Archive for the ‘Preservation’ category

Park View Christian Church (aka New Commandment Baptist) Officially on the National Register

January 14, 2015
The Park View Christian Church photographed ca. 1920 (Image from Library of Congress).

The Park View Christian Church photographed ca. 1920 (Image from Library of Congress).

The old Park View Christian Church located at 625 Park Road was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Placed on December 29, 2014. A very brief history of the church was included in a March 2014 post along with two other landmark application announcements that you can read here.

The overall plan for the church property as of July 2014 is to incorporate the structure into a condo development that will have a total of 38 living units. The majority of the development will be on the adjoining parking lot which is currently vacant. The image below provides and idea of what that project will look like.

Perspective 1 625 Park Road(Rendering of 625 Park Road project by Arcadia Design)

Visiting Washington’s Oldest Synagogue

December 19, 2014

oldest synagogue(The Adas Israel synagogue at 3rd and G streets, NW)

For those that may have missed this, Washington’s oldest synagogue — the Adas Israel synagogue — will need to be moved to make way for the new development downtown that will deck over the 395 Center Leg Freeway that is adjacent to the building and separates it from the Georgetown Law School. The synagogue was originaly built at 6th and G in 1876 and was moved in 1969 to save it from demolition. The  Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington (JHSGW) arranged to have the building hoisted on to dollies and relocated to its present location.

Synagogue interior showing the ark area.

Synagogue interior showing the ark area.

I was fortunate to have the JHSGW, and in particular curator Zachary Paul Levine, invite me to tour the synagogue prior to its move and was thrilled to accept the offer. One of the things I was most fascinated in learning was that they JHSGW has been undergoing a paint analysis for portions of the interior to learn what the original colors were for the interior. One of the things that they’ve learned is that the beveled corners of the posts holding up the balconies were originally gold leaf.

Related to this, I received the following as part of a larger announcement from the JHSGW that gives more insight into their work with paint analysis.

Was our ark once adorned with gold leaf?

We’re looking for 24-carat gold leaf beneath layers of paint in D.C.’s oldest synagogue building.

Can you help us raise $1,800 to complete this project? 

An 1876 newspaper account noted that a biblical quotation (Ma Tovu) was painted over the ark: “How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!”

We’ve painted this passage in gold-colored paint during our restoration work, but its original appearance is buried beneath more than a century of paint.

We recently completed a historic paint analysis of the sanctuary, funded in part by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Marpat Foundation. While this research yielded a picture of the sanctuary’s original appearance, further study is needed to solve this mystery.

This holiday season, give the gift of gold online or call 202-789-0900.

The synagogue is a wonderful building that I hope everyone has had an opportunity to experience in person.

The movie below relates the building’s history.

Bruce and Wilson Normal Schools Achieve Landmark Status

November 21, 2014

Bruce School 1900(The Blanche Kelso Bruce School, ca. 1900)

Yesterday, November 20, 2014, two landmark nominations, authored by me, were considered by the Historic Preservation Review Board and approved.

Both the former Blanche Kelso Bruce School and the James Ormond Wilson Normal School buildings were added to the D.C. Inventory of Historic Structures when the Historic Preservation Review Board voted unanimously in support of the nominations. Both schools currently house charter schools. The Bruce school building, at 770 Kenyon Street, NW, is currently the home of Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy, Chavez Prep Campus, and the Wilson Normal school currently houses the Carlos Rosario School.

For those wanting to learn more about these buildings, the Historic Preservation Office’s staff reports provides a concise overview.

The staff report for the Bruce school concludes (read full report here):

The principal significance of the school is as an educational facility, serving generations of African-American elementary students during the era of segregated schools. Like other neighborhood schools, it grew out of and grew up with the community, serving as a community center in all senses.

The building is significant as well as a great example of one subtype of school, a product of the “Architects in Private Practice” era of 1897 to 1910, as described in the Multiple Property Documentation Form Public School Buildings of Washington, 1862-1960. It also stands as an interesting application of Albert Harris’s extensible school design as an addition.

The staff report for the Wilson Normal school states (read full report here):

The property retains excellent historic integrity, including its original lunch-room ell, its chimneys, etc. It has the expected alterations and repairs for a building a century old, such as window replacements. Its appearance has changed with some entry features erected for the present occupant, a charter school, but these alterations are ultimately reversible.

The nomination proposes a period of significance from 1912, the principal year of construction, to 1987, when the school was vacated by the teachers school, which had been merged into the University of the District of Columbia beginning in 1978. While 1987 is a pretty recent date to be considered historic, such a terminal date has few implications for the preservation treatment of the building exterior, given its remarkable preservation from a century ago. Further, if the continuity of Wilson Normal including its mergers into more modern institutions is important, then recognizing this entire span is reasonable.

Both nominations will be forwarded to the National Park Service for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

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