Fighting for Aged Architecture
As larger and larger swaths of the city’s quadrants are torn down and rebuilt in the name of revitalization, D.C. Preservation League fights to maintain local architectural treasures. Since 1996, the organization has announced an annual list of “Most Endangered Places” to draw attention to sites of historical, cultural and architectural significance that are threatened with alteration and demolition or neglect and abandonment.
The group’s stances are widely publicized in the city, and the league has an outsized impact for its small size. For example, earlier this fall, the organization urged the Historic Preservation Review Board to block the International Spy Museum’s plans to expand the Carnegie Library. The board took the D.C. Preservation League’s advice, causing the Spy Museum to pull out of the site, an “Endangered Place,” altogether. The site is still on the list however, with the league pushing the city to fund preservation for the Beaux-Arts building across from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
This year’s list also includes two homes on L Street in Shaw that are likely to get swept up in a proposal to build more hotels close to the near-completed Marriot Marquis convention center, a huge portion of relatively pastoral land at the St. Elizabeths East Agricultural Complex, and the Washington Canoe Club and West Heating Plant, both in Georgetown. Other than the boathouse, which is in such a state of disrepair that the National Park Service closed the building, the list consists of buildings that are facing off against gentrification.
It’s a battle that the D.C. Preservation League has seen before, and will see again, as it continues to fight a war on behalf of the city’s aged architecture.