The homely little building at the corner of 15th and G streets, NW, opposite the Old Treasury Building, has a lot of interesting history. It is known to history buffs as Rhodes Tavern and was built 177 years ago. It served as headquarters of the British contingent that burned the White House in 1814. It was the first home of the banking institution that later became the Riggs National Bank. But it does not show any of this.
All we see now is little more than a news stand, a souvenir shop, a fruit market and two empty floors above them. The stone steps leading to an imposing door with fanlight, stone arch and keystone are gone.
So are pleasing proportions because the street level was lowered at one time or another.
The building was originally L-shaped, but the 15th Street end of the L was razed. So were the original chimneys, the old roof and other details. What must have been the garden is now the site of another, undistinguished house.
All this was discussed in considerable detail at a Fine Arts Commission meeting the other day because developer Oliver T. Carr has presented a tentative scheme for a new development of offices, shops, an interior mall and other nice things on the block where Rhodes Tavern stands. He and his architects are considering its demolition, although he building has been declared an official landmark to be saved "if possible." The Fine Arts Commission is one of the agencies that must decide if preservation is possible.
Well, it isn't really. All that might be done is a reconstruction from a charming water color by Mme. deNeufville, the wife of the French ambassador painted in 1817. That would cost $1.5 million and seems to do with the reporduction? Ann Loikow, the citizen representative, who eloquently pleaded for "preservation," suggested it might serve as an inter-pretative information center for tourists, a cafe or maybe a Riggs bank branch.It might.
But you have to ask yourself where you would wind up if you carry the urge to preserve too far. Fine Arts Commission chairman Carter Brown made the point quite nicely, we think. "Do we go back to the forest?" he asked.