The dignity and majesty of the Washington Monument was pitted yesterday against the needs of tourists for restrooms, shade, hot dogs, soda pop and souvenirs of the city.
The monument won.
The Commission of Fine Arts, watchdog of architecture for Washington's monumental core, rejected a National Park Service proposal to plant trees and build a visitors center at the monument.
"L'Enfant would turn over in his grave at the idea of a comfort station at the monument. As for the restaurant, it would be like putting a fast food facility at a cemetery," declared commission member Diane Wolf.
Chairman J. Carter Brown called the plan to put trees at the monument "humane" but said they would be a desecration. "The glory of the Washington Monument is its minimalism, the way the manmade geometry meets the curve of nature."
The park service wanted to plant trees in a 2 1/2-foot-high planter bed backed with benches at the base of the Monument on the north and south sides. The visitors facility was planned 600 feet from the monument -- just beyond its shadow -- near Madison Drive and 15th Street NW.
John G. Parsons, associate director of land use coordination for the park service, presented the plan, which was intended to meet the needs of visitors, who number up to 45,000 on some summer days. A ringed promenade edged with the existing flags was to be built as an outer ring to the monument.
The park service took the plan back to the drawing board.
In other action, the commission enthusiastically approved architect Francis Donald Lethbridge's parking facility plan for Arlington Cemetery, which provides for a three-level structure screened from view by tree planters.
The 750-foot-long, 597-vehicle facility will be dug into the slope south of Memorial Drive, at the eastern boundary of the cemetery. It will replace a 20-year-old surface parking lot in thje middle of the cemetery.
The commission also approved a resolution condemning the Techworld development planned for a site bounded by Seventh, Ninth, I and K streets NW.
The resolution said the "bulk and height of the buildings are severely out of scale and out of character with the historic area . . . . Of greatest concern to the commission is the violation of the authority of the original L'Enfant plan, by the massive construction which spans and destroys the Eighth Street vista between two landmark buildings." Though the area does not come under the Fine Arts Commission jurisdiction, the D.C. Zoning Board had asked for its views on the controversial development.