Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mary's Blue Room, Capitol Hill

Mary's Blue Room, Capitol Hill
Originally uploaded by rllayman
Photo from the HIstoric American Building Survey.

I forget from time to time that the local preservation law in DC was sparked by the demolition of a building owned by church.

In 1966, the National Historic Preservation Act was passed, which included a system for designating historic districts through the National Register of Historic Places, a unit of the National Park Service. The NHPA also "protects" (or at least requires consideration of the historic aspects) buildings and sites from federal understakings.

A few years later, the Capitol Hill Historic District was created.

But Capitol Hill Baptist Churchwas still able to demolish this building, which was at the corner of 5th and East Capitol Streets NE.

Part of their justification was that they "couldn't afford to maintain the building." Plus they wanted more parking lots.
Capitol Hill Baptist Church logo
Just think, this prominent corner, now occupied by rowhouses constructed in the late 1990s (the "new" buildings were done so well that each is worth well over $1 million), was a parking lot for decades.

People realized that the federal preservation act only protected places with regard to undertakings by or funded by the federal government.--except for the fact that Congress is exempt from the Act due to separation of powers, which provides an extra dimension of threat faced by Capitol Hill that is somewhat unique.

So they worked to get local legislation passed to provide local protections against demolition in historic districts.

So the recent effort to provide an exception to churches in the city's historic preservation laws is sadly ironic.


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