A GIANT WINDMILL, cunnngly set inside a cupola, once topped a remarkable Romanseque/Queen Anne building at 929 D St. NW. The windmill pumped water to a water storage tank on the roof from an artesian well sunk in the ground below. When the wind was still, a stream engine pumped water. A cow weathervane spun around the top and cow ornaments embellished the facade.
The building was the Alderney Dairies plant and it stood from 1884 until it was torn down in 1955. You came in to buy your cottage cheese and buttermilk through a large Moorish arch into the country's first dairy lunchroon.
The cooling rooms for the vats of milk were on the second and third floor. Frank K. Ward, the owner, made his 80 employes live on the fifth floor so they wouldn't be late to work. He had his own apartment and a gym on the fourth floor. On the sixth floor were the staff dining room, kitchen and pantries. The cows, unfortunately, didn't live there, but Ward owned the diary farm where they did.
Alas, Ward had a fight at the Marble Saloon and killed a man named Maurice Alder. Even though Ward was exonerated, it was all downhill from there. He died himself after being hit by a streetcar two years later.
After a second life as a livery stable, the diary plant was torn down -- and the FBI Building was built in its place. Many of us don't think of that as progress.
Many sites in the city haven't been improved by tearing down old buildings. But memory fades and past glories are fogetten.
Now to remind us comes James M. Goode, curator of the Smithsonian Castle and author of "The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D.C." Goode has labored six years and six months [including Christmas and New Year's Days] to produce a mounmental work, "Capital Losses."
He has looked at 1.2 million photographs in 225 collections, beginning with the Columbia Historical Society, the Archives and the Library of Congress and ending with the private collections of fascinating ladies like Mona Blodgett Gaillard of The Rocks in Crestwood. From these, he picked 255 buildings to be imimmortalized in 472 photographs and 544 pages full of annecdotes, scandal, finger pointing in shame, erudite scholarship, and plain fun.
The book would have been at least a third shorter without a check for $7,500 sent around by Mrs. Jefferson Patterson on Christmas Eve. The Alvord Foundation gave $10,000, and the Kiplinger Foundation another $1,00. Even so, the finished book, published by the Smithsonian Press, will sell for $37.50. It's twice the size and the price of "Lost America," and the other eight of so "Lost . . ." books. It's worth twice that amount -- if only for all the arguments it will settle about what used to be where.
Goode's book won't be on the shelves until mid-september. Meantime, the Octagon, a magnificent old house that's a Capatil Profit, is exhibiting a teaser of photographs from the book, watercolors and prints of the lost lovelies and architectual remnants. Of corse, not every building in the book [or this article] is in the Octagon's galleries, according to curator Alsion MacTavish.
The gallires will be draped in black, according to Jeanne Butler-hodges, president of the American Institute of Architects Foundation. The exhibit opens July 3 and runs to September 30, at the Octagon, 1799 New York Ave. NW.
It's all very well of the AIA to give lost buildings the fancy show, and the sad hand, but it's late in the day for them to expiate their own sins. The Lemon Building -- so named not because it was a lemon, as in car, but because its owner's name was Lemon -- was one of the most beautiful in town.
The handsome facade and all sorts of leafy embellishments cut into the brick and two quite handsome iron grilles, all proper organic ornaments appropriate to the times. Printer George E. Lemon built it for his company.
His architects were Harvey L. Page for the main building, 1890, and Nathan Wyeth for the fourth-floor addition, 1891. Inside were elaborate plaster panels and friezes and beamed ceilings -- all intact when the American Institute of Architects, that's right, the AIA, guardian of our built environment, tore it down in 1971 to put up the big, but not imposing, current headquarters building, which also rents out office space.
Also lost at the same time [and unaccountably missing from Goode's book] were the old stables for the Octagon -- the proper setting for the 1799 house.
The AIA is, of course, not the only one to cry "mea culpa." The Washington Post Building, designed in a Ropmanesque Revival style by Appleton P. Clark Jr., was torn down in 1954. It had been built in 1893 at 1337 E St. At the top was a hugh circular window.
