Should the Former York Theater be Nominated as a Landmark?
Historic preservation can be straight forward or controversial. The recent nomination of the Park View School was direct and straight forward with no significant opposition. The building was a natural. Other buildings, like the former York Theater now housing the Fisherman of Men church, don’t necessarily have the same level of community support because they are privately owned. But does that mean the community should avoid protecting its architectural heritage? Probably not.
Last week, those interested in historic preservation and Wal-Mart had one issue in common, though on different sides of it — the 1909 Brightwood streetcar barn. The former car barn later served as Curtis Chevrolet before the lot attracted the attention of Wal-Mart, who decided the intersection of Georgia and Missouri Avenues would be a good location for one of their Washington stores. Though long languishing, opponents of Wal-Mart seized upon the historic significance of the car barn as a way to block the Wal-Mart development and nominated the building as an historic landmark.
This ultimately failed, but not because the building was not historic or important. In reviewing the video of the October Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) meeting where the nomination of the Brightwood facility was reviewed, the vote against designating the car barn as a landmark boiled down to one issue … integrity.
The state of the car barn had deteriorated to such a degree that the HPRB determined there was little to preserve. The roof was gone, the original windows and doors were gone, and the 1955 addition for the Chevrolet dealership detracted from the building’s importance. Everyone tended to agree the barn was historic and important. There just wasn’t enough left to save.
One Board Member took the opportunity to emphasize that communities need to look around their neighborhoods and determine what is important now, not at the final hour when a building is falling down or threatened by development. This brings me back to my original question. Is the former York Theater still in a state worth preserving, and if so should it be protected?
Many older buildings along lower Georgia Avenue are either gone or not important enough by themselves to merit landmark status. The York, on the other hand, is a significant structure with immense historical, architectural, and cultural importance to the Park View & Petworth communities. Like many older buildings it has suffered from loss over the years, but I tend to believe that there is still enough left worth saving.History comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.