EVERY DAY, some great old house is cut up, like a frying chicken, into 99 condominums, and its fireplaces and woodwork are carted off to be thrownaway or used out of context. Fine old gardens disappear under an office buliding or a parking lot, and handsome art moderne bulidings are knocked to pieces by the wrecking ball.
In a day when we build new houses in the Victorian manner and leave at least three fine authentic Victorian houses on Logan Circle to slowly crumble, it is too soon to say that the battle for the preservation of Washington's architectural heritage has been won.
Last year, seven major buildings, mostly of the Beaux Arts period, a style in short supply in this rigidly classical revival town, were torn down, almost without a whimper.
James Goode, Smithsonian architectural historian and author of "Capitol Losses," is keeping track, if no one else is. He mourns these seven lost last year:
The 1916 Colonial Revival YWCA at the corner of 17th and K streets NW; the 1900 Beaux Arts Occidential Hotel/Restaurant, between 14th and 15th streets NW on Pennsylvania Avenue; the Beaux Arts 1905 Burlington Hotel on Thomas Circle, designed by Thomas Schneider; the 1905 neoclassical Ford Motor Company building at Pennsylvania Avenue at John Marshall Place; the Beaux Arts 1910 LaSalle apartments and shops at Connecticut and L; the Second Empire Michler Place Rowhouses at F and 18th streets; and the interior of Beaux Arts Keith's Theater at 15th and G streets.
But along 16th Street, Mary Henderson's Avenue of the Presidents, the old apartment buildings, from the Envoy at the top of Meridian Hill to Washington House at the bottom, are being remodeled in high old style. Thirteenth Street, despite the junkies, the pushers and the hookers, is bursting out with restored facades and boxes of geraniums. And a number of major preservation projects yet unexecuted are scheduled for the future.
The Washington Metropolitan Chapter of the American Institute of Architects has chosen nine restoration projects, five complete, four unexecuted, to receive its historical preservation awards, according to chairman Hamilton Morton. Preservation has no geographic limits; some of the awards are for city buildings, some for country ones.
Logan Circle and the streets adjacent to Thirteenth are one of the finest enclaves of late American Victorian buildings anywhere. The variety and color of the facades are charming examples of turn-of-the-century imagination. Sadly, in the '60s and '70s, these grand old houses were sliding straight into the path of the wrecker's ball. But until the recent devastating interest rate increases, Logan Circle was being revived by people who appreciated good craftsmanship, interesting design, and the delights rather than the problems in city living. The awards:
THE IOWA Apartment building, 1325 13th St. NW, was designed in 1900 by T. Franklin Schneider, whose Cairo Hotel upset the populace about the same time. It cost $125,000 back then to build all seven stories, complete with ornate stonework. Three tall bays topped with elaborately detailed arches added to its imposing dignity. On the first floor, the windows are arched. The handsome columned Beaux-Arts doorway, like Schneider's Cairo extravaganza, gave visitors the feeling they were going somewhere important.
Over the years the Iowa was indeed somewhere important, housing senators and citizens of note. But in recent years the Iowa declined, along with other handsome buildings of the Logan Circle Historic District. When David Clark & Associates Inc. (the owner and contractor) bought the Iowa in 1977, it had been See AWARDS, Page 2, Col. 1 AWARDS, From Page 1 vacant for 12 years, untouched except by vandals, a prey to the greatest of all diseases, limping neglect.
Hardly anything except the exterior walls, the floors and the marble lobby was left to save by the time architect Paul Devrouax looked at it. "We gutted the inside, including the elevator shaft and the stairs," said Devrouax, giving a quick tour of the building. "Even the inside walls went."
The lobby was rescued from layers of paint. The facade was cleaned and preserved. A rear wall had to be replaced, and unfortunately with a brick that doesn't match. The brick that was used is, at least, the same as that of the adjoining townhouse development.
The rear back porches became pleasant decks. A rear bay was replaced. Disfiguring fire escapes came off the outside to be replaced by interior fire stairs.
Inside, Devrouax used oak doors and trims and kept the high ceilings. The lobby has new egg-and-dart cornice work. The windows are all triple glazed, double hung, and a good dark brown so they don't call attention away from the stonework.
The building is now divided into 43 efficiency, one-, and two-bedroom units with a game room, exercise rooms, saunas and a rooftop garden. Parking is provided for every unit.
Not surprisingly, Devrouax said, "people were lined up from the night before to pay $39,000 to $77,000 for these apartments in 1978. Now of course, they cost twice as much."
Behind the Iowa are 53 very handsome, honestly contemporary two- and three -bedroom townhouses with arched doors and walled gardens grouped around a charming courtyard.
UP THE street, for years Gen. John A. Logan's own 1877 house stood like a wounded soldier on a deserted battlefield. Logan was commander of the Grand Army of the Republic and once the Republican nominee for vice president of the United States. Later the house was owned by Methodist Bishop John Fletcher Hurst, founder of American University. In the 1960s it went the way of most big old houses and became a rooming house. From 1970-1977, it was vacant and vandalized.
John Ritch Associates bought the house, at a bargain it was said, if a house that's lost one whole wall (the wall one day just crumbled away), and part of its porch, can be called a bargain.
"The first contractor didn't make it through to the finish. But Kingsley Construction literally picked up the pieces and made it through," said Ian Birchall, the architect associated with Devrouax.
Birchall designed nine units in the house: four two bedrooms, one three bedroom, three one bedroom and one efficiency.
Unfortunately, the original fireplaces, which had lost their chimneys and mantelpieces, were not restored.