Chalmers M. Roberts, in "The Washington Post, The First Hundred Years," is quoted by Goode as describing the building during World War II like this: "The old building shook and the lights flickered each evening as the presses, popularly believed to be held together by baling wire, began to roll. . . .Acid from the engraving room dripped through the ceiling into the small 'morgue' or library. . . . An electrician and his girl, having a tryst on the roof, crashed through a skylight into the printer's proof room."
Lost much longer ago was the library of the Soldier's Home at Rock Creek Church Road and Harewood Road NW. It was built in 1877 to a design by Smithmeyer & Pelz, who also designed the Library of Congress Main Ballroon, through you really wouldn't believe it.
The Library of Congress is a rather chase, classical structure. But the architects must have let off steam with the Soldiers' Home library, a building in the American fairyland fijord fantasy style called Stick Style. It was originally planned to be used as an officer-only billard room/bowling alley/clubhouse. But it cost such an immense amount, and the hue and cry was so high about privilege, that it was changed into a library for all grades.
Even so, the Soldiers' Home commissioners hated it because all those gables, proches and spires were great maintenance problems, so they passed a rule that only military architects could design for the complex, Goode said. In 1910 the library was razed for Grant Hall.
Goode has won a number of bets by asking what's the oldest house ever to stand in Washington. The answer is General Noble Redwood Treehouse, erected in 1893 at Jefferson Drive, between 12th and 13th Streets SW. The Gen. Grant National Park, Tulare, Calif., in 1892 for the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago.
It took 20 men to cut down the 300-foot-high tree. The trunk broke the scaffold and "the four men doing the final cutting," Goode wrote, "jumped from the broken scaffold, fainted and were unable to stand for 20 minutes, as a result of the enormous shock from the vibration." The stump was hollowed out, cut into 30 sections, and later reassembled with an interior curcular staircase at the Chicago Fair.
After the fair closed it was moved to the Mall, in 1894. To make the interior more weatherproof, it was topped with a pyramidal roof and four dormer windows, and shingled with redwood. It was removed in 1932 when the Mall was landscaped. General Noble Redwood Treehouse was stored for some years and then likely burned.
Goode says it's ironic that the treehouse was named for John Willock Noble, who lobbied for the passage of a law preserving the western forests.
Gilman's Drug Store at 672 Pennsylvania Ave. has the distinction of being lost twice. The building is currently slated for demolition. It's original interior, the most elaborate commercial design surviving at that time, was remodeled in 1967 for a camera store.
In the pictures in Goode's book, you can see the inside with its renaissance revival foliated and applied cartouches, coved ceiling, ribbed and twisted colonnettes. The floors were laid in encaustic tiles as in the Capitol.
The upper floors were the studio and home of Mathew Brady, the photographer, who made unforgettable photographs of Dolly Madison, President Polk and George Washington Parke Custis. Brady, Goode points out, lost all his money when he went to photograph the War Between the States, and had to outfit his traveling darkroom wagons.
Mills Foundry, [in the book, not the show] 2530 Bladensburg Rd., was the only commercial stucture in the area built in the trendy octagonal style of the mid 1800s. No one is sure who designed if in 1860, but it may well have been its owner Clark Mills. He was the sculptor who made the Andrew Jackson equestrain statue in Lafayette Square. He cast six bronze versions of the Jackson statue in in a temporary foundry on the Ellipse, behind the Treasury. This was the first major bronze sculpture by an American artist made in America. With the proceeds, Mills built his house, studio and foundry at Meadow Bank Spa, where he kept buffalo and elk for models. His highest work is the statue of Freedom for the Capitol.
