Rhodes Tavern got a weekend reprieve from the wrecker's ball last night when two D.C. Court of Appeals judges decided to wait until Monday before ruling on whether to extend a court order blocking demolition of the historic 185-year-old building.
The temporary ban on demolition technically expired at midnight Thursday, but both judges must approve formal paperwork lifting the order before District officials can issue a permit to raze the building.
Both sides in the six-year battle over the former tavern, downtown Washington's oldest commercial building, went into court again yesterday morning to press their cases and then waited all day with no word from the judges.
Court officials explained later that one of the judges had been traveling and that they were unable to reach him by the close of the court's regular business day. The judges agreed last night to hold off on any ruling until Monday.
The weekend reprieve apparently gives a citizens preservationist group more time to raise a $100,000 bond imposed by the court as a condition for maintaining the demolition ban pending a further court appeal.
Developer Oliver T. Carr wants to tear down the building, Washington's first town hall, to complete a $100 million office and retail complex at 15th and F Streets NW.
Joseph N. Grano Jr., who heads the Citizens Committee to Save Historic Rhodes Tavern, said Thursday that the group could not raise the money, and that the tavern was the closest it has ever been to being torn down since Carr first announced his office complex proposal in 1977.
But yesterday, after news reports that the tavern was facing imminent razing, Grano said pledges started coming in, raising the group's hopes that it might still be able to post the bond.
At the city's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which must issue a permit before demolition can proceed, a spokeswoman said Carr's application was filed a long time ago and that the document is ready to be picked up once the court gives the go-ahead.
If the court order is lifted, the preservationist group plans to set up a 24-hour watch at the site.
With the fate of the tavern approaching what one supporter called its "11th and a half hour," a District woman held a news conference in front of the three-story building late yesterday to propose that Rhodes Tavern be moved to Rock Creek Park for use as a public meeting hall and/or theater.
"It does seem like something should be done," said Rita Valeo, who offered help in raising money for the move and the tavern's renovation.