A juried contest & exhibit of the 75 best new artworks that capture our transforming urban landscape
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. While many properties have been saved, many others remain in peril.
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.
These contributing buildings owned and managed by the DC Housing and Community Development (DCHCD) agency are contributing structures in the Anacostia Historic District, listed in the DC Inventory of Historic Places and the National Register for Historic Places. These buildings, left vacant and abandoned for years by DCHCD, are a clear case of the District Government failing to comply with its own laws with regards to demolition by neglect. The very apparent disregard by DCHCD was evidenced by the buildings receiving no repair after a structural assessment was done in 2004. In addition, the buildings have been left open to the elements and to vagrant activities; the most certain consequence of this negligence was a fire that gutted and damaged the buildings’ rear and interiors in August 2005. The removal of these turn of the 20th century buildings would remove what may be the earliest commercial block of the district and would cause irreparable damage to the integrity and character of this district.
These contributing buildings within the Anacostia Historic District are rare examples of prosperous single-family detached houses in this section of Anacostia that date from around the turn of the twentieth century. Currently in poor condition, the houses located along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE are currently for sale and could potentially be demolished to clear way for commercial uses. The house located on Mount View Place, SE was previously listed in 2005, and in the subsequent 5 years, has deteriorated further and has had its front porch removed.
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.
Anacostia Historic District
Threat: Neglect and Proposed Demolitions
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.
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.
Completed in 1932 as the Gallinger Hospital Nurses Residence, this stately building was later named for philanthropist Anne Archbold. This brick building with limestone trim housed the Capital City School of Nursing until 1972, when the school closed. The building continued in use until just recently, serving as office space for the DC Department of Health. Anne Archbold Hall is one of the oldest remaining structures on the DC General Hospital campus where health care service have been provided to residents of the District of Columbia of over 150 years. The National Library of Medicine regards the entire DC General campus as a Medical Historic Site.
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Threat: Financial Hardship
Soldiers Home, Between North Capital Street, Rock Creek Church Road and Irving Street
In 1851 Senator Jefferson Davis advocated legislation that created the Soldiers’ Home. It provided benefits for “every soldier…who shall have served or may serve honestly and faithfully twenty years…and every soldier… whether regular or volunteer, who shall have suffered by reason of disease or wounds incurred in the service and in the line of his duty, rendering him incapable of further military service.”
The legislation also provided other funds to support the Home that were generated through fines levied by courts-martial and a voluntary 25 cent monthly pay deduction from enlisted personnel. After considering many parcels of land, the Home’s Board of Directors decided to buy the farm of George W. Riggs, founder of Riggs National Bank. That land purchase included the neighboring tract of Charles Scrivener, 58 acres called Mount Joliet. Riggs’ farm was about 198 acres, and the purchase was made for $58,111.75. The Riggs farmhouse was located along Rock Creek Church Road near where Upshur Street intersects today.
Just after the initial completion of buildings in 1857, General Winfield Scott invited the President and Secretary of War to make the “Asylum” their summer home. President Buchanan accepted and began summering at Anderson Cottage, the former Riggs farmhouse, during his term in office.
The Lincoln family spent long periods from June to November at Anderson Cottage. President Lincoln wrote the second draft of the Emancipation Proclamation while at the cottage, and in July 1864 Lincoln rode a mile from the cottage to Fort Stevens, on Georgia Avenue, to witness the attack by Confederate troops on Washington.
The Sherman Building was restored in 2013. Many other buildings remain in need of deferred maintenance.
Three D.C. government buildings designed by municipal architect Nathan C. Wyeth in the early 1940s are threatened by possible sale, inappropriate alteration, and demolition for redevelopment. The Municipal Center (1941), 3001 Indiana Avenue, NW, The Recorder of Deeds Building (1942), 515 D Street, NW and the District of Columbia National Guard Armory (1942), 2001 East Capitol Street, SE, are civic symbols worthy of preservation.
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 have threatened 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.
