What you see above is a 1940 picture of the Portal Site on lower 14th Street SW, which has engaged the city's attention in recent months. The D.C. Redevelopment Land Agency board voted Thursday to name a group headed by the Western Development Corp. to erect a commercial and hotel project on the site between the Bureau of Engraving and Maine Avenue.
The picture was taken before a streetcar subway loop was built beneath 14th and C streets, eliminating the traffic jams that were congenital before a freeway-type approach was built to the 14th Street bridge. The trolleys seen in this picture were turning onto and off Maine Avenue.
In the picture, where the new project will be erected, are a gasoline service station and the Hessick coal yard -- and, behind it, the parking lot that still occupies much of the site.
The fate of the Portal Site has been one of Washington's longest-running development issues. Back in the late 1950s, the owners of the old Washington Star toyed with buying the site to move their plant from Pennsylvania Avenue. The idea collapsed, the Star moved to Virginia Avenue SE in 1959, and the Star itself also ultimately collapsed.
And the Portal Site is there, still ripe for development. One hopes that, this time, the plans will fly.