Several octagonal structures of the 19th century were houses. Harlem, a brick Federal-style house, was built at Foxhall Road and Volta Place by a Revoluntionary War veteran, James M. Lingan. Sunday House, called after its architect, Benjamin Summy, on Georgia Avenue between Quincy and Randolph Streets. was built in 1856 and razed in 1922. The Tuttle House belonged to Leroy R. Tuttle Sr., a Treasury Department official who once delivered $10 million in cash. It was built in 1865 at 1830 Phelps Place.
The surviving Octagon on New York Avenue really has six sides and a lunette-shaped entrance porch. The last remaining ture octagon is Glebe House at North 17th Street and Gelbe Road, Arlington.
Some of the lost-and-gone houses are the most beautiful. Not in the exhibit but in the book is the lovely Wisteria House, 1863-1924, at Massachusetts Avenue and 11th Street. The wisteria, Goode says, was brought from China to Washington by a naval officer as a present to hardware merchant William Thomas. The two-story portico with lotus capitals, a magnificient Greek Revival embellishment, was added in 1869.
The destruction of the two great houses by Benjamin H. Latrobe, an architect of both the White House and the Captiol, is nothing less than shameful. Van Ness House was built in 1813 and razed in 1908. The house stood in the square of C, 17th and 18th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW. All that's left are the stables. Brentwood, at Florida Avenue and Sixth Street NE, was built in 1817, burned in 1917 and razed in 1919.
Many churches are here mourned, including the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1859-1950, New York Avenue and H Street NW, designed by Edward Havilland; the Church of the Covenant, 1887-1966, by J. Cleveland Cady, 18th and N Streets.
Not all the structures cited by Goode should have been saved: for instance, the infamous Washington Jail, 1839-1874, b Robert Mills, at G and Fourth by Robert Mills, at G and Fourth Streets NW; the temporary buildings on the Mall; and the rather obscene watering trough [horses on one side, humans on the other, ugly on both], donated by Stilson Hutchins, founder of The washington Post.
I mourn the later demolished buildings more than some of the Victorian. The city has sadly lost a number of great examples of Art Moderne, a style of architecture that flourished in the first third of this century in other place -- notably New York and Miami -- but was scarce in Washington. Currently, objects of that period are bringing astronomical proces in auction houses, but we have busily torn down a great number of such buildings in just the last few years.
The 1891 early Art Moderne McGill Building [908 G St.], designed by Paul J. Pelz, was destroyed in 1973. The splendid Art Moderne Trans-Lux Theater, 1936, designed by Thomas W. Lamb at 14th Street between New York Avenue and H Street, was wantonly torn down in 1975. The handsome Manhattan Laundry, designed by Bedford Brown Iv in 1935, was burned in 1978 and now is threatened with demolition.
The madness persists. The handsome Julius Lansburgh store, a former Masonic Temple at Ninth and F Streets, is slated for demolition, even through architect Arthur Cotton Moore has offered to buy it for recycling into an office building. Going, going are the wonderful and funny Elk's Club at 919 H St. NW, the Occidental Hotel and many other worthies.
A number of festive theaters have come and gone, from Lincoln Hall at Ninth and D Streets, 1867-1886, to the Fox Theater, 1926, by Rapp and Rapp, cited for demolition in 1980.
The city doubtless could be improved by a good number of removals of buildings both new and old. But we should take a hard look at what we're tearing down and see if it's really worse than what we plan to put in its place. A parking lot -- especially now that no one may be able to get gas to park in it is a poor substitute for a great old building CAPTION: Picture 1, From left: Church of the Covenant was torn down in 1966, By Campbell Photo Service; Historic American Building Survey; Picture 2, General Noble Redwood Treehouse in 1932. By W.R. Ross; Columbia Historical Society; Picture 3, Alderney Dairies in 1955; By Wm. Edmund Barrett; AIA Foundation; Illustration, the Lemon building (top) was demolished in 1971; From Washington's 1889 City Directory; Picture 4, Nanhattan Laundry burned in 1978. From Smithsonian Institution; Picture 5, R.I.P Soldiers Home Library 1877-1910, Signal Corps photo; National Archives