The Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation began packing away three 19th century storefronts yesterday, with plans to dust them off again in the 1980s.
The facades formerly fronted Al's Magic Shop, Stein's Shoe Repair and Washington Wine and Liquor - three buildings about the size of large row houses in the 1200 block of Pennsylvania Avenue NW. PADC, the federal agency charged with renewing Pennsylvania Avenue, says that eventually the facades will be unpacked and used on new buildings farther down the street.
The front of Al's Magic Shop is presently set for relocation in the 600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, six blocks east of its current address. Washington Wine and Liquor's corner facade is slated to be moved to a similar corner of Indiana Avenue NW.
While those brick fronts will be saved from top to bottom, only the three decorative "eyebrows" over the third-story windows of Stein's Shoe Repair will be preserved. They date from the 1820s.
The demolition of the three small buildings and the construction of a 16-story, granite-faced office building on the site are part of the approximately $200 million federal redevelopment of Pennsylvania Avenue. The project was started in May 1977 and PADC officials estimate that it will be completed in 1992.
Dismantling an entire brick facade, piece by piece, is an unusual and expensive process. In most cases only the decorative bricks and detail are saved when a building is demolished.
PADC estimates, and its architect Theodore Mariani agrees, that just removing, crating and storing the bricks will cost about $200,000 and will extend the demolition process by six weeks. Cabot, Cabot and Forbes, a Boston-based developer, is disassembling the facades, under the supervision of PADC.
The actual process of removing the bricks will be done from the inside out. As many as four layers of interior wall bricks may have to be removed first. The exterior brick is loosened and removed with a brick chisel called a "wonder bar," a flat, wide tool that evens out the pressure applied to the brick to avoid cracking.
The bricks from the cornice of Al's Magic Shop will be placed in a mold in the same order that they are taken from the wall. Those bricks and other decorative and arched bricks will be photographed and numbered with a grease pencil for identification. Plain bricks will simply be loaded on pallets and tied down.
"We're going to great pains to save these three little buildings," said Jeffrey Wolf, PADC architect and coordinator of the facade move. "PADC is into historic preservation."
Not everyone agrees.
Leila Smith, an executive board member of Don't Tear It Down, said part of preservation is keeping existing buildings in place and not dislocating businesses. Two of the four businesses that were housed in the three buildings were unable to relocate. She also described facade moving as "nothing more than saving the rickrack off a dress. It is good in terms of reusing decoration but it has nothing to do with historic preservation," she says.
Sam Stokes, field director of the Mid-Atlantic Field Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said moving a building facade is not historic preservation. "It's preservation when the building is left on its original site. You create a museum piece if you move it [the facade]," he said.
The three storefronts will be stored in a warehouse, owned by PADC near Seventh and D streets NW. That old building already houses the cast-iron facade saved during the demolition of Kann's Department Store. CAPTION: Picture 1, Entire facades of Al's Magic Store, left, and Washington Wine & Liquor, right, and "eyebrows" over third-story windows of Stein's Shoe Repair, center, are being stored for reuse. By Linda Wheeler - The Washington Post; Picture 2, Top story of former Al's Magic Shop, at 1205 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, is part of facade being stored. By Linda Wheeler - The Washington Post