Washington's Girl Scouts are upset, Pennsylvania Avenue may find a scholarly solution to a messy problem, and the British are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their picturesque, neo-Tudor embassy building here.
Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., alias National Girl Scouts Inc., owns a romantic 96 acres of rugged countryside way out on MacArthur Boulevard near the C&O Canal, beyond Angler's Inn. But for a manor house and a few dormitories, it is mostly wilderness, appropriately called "Rockwood." The land was given to the scouts by a benevolent lady named Carolyn G. Caughey back in 1936. She wanted it used "as a character-building center," as she put it in her will.
Rockwood served the Girl Scouts not only to experience rocks and woods, but also to house troops from all over the country thrilling to their national capital and its unique lessons. Beginning with Lady Baden Powell herself, as many as 13,000 Scouts a year camped at Rockwood.
But while the center undoubtedly help to build characters, it failed to achieve character. "National Girl Scout headquarters in New York City never realized the great potential of the place," said Barbara Lehmann, a local leader. Rockwood could so easily be turned into a great camp where, perhaps not only Girl Scouts, but also other youngters from all over the country, could be accommodated inexpensively on group visit to Washington.
Only 20 miles from the Capitol, from the museum on the Mail and from experts on every conveivable topic, the kids could enjoy superb camping and ecological studies.
Nothing much like this ever happened. But now the girls are taught a drastic lesson about the problems of the American environment. At first, to make Rockwood more cost-effecient, National Girl Scouts Inc. imposed a two-meal minimum, including $4 supper, on every visitor. When this and other measures failed to produce "good management," the national organization simply sold the place.
The buyer is a local developer, Berger-Bergen of Rockville, which plans to build 180 subdivision houses on the site as soon as the sewer and water hookup can be secured.
Richard Knoz. of Girl Scout PR in New York City, patiently explained to me that the organization maintains another national center, Edith Macy camp in upstate New York, and cannot afford to run two such facilities within 300 miles.
Washington Girl Scout leaders charge that their national organization has not even tried. Their newly formed "Rescue Rockwood Committee" plans to see on the grounds of violation of Mrs. Caughey's trust.
The Girl Scouts may have lost their character-building woods. But now they will learn about urban sprawl, self-defeating cost-accounting environmental responsibility and court proceedings.
The ugliest sight on Pennsylvania Avenue is the car-filled gap east of the District Building where the late and ramshackle Coast Guard Building used to stand.
tr for and four.
Plans for filings the gap were never very specific. Neither were plans for a Woodrow Wilson Center building.
You guessed it. The Wilson Center is flirting with the idea of building on Pennsylvania Avenue between the Grand Plaza and the new plaza to be created in front of the present National Theater.
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars was created in 1968 as a "living memorial." Rather than building a monument. Wilson is to be remembered by the work of scholars from different countries, symbolizing and strengthening "the fruitful relations between the world of public affairs." In the past seven years 280 scholars from 40 countries have thus been stimulated by each other and by Washington life and politics to seek new perspectives and wisdom.
There are about 35 to 40 Wilson scholars at any given time presently working in the Old Smithsonian Castle. They are gusts, as it were, of Dr. S. Dillion Ripley, the Smithsonian's secretary, and his owls.
At the time the center was created, the architects of Pennsylvania Avenue hope to accommodate the Wilson Center in one of four symmetrical buildings, which were to form a new Market Square opposite the National Archives. The plans showed a Second Emire-like design - something Baron Harassmann might have devised for Paris - and Wilsonians now confess that they were never overly fond of the idea. To justify its size, the big building was to provide residences for the scholars, and the center does not want to "run a hotel." Besides, "living memorial" or no, Wilsonians would like a separate, architectural identity and not be just one of four identical parts of a grand designs. The Second Empire Market square proposal has meanwhile yielded to the fond hope of building housing in its place.
The Wilson Center, meanwhile, has acquired the services of Francis R. Sayre Jr., dean emeritus of the National Cathedral and a grandson of President Wilson. Sayre has been looking into possible sites - "not that we don't appreciate the Smithsonian's hospitality," mind you.
Filling the Grand Plaza gap is Dean Sayre's happy idea. Nothing about it is official as yet, least of all the money. But behind the scenes, everyone seems to be applauding - the Fine Arts and Planning Commissions as well as the other agencies.
What with pressures for federal office space, some people in the General Services Administration, which owns the site would rather see a big government building. But their boss, Jay Solomon, agrees with the rest of the power-that-be that federal offices would be dull and empty at night. The Wilson scholars would attract people to lectures, receptions and such. Besides everyone is intrigued by the prospect of bringing scholarship into the very heart of this capital.
Dillo Ripley was so intrigued in fact, that he doodled an architectural concept of the center.
"Such a building could be design with great lightness and beauty in mind to encompass an arch in its center, thus carrying the open space vista both north and south through the house of the building itself," he wrote on his sketch. In a niche above the arch, Ripley sketched a statue of Wilson.
Why not? Ex-Modern renegade Philip Johnson is designing a Chippendale topped skyscrapers for Manhattan.
The 50th anniversary of the British Embassy at 3100 Massachusette Ave. NW is a welcome occasion to recall some of the most romantic architecture created in this century - architecture which S. Dillon Ripley will surely approve of. Indeed, Sir Edward Lutyens would have been the perfect architect for Ripley's concept of the Wilson Center. While Gropins & Co. declared "ornament is crime." Lutneys thought nothing of perching statues on niches. His embassy here was designed in 1925 to 1928, sandwiched between British Imperialist government palaces in India and - literally - castles in Spain.
Now that we are re-discovered real architecture (in contrast to glass and concrete boxes). Lutyens, who died in 1944 is again considered the "triumphant and undisputed master of classic architecture in modern times," as one critic put it.
Only 10 years ago most architects considered Lutyen's eclectic whimsy nothing but sentimental kitsch.
Well, Vive le kitsch!