The historic old Rhodes Tavern, demolished in 1984 after a seven-year battle between preservationists and a Washington developer, may be gone but the controversy surrounding it has resurfaced.

The Oliver Carr Co., which tore down the structure at 15th and F streets NW to make way for the $100 million Metropolitan Square office and retail complex, has rejected a D.C. fifth-grader's proposal that pennies donated by city elementary school students be used to pay for a plaque commemorating the tavern. Pupils at four schools contributed more than $1,000 in pennies several years ago to help preservationists' efforts to save the 185-year-old tavern, but not much of the money was spent.

Sara Rimensnyder, 10, a student at Peabody Elementary school on Capitol Hill, wrote to Oliver Carr in April saying that city students "would like to give our pennies to you to put an historic marker on where Rhodes Tavern was. ... . "

Six months later, Robert O. Carr, Oliver Carr's son and president of the company, answered Sara's letter. Instead of paying for a plaque, Robert Carr wrote, "I think you can serve {the children who donated the money} best by selecting another building in downtown Washington to help preserve." He suggested the money be turned over to the D.C. Preservation League, a group that focuses its attention on saving historic structures in downtown Washington.

The children collected the pennies to help preserve Rhodes Tavern and, "We felt it was not appropriate to use the money for something the children didn't raise it for," Joanne Kaplan, a Carr company spokeswoman, said this week. Rhodes Tavern "was not saved because it was not deemed to be historically significant enough to be saved," she said.

Lori Ward, assistant director of the D.C. Preservation League, said the organization decided not to oppose destruction of the tavern in return for Carr's agreement to incorporate the facades of two other old buildings into the Metropolitan Square development. Ward said Carr officials told the league about the offer of pennies for a plaque, and that the company decided the plaque was "inappropriate" because of "all the publicity" surrounding the battle to preserve the tavern and the building's subsequent demolition.

Local historians and the D.C. Board of Education said several events that are significant in the District's history took place at Rhodes Tavern, including citizens' meetings where the petitions to Congress for an elected local government and representatives were produced and where establishment of local public schools was planned.

Many of the pennies are stored in the office of Nelson Rimensnyder, Sara's father and a staff member of the House Committee on the District of Columbia.

Rhodes Tavern appears frequently in accounts of the city's history and is in the D.C. school system's history curriculum.

Third-graders at Stevens Elementary, who contributed pennies to the preservation efforts, visited Rhodes Tavern in 1984 and formed a circle around the building, according to Principal Juanita P. Braddock. They also went to a rally in the mayor's office to protest demolition of the building, she said.

Brightwood Elementary students also visited Rhodes Tavern as part of their studies of District history, according to librarian Jean Alexander. She said a student suggested asking Brightwood pupils to donate pennies for the tavern. Pennies also were contributed by Hobson Elementary pupils.