Located to the east of the Capitol Hill Historic District in Southeast Washington, Barney Circle is a residential neighborhood, roughly triangular in shape, developed around the time of the First World War to provide affordable housing for people moving to Washington to work in the war effort. The neighborhood is comprised of uninterrupted rows of single-family brick rowhouses that typify the area and give it character and identity. Largely unadorned and modest in scale and style, these two-story rowhouses are wider and shallower than their nineteenth-century precedents and are characterized by their horizontal orientation, front porches, and yards, and such details as overhanging eaves, mansard roofs with dormers, and brick stringcourses. Known as “daylight rowhouses” because they were designed to be only two rooms deep, ensuring that each room had windows which allowed sunlight and fresh air into the house, the rowhouses are set back from the street and read as a cohesive unit along the streetscape.
The three frame houses located along the 2800 block of Wade Road in Southeast Washington represent the only surviving dwellings of the Barry Farm neighborhood which developed east of the Anacostia River in the mid-nineteenth century. Constructed on land purchased from the heirs of James D. Barry and located between St. Elizabeths Hospital and Uniontown, the community of Barry Farm was planned as part of an initiative after the Civil War to provide homes for former slaves. Larger than the original Barry Farm residences of the 1860s and 1870s, these three remaining dwellings represent the types of residences that were built at the beginning of the twentieth-century as the African-American community became more settled and affluent. Standing at the edge of the dense growth of vegetation separating Barry Farm from St. Elizabeths, these homes are remnants of the historic community that thrived in this semi-rural area in the mid-nineteenth century through the early twentieth century.
The last remaining houses in this once expansive community are threatened with demolition and neglect.
The Bond Bread building was completed in 1930, its distinguished design standing out from other contemporaneous factory buildings in the city. When construction began in 1929, the Bond Bread Factory was a state-of-the-art building designed by an experienced bakery architect, C.B. Comstock. His design mixes elements of the popular Art Deco in its verticality and stepped façade, as well as the stripped classicism so at home in federal Washington.
Plans to raze the building by Howard University were halted in 2013. The building remains vacant.
Carnegie Library (Central Public Library)
801 K Street, NW
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.
The stack, built in 1916 for the Anderson Tire Manufacturing Company, is constructed of blonde glazed brick, stands completely independent on a concrete base and, according to its building permit, stands 110 feet tall. A landmark in the truest sense of the word, the stack towers over all of the other structures in the neighborhood. The stack tapers for more than four-fifths of its height, where three courses of blonde bricks provide a belt course, followed by three courses of dark brown bricks and another similar course of blonde. Above these belt courses, extending almost to the top of the stack is a decorated masonry pattern forming diamonds, with the long axis oriented vertically up the shaft, of dark brown over blonde units. The shaft then widens again for seven more courses of blonde brick before a much narrower shaft top in the same color masonry. The name “Carroll” is clearly visible in black painted very large letters running down the northwest side of the stack. The previous owner requested permission to demolish the adjacent buildings and smoke stack for a new charter school building.
Alexander Crummell School
1900 Gallaudet Street, NE
From 1912 to the early 1970s, the Alexander Crummell School served as the Ivy City and Trinity communities’ elementary school for African American children. The school was designed in 1911 by Snowden Ashford, the first municipal architect of Washington, DC. It was named for Reverend Doctor Alexander Crummell, a leading African American educator and compatriot of Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DeBois, who founded the think tank the American Negro Academy. This elementary school was the center of the community in the historic Ivy City neighborhood.
Funds for potential rehabilitation are in the FY2015 DC Budget and will require a sympathetic developer and a supportive community.
The Foundry Branch Trolley Trestle is one of only two remaining bridges along the former trolley line linking Georgetown to Glen Echo, Maryland. This line, constructed around 1900, provided the transportation to a trolley park – hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians used the line to access the Glen Echo Amusement Park. Although all tracks have been removed, the right-of-way continues as a trail along the Potomac River overlook through the Palisades neighborhood of Northwest Washington, D.C.
Chairman of the Trails Committee for the Palisades Citizen’s Association is working with local organizations and the National Park Service to raise awareness about the endangered site.