The entire south wall had to be rebuilt. Only 50 percent of the great ironwork New Orleans side porch was left; the other half had to be duplicated. The original wood first-story of the front porch was decayed and had to be duplicated, though its tin top story was repaired. The inside staircase was saved.
"Though the building is washed down every six weeks, the traffic deposits a great deal of dirt," Birchall noted, as he dusted off a balustrade the other day.
"The building was remodeled under the federal government's Section 8 program, under which low-income tenants pay 25 percent of their income and the government picks up the rest.
"Fortunately, many of the craftsmen and workmen who remodeled the building, including Jerry Kingsley, the contractor, are now living in it, and help keep it up."
The house has been painted two shades of gray, in proper Victorian fashion. Considering the traffic, a darker color might have been better.
THE VICTORIAN houses beyond Florida Avenue, the City of Washington's old limits, are country houses, quite different from those inside the boundaries. The city houses stand straight and tall with their exuberance carefully controlled to the facade, only occasionaly bursting out into galleries on an end-of-the-row house. The country houses are circled with expansive verandas suitable for pink lemonade, funeral parlor fans and green wicker chairs.
Fran and Jeffrey Cohen had such a glorious house in Cleveland Park, described by Charles Szoradi, the architect, as an early "streetcar suburb." Robert I. Fleming designed it in 1895 for Judge Walter D. Cox at a cost of $8,000, which was $3,000 more than most houses in the area, according to historian Kathleen Wood. She said the house's cottage style was widely copied in the area.
The Cohens had added etched glass transoms throughout the house and a notable 19th-century beveled glass panel in the front door, releaded the lead glass windows, stripped and restored the main staircase, preserved the metal gratings of the old heating system, and milled and duplicated the wood trim.
But they needed a family and morning room. They wanted it in the rear where the back wall was no great loss. And they hoped the new rooms would face the morning sun and the swimming pool.
Szoradi designed the first floor addition with "materials following the original, the blue stone foundation walls, clapboard siding, similar windows, and so on," he said. Szoradi added the family room with a half octagonal projection, matching the design of the parlor. The morning room's bay follows the line of the dining room, reaching out to the sun.
IF YOU think those people had remodeling problems, consider architect Leon Chatelain III and his wife, who bought a house in Waterford, Va., which was recently a lion's lair. When Chatelain bought it in 1977, he said, "There had been little maintenance for the previous 15 years. In fact, various animals, including a lion, had been housed in the structure."
The 1770 farmhouse, called Bell Mont, was originally a one-and-a-half story stone structure built by Joseph Braden. The same family kept the house until 1898, a remarkable achievement, altering and adding to it in 1803 and 1830. "In the 1880's," according to Chatelain, "the brick portion was substantially remodeled in the Victorian style, eliminating the two-corner fireplaces on the first floor and adding a formal stair and paneled entry."
Chatelain restored the stone section to its earlier plan and replaced all the trim and utilities. He plowed up the remains of the formal gardens and landscaped it in a country style.
The charming house now works well, both for the occupants and as a historic landmark. Chatelain was careful not to go too far with the restoration. The kitchen, though quite in style, is not cutesy, and the house retains its dignity without pomposity.
YERKES, Pappas and Parker were the architects who remodeled the sixth-floor hotel bedrooms of the 1926 Hay Adams hotel into an entertaining and meeting suite for Time Inc., retaining and reproducing the original decorative details.
This you might expect from any competent architect. But the firm went beyond the expected, to bring to the project the beauty and warmth of the fine work being done by artist/craftsmen of today. The architects and the interior designer, Eloise Childs & Associates, instead of plunking down pseudo-antiques or even standard hotel furniture, chose to furnish the suite with the work of 12 contemporary American artist/craftsmen, seven of them from the Washington area.
The imaginative collection includes doors and a buffet by Henry Barrow of Glen Echo, Md.; a glass-topped coffee-table and bench by Kenneth W. Willis of Glen Allen, Va.; stained-glass lighting fixtures by Kathleen Cover, hand-loomed pillows by Carol O'Neale Culnan, a tapestry called "Salt Veil" by Nancy Hemenway, and porcelain lamp bases and accessories by Carl Ridker, all of Washington; dining tables, armchairs and a candle stand by Kingsley Brooks, Medford, Mass.; lounge chairs by Sam Maloof of Alta Loma, Calif.; dining chairs and a telephone table by Jon Peterson and a plant stand by Richard Tannen, both of Watertown, Mass; and counter tiles and towel bars by Dan and Mary Lou Weaver of Gouldsboro, Maine.
AWARDS ALSO went to these four unexecuted projects:A
* The preservation design for Gallery Row, 401-417 Seventh St. NW, was done by architects Hartman/Cox with historical architect Building Conservation Technology/The Ehrenkrantz Group, and owner Gallery Row Associates, Calvin Cafritz and Robert L. Lennon. The judges liked its "whimsical infill and extreme measures taken to preserve facades of structurally unsound old buildings."
* Hartman/Cox, who usually sweep the awards for new buildings as well, were also honored for their preservation design of the Central National Triangle at 625-633 Pennsylvania Ave. NW for Central National Bank Redevelopment Group. John Milner Associates was the preservation consultant. The judges acclaimed the project because it unites two old buildings into a new office and retail complex.
* The design for the restoration of the Thomas Jefferson Building, the 1897 Library of Congress, by architect of the Capitol George M. White and William L. Ensign, his assistant with Arthur Cotton Moore Associate, was honored for "meticulous detail and creative and innovative concepts."
* The restoration plan by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for the 1911 Baltimore Pennsylvania Station, owned by Amtrak, was honored as the plan which keeps significant details and continues its original use.
The four unexecuted projects promise that, at least for the next year or two, preservation will be in Washington's future.