The Joint Committee on Landmarks has been asked to designate 19th Century houses in the 1700 block of F Street NW as an historic landmark.
The seven structures, in a block just west of the Executive Office Building and White House that was once known as Michler Place, were built more than 100 years ago by Alexander (Boss) Shepherd, second territorial governor of the District.
Burka Properties Inc., Norman and Lillian T. Burka, and Sam and Edith H. Burka, owners of the row, are negotiating a 99-year ground lease with Kevin Donohoe and Glenn Urquhart, property investors who are considering tearing down the houses for redevelopment. Business tenants in the row, including several restaurants and a liquor store, have been notified by the Burkas that they must vacate by the end of the year.
Urquhart said no plans have been made for the property. He said preservation of the houses is also under consideration, but added that "we have to find out if they are structurally strong."
Don't Tear It Down, a preservation grouP, along with the Advisory Neighborhood Council for the West End area, will have a hearing before the city's landmarks committee Dec. 8 on their petitions for historic designation. Designation would permit a delay in demolition or alteration of up to 120 days, giving interested parties time to try to come up with ways of preserving the property. Currently pending before the D.C. City Council is legislation that would allow for selective bans on demolition in historic areas where property is still usable.
Don't Tear It Down and the neighborhood council maintain that the seven houses, the remainder of a row of 13 built as a single unit, are among the only survivors on an "attack on the 19th century quality" of the former Michler Place. The row was probably named for Lt. Col. Nathaniel Michler, a commissioner of public buildings after the Civil War, the groups said.
The YMCA at the western end of the street was demolished in recent years; facing "Michler Row" now is the new Federal Home Loan Bank Board.
In their submission to the landmarks committee, the groups acknowledged that the block, once the home of elite military officers, journalists and others, "no longer exhibits its original elegance." Some upper stories are abandoned, they noted.