Modernization of York Theater Building Diminishing Historic Character of Structure

Work crews cleaning up after removing a portion of the tin fascia

It was with horror that I discovered on Saturday that the Fisherman of Men Church‘s plans to repair and modernize the old York Theater building included removing the tin fascia that runs around the entire building.  To be clear, everything is legal since they have a permit to do exactly what they are doing (issued on 6/24/11). However, I’m quite disgusted that anyone owning a building that is clearly more prominent than any other building in the area would not either dig into the building’s history or engage the community to inform them of their intent.

A representative of the church was on site and I asked them what they had done with the tin that had already been removed. The response was that it had been discarded and was gone. I informed the gentleman that the building was historic and his reply was that they intended to honor that by keeping the arches on the Georgia Avenue side of the building.

This image shows the profile of the York's original tin fascia

Sadly, replacing the discarded fascia will now be a costly undertaking. Repairing the existing fascia prior to the damage would not have been all that costly and may have even been less expensive than the work they are now doing.

While not landmarked, the York Theater building definitely needs to be before further damage can occur. It was built by Kennedy Brothers in 1919 using plans by architect Reginald W. Geare for Washington Theater king Harry M. Crandall. The York was Crandall’s eighth movie house in the city. All of the individuals involved in the creation of the York are noted in their own right and associated with other structures already protected by landmark status.

Landmarked buildings associated with Edgar S. Kennedy, the leading individual of Kennedy Brothers, include Meridian Mansions (the Envoy, 2400 16th Street,  NW), the Kennedy-Warren, and many of the houses in the Mt. Pleasant Historic District.

Buildings designed by Reginald W. Geare that have landmark status include the Lincoln Theater (built 1921) and the Southern Aid Building/Dunbar Theater (built 1921). He is best known as the architect for the Knickerbocker Theater, which collapsed in January 1922 after a massive snow storm.

Harry M. Crandall was a pioneer in the movie industry, being among the first to own and operated a string of movie houses on a large-scale. Both the Lincoln Theater and Tivoli were among his many theaters. The York was completed two years before the Lincoln and five years before the Tivoli.

State of fascia replacement at the York Theater building as of July 4, 2011


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12 Comments on “Modernization of York Theater Building Diminishing Historic Character of Structure”

  1. Cliff Says:

    Yeay, that pretty much sux. I had no confidence that they would do the building justice. That corner (both sides) really makes the area look awful though. Maybe if that building just looks cared for it will help. I’m curious what they mean by “keeping the arches on the Ga. Ave side”. What are they going to do on both the Princeton an Quebec side?

  2. Dave Says:

    I expect to be disappointed by their modernizations efforts and wouldn’t be surprised if they wrapped the building in vinyl siding or painted the brick (in some terrible color of course).

  3. Katherine Says:

    The church has been in this building for >30 years, beginning at a time when I personally would not have been willing to live nearby as I do now. If the church had not been in that building for all these years, imagine what shape it would be in. In my dreams, the building becomes an art house theater, but as long as the church is there I will do my best to respect their choices.

    • Rob Says:

      You mean this building has been occupied? In the condition it is in, I assumed it was vacant

    • Lindsay Woellenbeck Smith Says:

      This is the typical parview attitude for all new issues community-wide.We are not discussing wether we respect their choices or not. That’s is irrelevant since they have all legal rights to do the renovation. It is a matter ofthe larger community input since this historical building is in such deplorable conditions(looks like an abbandoned wharehousein a poor caribbean island).Same ‘because-we’re-entitled to’ attitude goes for the Baptist Church on ParkView.This church owns the vacant housing on Newton Place 600 block–utilized as vacant playground and dumpster by the noisy gang drinking, strolling,loittering and taking over half ofthe street all the way onto 6th street ( given they are no longer allowed to loiter and litter at the Park-Morton project….The Church’s decision to help was hanging 2 plasticbags on the fence so tha they use the same as trash bags…. great…

  4. - Says:

    That does look really bad with the fascia removed…

  5. IMGoph Says:

    Unfortunately, I get the feeling that, if something hasn’t already been protected in DC, or purchased by someone who has taken the time to give it a proper “return to former glory” fixing up, it’s safe to assume that it’s in trouble.

    As the real estate market warms again, people are looking to make a quick buck, or do the cheapest job possible to fix up a building. Look at Shaw’s Tavern at 6th and Florida NW. A shame…

  6. WarderSt Says:

    I don’t believe that Church has owned this building for 30 years. When I first moved into the area it was vacant and that was only a few years ago. Then another Church owned it and finally the Fishermen of Men.

    It’s really sad to see they aren’t even trying to preserve the architecture of the building in their attempts at modernization.

  7. lanisa Says:


  8. […] In Brief: Why D.C. Needs Comprehensive Civic Planning I think the image below shows what happens when there is not broad, comprehensive civic planning that is inclusive of the community. It shows the Georgia Avenue facade of the Fisherman of Men Church (former York Theater), which is currently being modernized. […]

  9. […] summer, the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for the area, Kent Boese, noticed that the Church had removed the tin fascia that run all the way around the building's facade, and […]

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