In "The Washington Post Guide to Washington," which was published last year, there is a chapter by Richard Harwood that makes these statements about the National Press Building:
"Many of the offices in the tall old building are deserted; most of the prestigious news organizations have moved elsewhere, and the building itself is marked for destruction under a master plan for the area's future development."
That pained me because the National Press Building is an old friend of mine. I hate to see it maligned by inaccurate statements.
The building has enjoyed more than 90 per cent occupancy throughout the past 40 years. In the past decade, it has always been at least 95 per cent full. Last year, when the "Guide to Washington" was published, the building was 98.5 per cent occupied.
The National Press Building is not marked for destruction under any plan, official or private. As a matter of fact, the building's owners had just finished laying out a half-million dollars to spruce up its exterior when the erroneous report of its imminent demise was published.
The attack upon my mute old friend stung for a long time. Ii was just beginning to fade from memory when this month's issue of Washingtonian magazine reopened the wound.
The magazine's Capital Comment section includes this little gem: "Already in financial trouble, the National Press Building at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue may soon have another nail driven into its coffin. One of the large news bureaus still there is considering a move to the Connecticut Avenue-K Street area."
It may be that there is indeed a National Press Building at 14th and the Avenue that is financing difficulty. The one I know about, which is at 14th and F Streets NW. is doing very well financially. Its auditors, the firm of Peat, Marwick and Mitchell, recently reported that the building had earned $5.07 on each of its common shares during 1976. The building's directors inform me that their space is still almost fully rented. They say the 250 national and international news bureaus and 100 other tenants in the building seem reasonably content where they are, and that 13,000 square feet of editorial space is now being readied for the huge Knight-Ridder Washington bureau. A phone call to the building's manager could have ascertained these facts.
There is no mystery about my strong feeling of affection for the National Press Building. In the National Press Club auditorium on its tip floor I have had the opportunity to see and hear the great men and women of the world over a span of more than 30 years.
It was there I heard Nikita Khurshchev explain what he meant when he said he would bury us. It was there I heard Arthur Rubinstein confess that, as a young concert pianist, he didn't practice enough and missed too many notes because his mind was more on champagne and lovely ladies than on music.
I was there the newly inaugurated John F. Kennedy stopped by to pay his Press Club dues and to congratulate the Press Club president who was being inaugurated that night by the Chief Justice of the United States. I had the honor, together with the late Edward T. Folliard, of escorting Lyndon B. Johnson to the lectern when he chose the National Press Club as the scene of his final speech as President. And following each of these memorable occasions, I had the rare privilege of listening to the great journalists of my time as they discussed the speech they had just heard.
Forgive me if I treasure these memories and come to the defense of the fine old Washington landmark in which they are rooted. I hope that long after I have departed from the scene, my durable old friend the National Press Building will still be playing host to the world's newsmakers and to the men and women who report on their activities.