capitol to the Washington Monument at the banks of the Potomac River, and intersecting the President’s Park. L’Enfant and Thomas Jefferson envisioned the Mall as a public open space, a “place of general resort” and “public walks.”

In 1901-1902, the McMillan Commission—composed of renowned City Beautiful architects Charles McKim and Daniel Burnham, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and sculptor Augustus St.-Gaudens—revived and updated the L’Enfant concept. The kite-shaped plan extended the Mall westward and southward over former riverbeds to form new parkland and sites for monuments honoring presidents Jefferson and Lincoln. To meet the needs of the growing government, the McMillan Commission envisioned new building complexes in the Federal Triangle and contiguous areas. During the twentieth century, the L’Enfant and McMillan conceptual framework for Washington’s Symbolic Core expanded yet again, to encompass the relocated Union Station, the Supreme Court Building, and the Kennedy Center.

Washington’s Symbolic Core is nothing short of America’s premier civic expression in landscape, monuments, and public buildings of the concept of American founding principles, the Constitution, and the idea of Democracy.

Extreme security measures, street closures, barriers of varying size and configuration, and security agents, have been posted and/or installed in an ad-hoc manner throughout the entire Symbolic Core, distorting its representation of freedom, openness, and democracy while ignoring the needs of the city’s residents and impeding visitors to the nation’s capital. These measures have yet to be adequately explained or justified in a public forum. Centuries of careful urban planning that created a city symbolic of openness, freedom, and democracy have been overturned by spontaneous, illplanned measures.

The threat of continued ad-hoc security measures is current and immediate. Each day, the Secret Service and the National Park Service propose, or simply install, new measures for limiting access to the nation’s monuments, memorials, museums, and places of governance. Only by sheer perseverance, and the unwillingness of Congress to appropriate funds, were citizen activists able to defeat the National Park Service’s plan to close on-grade entry to the Washington Monument; a plan that would have required visitors to enter by way of a four-hundred-foot tunnel. And, although this proposal was defeated, spy cameras, blocking half of the windows at the top of the Washington Monument, remain.

Actions/Next Steps:

  • Coordination amongst all agencies that have purview over the Symbolic Core, its buildings and open spaces;
  • Implementation of the Federal 106 process for all proposed alterations to the Symbolic Core;
  • Enactment of an easement on the view corridor of the Symbolic Core;
  • Creation of an organization dedicated to the preservation of openness and accessibility to the buildings and public spaces within the Symbolic Core;
  • Creation of a coalition of existing organizations that have an interest in preserving the Symbolic Core
  • Retention by the above-referenced organizations of an attorney willing to challenge Congress’ right to overturn decisions of commissions charged with reviewing alterations to the Symbolic Core

Watch List

The DC Preservation League Watch List consists of sites that DCPL feels are not in imminent danger, but deserve regular scrutiny because of potential future threats to their integrity. Sites are added and removed throughout the year based on level of threat.

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.

Steward: Catholic University

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 sold the land to the Catholic University of America in 2004. The property is surrounded by Corcoran’s original iron and stonework fence; the lodge at the southern end, in Second Empire style, was almost certainly designed by James Renwick, architect of 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. There has also been an active process to solicit development proposals for this site, posing a threat to the historic structures.

Steward: DC Government

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’ 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.


Currently threatened by demolition and private development, 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.

2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE
Steward: DC Government/General Services Administration

The St. Elizabeths Hospital site is composed of more than 300 acres in the Anacostia section of Southeast Washington, DC. Most of the original 19th century buildings are on the west campus, which is owned by the Federal Government. To the north of the oldest of these buildings is a magnificent vista over the city of Washington and the Potomac River to Virginia, a prospect that had been chosen for curative purposes. The grounds are graced by specimen trees gathered from around the world over a century ago. The buildings to the east of Martin Luther King Ave., which are owned by the DC Government, are largely of the twentieth century and both sides have a campus layout with a succession of quadrangles, with curving drives between. There are just over forty contributing historic structures.

The site is well known and prominent in the mental health field. St. Elizabeths was the first large scale government run insane asylum, the result of Dorthea Dix’s persistent lobbying of Congress. The lack of government funding for maintenance, pressure to develop the property and the failure to plan for adaptive reuse of the buildings are the fundamental threats to this historic site.

St. Elizabeths is listed as a National Historic Landmark and on the National Register. DCPL recently submitted a DC Landmark nomination for the site, which now affords it protection under the DC Historic Preservation Law. The grounds were open to the general public until about ten years ago, but entrance to the grounds is now restricted. The threat could be mitigated and potentially eliminated by funding preservation campaigns and by finding appropriate adaptive reuse strategies for many of the buildings.