A federal engraver, reportedly upset about the razing of two buildings on the site of the future Holocaust museum, tricked demolition workers into lifting him onto a chimney and then held off police for three hours yesterday with a satchel he said contained explosives.

The bizarre rush-hour standoff at Independence Avenue and 14th Street SW forced the evacuation of federal workers in nearby buildings, and disrupted traffic across the 14th Street bridge and down the Shirley Highway until D.C. police coaxed the man to surrender.

Kenneth Kipperman, 40, of Silver Spring, a skilled Bureau of Engraving and Printing engraver who also has mounted an unusual antidrug campaign, was taken to St. Elizabeths Hospital for observation after being questioned by police and FBI agents.

He will face a felony charge of making threats, according to Capt. William White III, the D.C. police spokesman.

Police found no explosives in the satchel after Kipperman crawled out of the chimney and surrendered about 11 a.m. He was treated for bruises on his right shoulder and forehead that he suffered when he jumped through an opening in the chimney and fell to its base, below ground.

"He was a very well thought of, very efficient employe," White said. "What he did surprised some people."

The timing of the incident baffled police and others because the demolition of the two buildings on 14th Street, between the old Auditor's Building and the Bureau of Engraving, began two years ago and was nearly complete when Kipperman entered the site about 8 a.m. yesterday.

Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. said that Kipperman, who identified himself to the demolition crew as Jewish, insisted he was not protesting the construction of the Holocaust Museum, but objected to the destruction of the red brick buildings, which some Holocaust council members once said resembled the concentration camps of Europe.

"I don't think religion -- that he was Jewish -- had any effect on what he did," Turner said. "He said he didn't want {the buildings} to be replaced."

Six other law enforcement agencies, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, U.S. Park Police, Metro transit police, Federal Protective Service, D.C. Fire Department and Virginia state police, were called in to help cordon off the area, direct traffic and assist in the efforts to persuade Kipperman to surrender.

Police closed Independence Avenue between 12th and 15th streets, diverted traffic off the 14th Street bridge to the Southwest Freeway and closed portions of Constitution Avenue and C Street. Officials twice closed the 14th Street bridge entirely for brief periods, causing extensive tie-ups on Shirley Highway.

Federal employes working in the Agriculture Department's South Building were briefly cleared from the building and other employes at the Bureau of Engraving were moved into wings away from the construction site.

Burford Bailey, who was part of a team of workers removing asbestos from the adjacent Auditor's Building when the incident began, said he and the others were led by police out of the building, only 20 feet from the chimney where Kipperman was holed up.

"We didn't have time to be scared or anything," he said. "We just wanted to get . . . out."

Kipperman, who lives with his family on Narrows Terrace in Silver Spring, joined the Bureau of Engraving in 1974 as an apprentice picture engraver and was promoted to the journeyman level in 1979. He is a "highly regarded, skilled craftsman," according to a spokesman for the bureau, and is responsible for engraving stamps and touching up plates used to print currency.

"Personally, I'm surprised," said an official of the bureau. "I've met him a couple of times. He seems like a demure, quiet individual."

For the past several months, Kipperman has sought to interest the local news media in his antidrug campaign, which includes an unusual poster with the motto: "Cocaine and other drugs will put you to sleep forever."

The poster depicts a man's body lying on the examining table of a morgue with large hypodermic needles sticking from the man's left arm and his Adam's apple. Kipperman posed for the photograph late last year at the D.C. medical examiner's office, according to Wilbur Rowles, an employe in the office.

"The medical examiner allowed him to come down and use the autopsy room," Rowles said yesterday. "He got on the table while {another} guy was taking a picture. I held a fishing pole with a needle coming down to his Adam's apple . . . . "

According to police, Kipperman approached workers at the construction site about 8 a.m. and told them he was an artist who wanted to sketch the site. When workers said they didn't have time for that, Kipperman asked if he could quickly take photographs of the area.

The crew members agreed and offered to lift him onto the one-story-high chimney structure with the front-end loader, to give him a better vantage point, police said.

According to police, as Kipperman was being lifted by the machinery, he informed the workers that his satchel contained explosives and then leaped through a hole in the side of the chimney and disappeared beneath the surface.

Later, after police had arrived and surrounded the area, Kipperman threw the bag up to the surface and yelled to police that the bag did not contain explosives, police said. Police lowered a telephone to Kipperman that was used in negotiating his agreement to surrender.

Staff writers Karlyn Barker, Ed Bruske and Peter Pae contributed to this report.