Thousands of patrons visit Eastern Market on Capitol Hill every week to shop for flowers, buy fresh meat and cheese or browse among dozens of vendors selling furniture, paintings, music and all sorts of crafts -- often oblivious to the building itself.
"They go about their shopping without noticing the market," said Mike Berman, an artist and vendor, during a Saturday program meant to change that.
Berman's comment came as part of a kickoff ceremony for a series of upcoming events dedicated to the market's architect, Adolf Cluss, who designed more than 70 buildings after the Civil War. Most of them have since been torn down, but the survivors in the District include the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building on the Mall, the Charles Sumner School and Calvary Baptist Church.
A German-born architect, Cluss envisioned a red-brick city that would be inviting and more down-to-earth than the cities that he'd seen in his youth, said Joseph L. Browne, director of the Adolf Cluss Exhibition Project. His buildings were utilitarian.
"At the time, Washington didn't amount to much," Browne said. "He had an idea of what a great city should look like. He was interested in trying to make a capital city for democracy, one not as monumental as cities in Europe."
A different set of 20th-century sensibilities won out, Browne said, resulting in a capital city with a lot more marble than Cluss would have liked.
Cluss, born in 1825 in Heilbronn, emigrated to the United States in 1848 during the failed revolution in the German states. Once in Washington, he became an influential architect, specializing in schools and other public buildings. For several years, Browne and others have been working to make sure his legacy in Washington is not forgotten.
The Cluss reclamation involves events in Washington and Heilbronn and is aimed at reminding people that good design can be practical, lasting and inexpensive. It's also meant to show that not everything old needs to be discarded, as evidenced by buildings such as Eastern Market that are as vibrant today -- maybe more so -- as when they were built. The market, for instance, was built in 1873, but still serves as what some describe as the unofficial town center for Capitol Hill.
"They are sculptures for the city," said Harriet Lesser, the exhibition coordinator. "They are living memories. For many years, we were tearing down buildings to replace them with others without the same amount of thought that we use now. We don't need to preserve everything. But we need to think about combining our past, our present and our future."
The D.C. Council passed a resolution recognizing July as Adolf Cluss Appreciation Month. Council member Sharon Ambrose (D), who represents Capitol Hill, attended the ceremony and praised Cluss, also a city engineer, for developing a plan that "narrowed Washington's unusually wide streets and encouraged property owners to plant gardens on the leftover street right of way in front of their homes."
Dozens of additional events are planned, beginning in September with exhibition openings in Washington and in Germany. There will be lectures, receptions and book signings for adults.
For children 14 and younger, there is an ongoing project called "What I Like Best About Eastern Market." Children can submit drawings to vendors inside Eastern Market's South Hall from Aug. 2 through Sept. 15. The drawings should be on 81/2-by-11 paper and will be displayed around the market and throughout the city.
It's all part of an effort to make Cluss a household name.
"People say 'Cluss who?' " Lesser said. "It's interesting how you uncover information about someone who is important and no one knows about until a rather dedicated group of people spend time uncovering the information."
The Arts and Industries Building is typical of Adolf Cluss, who favored brick over marble and leaned toward utilitarian designs for a still-young District.
Adolf Cluss, far right, stands in front of what used to be the National Museum, now the Arts and Industries Building.