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. Both the interior and exterior of the building are landmarked. Owned by the DC Government, the property’s exterior was restored in the early 2000’s. The interior however has suffered extreme neglect.
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.
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 building is currently vacant and dilapidated with no publicly available plans for use.
The Judiciary Square Clusters compromise a mix of historic buildings located in the Judiciary Square area as typified by the 300 block of E Street, NW, that serve as cohesive reminders of the living neighborhood that existed in the eastern part of downtown Washington before the expansion of the federal government in the area. The surviving structures include a variety of building types and architectural styles dating from circa 1850 to 1959 that reflect the neighborhood’s development from a vibrant late-nineteenth-century community with its blend of residential, commercial, and religious architecture to a government center with little trace of its nineteenth century and early twentieth century historic fabric.
The 300 block of E Street, NW contains several of the area’s remaining buildings. At the northwest corner of 3rd and E Streets, NW, stands Trinity Arms Apartments (formerly known as the McKinley Apartments), the 1908 four-story-plus-basement apartment building designed by notable Washington architect Mathew G. Lepley. It mirrors the neighboring four-story apartment building, built in 1907, located on 3rd Street, NW. Adjoining the apartment building to the west is the last single-family dwelling on the block with a long history of distinguished residents.
The District of Columbia’s central public library, designed by Modern master Ludwig Mies van der Rhode 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. Deferred maintenance have threatened the integrity of this building for years. Currently, the DC Government is looking at modifying the building by adding a rooftop addition.
Mary Church Terrell was a distinguished educator, suffragette, and civil rights activist who, among other accomplishments, became the first president of the National Association of Colored Women and was the first African American to served on the D.C. School Board. Her husband, Robert Terrell, was the first African-American judge in the D.C. municipal court. They were among the most prominent leaders of the African-American community and their purchase of the house was instrumental in the integration of LeDroit Park. Built around 1900, the house received National Historic Landmark designation and is within the LeDroit Park Historic District, but the threat of demolition by neglect is still great. Despite sporadic attempts at restoration, beginning in 2008, the house remains vacant.
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.
Current development plans call for more than 2.1 Million Square Feet of development on this protected site. Controversy still remains within the neighborhood as to the best use of the site.
The Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church located at 1518 M Street, NW is home to Washington DC’s oldest African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) congregation. Designed by architect Samuel G. T. Morsell, the Gothic style brick building has been a bastion of civil and human rights since its dedication on May 30, 1886. The Metropolitan Church was founded in 1838 to minister to the spiritual needs of Washington DC’s African American population. Like its parent domination, the Metropolitan Church was rooted in opposition to slavery and the belief that African Americans were entitled to equality. A.M.E. members throughout the nation contributed funds to construct the Metropolitan Church. Their gifts are memorialized in Gothic building’s majestic stained glass windows, which document the growth of the A.M.E. denomination during the nineteenth century. The church’s parishioners have included leading members of Washington DC’s African American community, including Frederick Douglass, whose funeral services were held at the church. Known as “the National Cathedral of African Methodism,” the building continues to play an important role in the spiritual life of Washington, DC.
Although some funds have been received for restoration of the stained glass windows, many repairs still remain.
Mount Zion Cemetery plays an important role as a reminder of African American culture in nineteenth century Georgetown. The land was purchased in 1808 by the Dumbarton Street Methodist Episcopal Church. The African American members of this congregation broke off to form Mount Zion Church, which in 1879 took control of the cemetery. This was done with the help of the Female Union Band Society, a benevolent society of free African American women established in 1842. This cemetery stands as a physical representation of the society and culture African Americans in Georgetown created and the pride they placed in this.
Partners are working together with DCPL on a preservation plan for the site.
2300 Kalorama Road, NW
The former Thai Embassy, at the corner of Kalorama Road and 23rd Street, was vacated several years ago in favor of the larger Codman Mansion at the foot of the Spanish Steps. Constructed in 1920, the Embassy was designed by James Rush Marshall, of the architectural firm Hornblower and Marshall, best known for the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, 1908-1911. According to the Sheridan-Kalorama Historic District nomination, this was the first purpose-built embassy in our district. Prior to this time, embassies were converted from private mansions. The Thai symbols that top the pilasters on the façade are testament to the fact that the house was intended for a specific occupant.
