OUR GAZE turns now to 15th and F streets NW, where -- nestled between a rock and a hard place -- stands (at least for the moment) Washington's first unofficial "town hall." Rhodes Tavern, age 182 and showing every bit of it, may soon be a moving historical monument in more ways than one. Barring some change of heart by the courts or by developer Oliver T. Carr, it's either curtains or a new site for this once-bustling gathering place during the earliest days of the nation's capital.

Here's the situation: after of negotiations and litigation, the D.C. Court of Appeals has rejected a preservation group's effort to stop the issuance of a demolition permit. City officials, as well as members of another preservation group, have accepted a compromise under which they dropped their opposition to the demolition permit in exchange for an agreement to incorporate the facades of two other old structures -- the Keith-Albee and National Metropolitan Bank buildings -- into the Carr office and retail complex.

Mr. Carr claims that Rhodes can have a new home down the street somewhere because the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation has agreed to relocate it. Unacceptable and historically criminal, responds Joseph N. Garno Jr., who, as president of the Citizens Committee to Save Historic Rhodes Tavern, has been a spirited crusader through the years for keeping Rhodes right where it is. Mr. Grano argues that the building would lose its historic value entirely if it were to be shifted elsewhere. He believes that Mr. Carr should incorporate Rhodes into the new complex.

We suppose it is conceivable that Mr. Carr will yet accept this argument, but it doesn't seem likely. And if Rhodes must go, it should go down the street, not to oblivion.