Who Decides What Gets Saved?

2 May

Sad news this morning via H-DC (a great history listserv).  Jemal has filed a raze application for one my “Favorite Fixer-Uppers” in the city, the Second Empire structure they have hidden behind this “special sign” on the corner of K and 11 Streets NW:

From the D.C. Preservation League’s Landmark Application in 2008:

The three standing structures (originally four, but two later joined as one) of 1007 K and (separated by a vacant lot) 1015 and 1017 K, are significant because of their age (1875), the distinct Second Empire architecture still visible in 1015-1017 (in its original form in 1015 though in poor condition, and somewhat modernized in 1017), and the fact that this cluster of houses remains as a memento of an earlier and now largely lost residential neighborhood. K Street from 9th Street westward to 20th Street was a prime residential street for well-to-do Washingtonians of the late 19th century, with its wide building set-back and fine mansions. Architectural historian has called this stretch of K Street “the Park Avenue of Washington. . . [with an] impressive array of great houses.” Government and business figures occupied such impressive houses as Shepherd’s Row at 17th and Connecticut and Mount Vernon Row at 10th
and K (only demolished in 1969) until fashion moved these families further north in the early 20th century.

Now all of these fine residences are gone except for these houses, still showing their wide front yards on a quiet street. In addition, 1017 K served for many years as the residence of nationally-known writer and free-thinker William H. Burr. 1007 K and its now-lost companion 1009 K were occupied from their construction in 1875 until the late 1920’s by the family of James E. Turton and later his son William, prominent Washington builders, whose brothers and sons (all builders) also resided in the neighborhood for a long period.

1015 K shows evidence of a front-yard cistern, an archeological site unknown otherwise in this city. The intervening vacant lot also holds archeological promise.

These buildings are significant to the built history of Washington DC because:

• (Criterion C) The Second Empire style of 1015 and 1017 K St., characteristic of prominent buildings in Washington in the immediate post-Civil War period and so well demonstrated here, has been largely lost elsewhere;

• (Criterion C) This half-block if K Street retains the appearance and feel of the once-prominent neighborhood, both in its structures and its original wide parking space, that has been lost in all other sections of this street; and

• (Criterion D) The archeological resources of both 1015 K St.’s front yard and the vacant spaces of 1009 and 1011 K offer a significant opportunity to study the domestic life of wealthy Washingtonians in the late 19th century.

The question bugging me this morning isn’t so much whether this building deserves to be saved.  But, instead: why and how do developers get to choose which historic buildings are valuable and which are not.  So, the historic buildings that were expensively and publicly hauled across New York Avenue last month get a reprieve from Jemal, but these don’t?

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5 Responses to “Who Decides What Gets Saved?”

  1. Ghosts of DC May 7, 2012 at 12:44 am #

    Excellent post. Unbelievable tragedy if it’s razed. We can’t let that happen.

    • The Location May 7, 2012 at 10:57 am #

      I agree! I am worried that this will be a case of demolition by neglect…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Buildings They Left Behind | Borderstan - May 10, 2012

    […] some buildings are deemed historic and stick around and others become bulldozer fodder? Local blog The Location reviews the history of a building at 11th and K Streets NW as per the 2008 application for landmark […]

  2. DC Link Roundup: Heard In The ‘Hood | Penn Quarter Living - May 4, 2012

    […] raze permit request for the billboard…we mean historic building at 11th and K St NW. [The Location] & [Washington […]

  3. Raze Request Means Historic Preservation Review Board Will Consider Landmarking 11th and K Building - Housing Complex - May 3, 2012

    […] Location noted yesterday that Douglas Development had submitted raze applications for the elegant, decaying […]

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