The building is currently vacant and neglected.
23rd and E Streets, NW
Located on Reservation 4 of the L’Enfant Plan for the Federal City (1792), Potomac Annex was viewed as a prominent position along the Potomac River and an ideal location for a fortification. George Washington chose the site for location of a university, but it was never built.
Occupied by the Navy since 1842, the United States Naval Observatory was built there in 1844. The Potomac Annex is a 13-acre site with 23 contributing elements to the proposed Potomac Annex Historic District. The proposed district is a premier example of significant patterns related to the history and architecture of the Navy’s presence on this site. Included is the Observatory, built in 1844, which was the unsurpassed world leader in scientific research on navigation and astronomy and key to the creation of the field of oceanography. Also significant is the old Washington Naval Hospital, designed by the preeminent 19th and early 20th century architect, Ernest Flagg, and the Naval Medical School on the site of the former Naval Museum of Hygiene (1895-1905). The Naval Hospital, which became the Naval Medical Center in 1935, was the preeminent medical facility run by the Navy in the United States from 1904 to 1942. Also included on the site is a statue of Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and professor of medical theory and clinical practice, and archaeological remains associated with the 1844 Magnetic Observatory and tunnel.
Potomac Annex has had various names throughout history, including Camp Hill, Peter’s Hill, Reservation 4, University Square, and Observatory Hill. It is thought that in 1755 during the French and Indian War that General Braddock’s troops may have camped nearby, and a burial ground for those who died during an epidemic that same year could possibly be located on the western slope of the site.
Proposed redevelopment for use by the State Department threatens the historic character of the site. Consultation through the Section 106 process has been initiated by the General Services Administration and minimization of impact is the primary goal.
Southwest D.C. Urban Renewal Area and Plan
Threat: Proposed Demolitions
In 1952, architect Chloetheil Woodard Smith designed a plan with architect Louis Justement that she called a “ bold conceptual scheme that called for the modern renewal of this quadrant” that included a neighborhood of high-rise apartments and townhouses. Landscape architect Dan U. Kiley, helped bridge the two types of Capitol Park buildings with a park like setting.
Piecemeal landmarking has taken place for the last decade. A comprehensive look at the Plan as designed and its integrity is necessary to establish future development as they relate to the historic landscape and buildings.
Established as the Government Hospital for the Insane in 1855, Saint Elizabeths has a long history in the treatment of the mentally ill. The site is composed of more than 300 acres in the Anacostia section of Southeast Washington, DC. To the north of the oldest of these buildings is a magnificent vista over the city of Washington and the Potomac to Virginia, a prospect that had been chose for curative purposes. 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.
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.
1050 21st Street, N.W.
The Thaddeus Stevens School is one of the city’s oldest surviving elementary schools constructed for African-American students. Built in 1868 and largely rebuilt and enlarged in 1896, the Stevens School was listed in the District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites in 1972 and then in the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.
The school was shuttered in 2008. Earlier this year, a development team was chosen to rehabilitate the school and develop it’s open space into an office structure.
When it was built by impresario A.E. Lichtman in 1928, the Strand Theatre, which included stores, a dance hall, and poolroom, complemented the recreational facilities of nearby Suburban Gardens, the only African-American community amusement park in the segregated city. The first motion picture theatre to be built in the section of Northeast “east of the river”, the Strand served the Deanwood community as a theatre into the 1970s. After use as a store, the building stood vacant and deteriorating for decades.
There are no solid plans for the theater’s future beyond stabilization, however the city envisions a commercial redevelopment of the site.
The two-story, Second-Empire-style, 1875 brick residence was designed by Montgomery C. Meigs, engineer of the Washington Aqueduct (plus several forts, the old Pension Building and expansions of the Capitol and the District’s former post office) and later Brigadier General and Quartermaster General. The house and reservoir are elements contributing to the significance of the aqueduct, one of America’s early big-city water systems and a National Historic Landmark. The house resembles the model entrance/sexton lodges that Meigs designed for the National Cemeteries established during the Civil War.
