When Marisa Vidaurre, moved out of her high-rise Connecticut Avenue apartment was in a deteriorating Georgetown complex where sculptures of Dickens characters adorned the outdoor walls, where delicate flowers were painted on shutters and glossy pastel pieces of ceramic tile were glued on flower postsand around the empty swimming pool.
"It's such a special place," Vidaurre, an unemployed rehabilitation counselor, said of Hamilton Arms Village, a small shabby collection of Swiss-style village houses and apartween M and N Streets NW.
Which explains why she and other ments tucked away on 31st Street betenants were elated when the U.S. Fine Arts Commission this week rejected an application from the owners of the complex to demolish several of the Village structures.
Vidaurre and nine other tenants have refused to be evicted from the complex and want to buy it and operate it as a cooperative. The owners of the village want to turn the complex into a rental residential and office enclave.
"The Hamilton Arms complex should remain as intact as possible," Charles H. Atherton, secretary of the commission, said yesterday. "It's unique. It has a place in Georgetown that captured a part of history that you can't find anywhere else in Georgetown or in the District. To tear it all down and start anew is wrong." Atherton said that thought the developers planned to retain a "great deal" of the existing complex, "much of the flavor would have been lost."
But architect Richard C. Stauffer, the general partner of the firm that bought Hamilton Arms Village last June for $1.14 million, believes that not only have the tenants not yet won their war, he is unwilling even to concede they have won a battle.
Stauffer said he plans to meet Friday with the commission to attempt to get a re-evaluation of their decision to reject the demolition applications. Stauffer's firm wants to demolish two buildings, a shed, and a retaining wall, he said, and were given preliminary approval by the commission last March to demolish a portion of two buildings. Otherwise, he said, they would not have bought the Village.
"We're trying to save the village as much as possible," Stauffer contends.
"We are saving two-thirds of the project, and the other one-third needs total rebuilding. The alternatives are much worse, and I think the board (commission) failed to consider the alternatives."
Stauffer added that the few remaining tenants have received eviction notices. "They won't be there in six months," he said.
Hamilton Arms Village owes its charm to Mary Brinkley Reid, whose family formerly owned the complex and who lived there as a sort of folk artist-in-residence until she died last year, and to William Mallard, the maintenance man. The two of them spent years painting tile and gouging designs into wood. The apartments have fireplaces and stained glass windows, and carvings and paintings on cabinets and woodwork. The Brinkley family assembled the pastel pink and turquoise village more than 40 years ago.
Charles L. Poor, president of the Georgetown Citizens Association, said his organization has taken no position on the development of the Village. "It's a difficult thing," Poor said. "Your heart goes out to the people who live there, but there are those who feel there isn't all that much there to preserve."