Johns Hopkins University plans to remove the giant stone etching of the First Amendment that graces the exterior of the Newseum when it adapts the Pennsylvania Avenue building for its research and education needs.
The university bought the property at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in January from the Freedom Forum, the private foundation that created the Newseum. Johns Hopkins has hired the architectural firm that designed the museum of journalism to reimagine it.
The new design will be presented Thursday to the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts, one of two federal review boards that must approve the changes.
When the $372.5 million purchase was announced, Newseum officials said the exterior stone tablet was not included in the deal. A Newseum executive said this week that the etching will be removed after Dec. 31, when the Newseum closes and the university takes possession of the building.
“At this point we don’t know exactly when that will be or where it will be stored once it’s off the building,” Jonathan Thompson said in an email.
The Newseum opened the landmark building a few blocks from the Capitol in 2008. Though it drew hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, it struggled with perennial budget deficits and required large subsidies from the Freedom Forum. The foundation announced in 2017 that it was considering selling the building.
Ennead Architects, formerly James Polshek and Associates, will work with the SmithGroup, the project’s architect of record, to consolidate the university’s footprint into the Pennsylvania Avenue site. Ennead’s notable projects include the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York and the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.
James Polshek is retired, but many members of the museum’s original design and documentation team are working on the redesign, providing continuity and institutional memory, according to university officials. The original structural engineering firm, LERA, also is involved.
The Freedom Forum is seeking temporary office space in downtown Washington for the museum to use for the first half of next year, Thompson said.