No funds are currently allocated for stabilization or reuse of the structure.
The Takoma Theatre opened in July 1923 and was designed by Baltimore architect John Zink. Of the seven Zink designed theaters still functioning in this area, the Takoma is the only one that remains unaltered. Until the 1980s it was used exclusively for film. In 1984, the stage was modified and it became a performing arts venue for drama, dance, and music. It was later also used by independent filmmakers for film previews including Chris Rock. In the early 2000s it was operated under lease by a nonprofit organization, the Takoma Theatre Arts Project; the lease ended in late 2005. The Theatre is currently vacant despite plans for redevelopment.
Army medical doctor. The hospital opened its doors on May 1, 1909 to ten patients. Fourteen years later, General John J. Pershing signed the War Department order creating the Army Medical Center. In September 1951, the entire complex of 100 rose-brick Georgian buildings became known as the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in further tribute to this hero of medical science. The center was built due to the untiring efforts of Colonel William Cline Borden who was the initiator, planner and effective mover for the creation, location, and first Congressional support of the Medical Center; it is still referred to today as “Borden’s Dream.”
World War I saw the hospital’s capacity grow from 80 patient beds to 2,500 in a matter of months. During World War II, the Korea and Vietnam Wars, and the two Gulf Wars hundreds of thousands of soldiers were treated at Walter Reed. Today, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center continues to serve the military community from the Washington, D.C. area, and around the world, admitting 16,000 patients a year and houses the National Museum of Health and Medicine with odd specimens such as Gen. Daniel Sickles’ leg.
A master developer has been chosen for the DC portion of the site and a Master Plan has been produced. The portion of the site occupied by the State Department is threatened with near total demolition to make way for a foreign missions to build on the site.
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.
Donaldson Place, NW, Tenleytown
The facility at Fort Reno was constructed in 1904 to meet the growing demand for water from the Tenleytown vicinity. The watchman’s lodge and tower were designed in an engineering-adapted Flemish Revival style by Wood, Donn, and Deming, a prominent Washington architectural firm at the time. They have embellishment unique for their engineering purpose, with quoining, decorative patterns in the brick, and half timbering. Very little has been modified in the years after their construction. As part of the larger engineering history of Washington, DC, this site is also significant for its connection to two important engineers, Montgomery Meigs and Allen Hazen, who designed the gravity-fed aqueduct system in the mid-nineteenth century.
The lack of a stable roof has caused substantial deterioration within the Watchman’s Lodge. No concrete plans are in place for its rehabilitation or reuse.
1051 29th Street, NW
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.
Current plans by the development team call for demolition of three sides of the structure. This proposal would destroy the integrity of this prominent site.
4611 Benning Road SE
Designated on the DC Inventory of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Sites, Woodlawn Cemetery was established in 1895 by several individuals associated with Graceland Cemetery (founded in 1872 and located near the inter of Benning Road and H Street NE). The initial interments at Woodlawn consisted primarily of over 6,000 re-interments from Graceland made from 1895 to 1898; as at Graceland, blacks and whites were placed in adjoining graves. Subsequent interments included many prominent African-Americans, among them Blanche K. Bruce, born a slave in 1841 and elected to the U.S. Senate in 1875, and John Mercer Langston, U.S. Representative from Virginia and Dean of the Howard University Law School from 1869 to 1879.
Despite attempts by loyal volunteers to maintain the cemetery, it remains severely deteriorated.
In 1915, Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950), a Harvard-trained historian and DC Public Schools teacher, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. In 1922, he moved his operations to 1538 9th Street, NW, living and working in that row house until his death. In the intervening years, Woodson successfully established Black history as an academic discipline and fought to counter the commonly held belief that African Americans had made little or no contribution to the development of the American nation. In 1926, Woodson established Negro History Week (now Black History Month). This row house is where it all began.
The house is now a National Historic Site managed by the National Park Service and is in desperate need of rehabilitation.