More than a thousand items, from harmonica lessons to a dismantled staircase from a Massachusetts Avenue mansion, were auctioned off recently at the Sheraton Park Hotel, netting approximately $15,000 for Don't Tear It Down, Inc., a local group that battles for endangered buildings.
Among the items that drew the highest bids were pieces of a building the group tried, but failed, to save: the Riggs Bank at 17th and G streets NW. A carved sandstone lion's head that once adorned the old bank was sold for $430 to Brian Somers.
"I just bought a condominium on Calvert Street," explained Somers, "and I want to restore it to what it once was. This is one of my first purchases for it."
The organization's battles, past and present, were also commemorated in a preservation dart board that drew a winning bid of $80.
"The world will shortly learn the identity of the person to earn the supreme accolade of being at the center of this year's dart board," Patrick McCrory told the approximately 800 persons attending the auction.
Contenders, said McCrory, included George Washington University, architect Vlastimil Koubek, designer of many steel and glass office buildings, and the law firm of Wilkes and Artis, which often represents property owners who want to demolish landmark buildings.
"But the winner is the owner of many Washington landmarks, past and present -- most of them past -- Dominic Antonelli," announced McCrory. The dartboard included the logo of the Julius Lansburgh furniture store, a building for which Antonelli is seeking a demolition permit.
For $3, Paul London, who said he was going through the long process of getting permission to rehabilitate an old warehouse in the Capitol Hill historic district for a squash court facility, bought a two-hour expert consultation on how to obtain a building permit in a D.C. historic district. (No expert advice on how to obtain demolition permits was offered, however.)
Pat Williams, who worker for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was the winning bidder for a captive audience of students in a preservation seminar at George Washington University.
"I'd like to tell them what it's really like to work in the field," said Williams. "A lot of students are starry-eyed."
In some circles, an all-expenses-paid weekend for two in Reading, Pa., would not attract fierce, competitive bidding. But at Sunday's auction that item, offered by Mary Proctor and Bill Matuszeski, authors of "Gritty Cities," a look that extolls the charms of such industrial cities, brought $225.
Many supporters of Don't Tear It Down are restoring their own old buildings and some found materials to recycle. Massive oak doors went for $1 each, while brass switchplates, iron fencing and mantels were slightly higher. For $60, Francis Kraemer found a wrought iron arch to adorn the formal garden of his East Capitol Street home.
If you didn't already own an old building, you could buy a replica of one -- a 38-inch high cardboard sculpture of the Chrysler Building in New York hand-silk screened by Michael Murphy and Joe Prucnal, for $260.
"The one question most people had about this was why did we do it," said Murphy. "To us this building is the epitome of metropolitan living. People also ask if we're going to do a building in Washington. One of the biggest requests is for White Flint Mall."
In addition to being a fundraiser, the auction, according to Don't Tear It Down officials, was a farewell to the 60-year-old Sheraton Park Hotel, which is scheduled to be razed later this year.
"Look back over your shoulders as you leave tonight," advised Lindsley Williams. "The familiar red brick crescent won't be with us much longer. But the good news is that the Wardman Tower with the arcade leading to it has been declared a landmark."