IMF, Plants Grow Where Church Stood

A Washington drama involving conflict over architecture, politics and religion is coming to its end at 19th and H streets NW. The extension to the International Monetary Fund building, fought over for much of the '90s, is virtually complete, down to the last bit of ornamental planting.

English ivy, Virginia spiderwort and Siberian carpet cypress are among the adornments contained in chest-high planters buffering the building from the new ornamental stone sidewalk. All of the greenery is labeled with both common English names and the formal Latin classifications.

The well-tended plants provide a glimpse of the natural world at the bottom of the H Street office building canyon and signal an end to years of disruption on the street.

They are growing only a few feet from the old site of Western Presbyterian Church, which stood for years in the 1900 block of H Street and moved to 24th Street and Virginia Avenue NW in 1994.

Under an agreement reached in 1990, the IMF paid the church $24 million to make way for the expansion. But the construction was opposed before the D.C. Council, the city's historical preservation review board and the Zoning Commission and in the D.C. Court of Appeals. The shift in location of the church's feeding program for the homeless went to the Zoning Commission and into federal court.

In the early '90s, a man showed up outside Western Presbyterian every Sunday for months to berate worshipers arriving at the original Gothic Revival church. The protester called for putting more of the IMF money to use saving lives and souls rather than into construction costs. (The agreement allocated $4 million to endow community programs.)

Finally, the IMF construction got underway. The church was razed. Excavation began on the southwest corner of 19th and H streets NW, and H Street became a construction staging area. Behind a chain-link fence, it filled up with construction materials and equipment.

Now, nine years after the agreement between the IMF and Western Presbyterian, the fences are down. The debris is gone. The street has been repaved and reopened. Trees have been planted at the H Street curb.

About the only outward sign that the project has not yet reached its absolute conclusion is at the 20th Street end of the block, where one large trash bin remains at the curb.

-- Martin Weil

Concert to Benefit Victim's Children

When Antonio Giuliano heard about the death of Natalie Giles Davis in Woodbridge earlier this summer, his thoughts went immediately to her two children, who were sitting in a car nearby as their mother was severely beaten.

Although he didn't know the Davis family, Giuliano, 35, of Arlington, felt he needed to help out in some way. He didn't have money to spare, so Giuliano, a tenor in the U.S. Army Chorus, decided to put his voice into action. He immediately planned a benefit concert.

His dream of helping "unfortunate children" will become a reality at 7:30 p.m. Saturday when he performs at Church of the Epiphany on G Street NW, in a concert that will raise money for Davis's children, Symphony, 4, and Dajour, 2. The two children were feet away from the curb June 29 where their mother was beaten by two teenage girls after a traffic altercation, police said.

"The loss of their mother is just disgusting and brutal and senseless," Giuliano said. "These kids were there, and they know their mother isn't here anymore. The whole situation is just sad, and when I first heard about it, I wanted something good to come of it."

Giuliano said he is aiming to fill the 600-seat church and to raise thousands of dollars for the children's education and upbringing. He will perform a selection of classical operatic songs and arias with fellow chorus member Raffi Kasparian, and he is suggesting that concertgoers make a $15 donation at the door.

The teenagers accused of beating Davis, Teresa Hattie Dixon, 18, and Kurebia Maria Hampton, 16, are scheduled to stand trial on murder charges this fall.

-- Josh White