Architectural Links to City's Past in Jeopardy, Group Says

By Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 26, 2008

A crumbling century-old mansion in Dupont Circle. Three 19th-century farmhouses in Anacostia. A 37-year-old church a few blocks from the White House.

The D.C. Preservation League, which has been the guardian of Washington's architectural past for many years, is spotlighting these and other sites on its annual portfolio of the city's 10 most "endangered" places.

This year's list includes an entire neighborhood east of Capitol Hill, Barney Circle, where developers are altering brick rowhouses. The league also cites the District's stock of public school buildings, "some vacant and rapidly deteriorating."

Several of the properties on the list are well known, such as St. Elizabeths Hospital's west campus and Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Others are more obscure, including the long-dormant Georgetown trolley tracks and an old trolley trestle in Glover Park.

Yet all are architecturally and culturally significant, according to the league, which sees them as distinct links to the District's past. And all are at risk because they need refurbishing or because they face potential threat from developers.

"The purpose of the list is to draw attention to these resources," said Rebecca A. Miller, the league's executive director.

Here are the properties on this year's roster:

· The Joseph Taylor Arms Mansion, 1800 New Hampshire Ave.: The league said the condition of the 100-year-old mansion, owned by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, became "so deplorable" that the diplomatic staff had to move out four years ago. "A classic example of demolition by neglect" is how the league describes the property, which has rotting windows, peeling paint and an unsound roof. A Congolese official said recently that the embassy is ready to hire a contractor and begin repairs.

· Barry Farm Frame Houses,2800 block of Wade Road SE: The three houses are the last vestiges of the Barry Farm neighborhood that rose east of the Anacostia River during the mid-19th century. The houses were intended to serve as quarters for freed slaves. The league says the District needs to designate the houses as landmarks to protect them from the destruction that has claimed similar 19th-century homes in the area.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company