Posted tagged ‘Meridian Hill’

Then and Now: Lithuanian Embassy on 16th Street

January 26, 2017

Recently I found a glass magic lantern slide showing the “Norwegian Ligation” located on 16th Street in 1912 (see below). The Norwegian embassy moved to a new building on Massachusetts Avenue in 1931, where it remains today.

1912-norway-lithuania-embassies(Lithuanian Embassy building on 16th Street in 1912)

Anyone familiar with the building will know instantly that the building in the photo is actually two buildings. the northern half is the Lithuanian Embassy, and the southern half was razed and replaced with a tall apartment building in 1965 which is jarringly incompatible with the surrounding architectural character of the area. However, I think it is easy to miss that the Lithuanian embassy building itself has also had an addition — not just in the rear but also on top. In this way, I think the expansion of the 1907 building was accomplished successfully. It is also good to see that Lithuania is a good steward of its building, and undertook a restoration of the limestone and terracotta facades in 2008, which can be seen here.

lithuanian-embassy-2017(View of Lithuanian Embassy and abutting apartment building as it appears today)

Notes From March ANC 1C Meeting

March 5, 2015

ANC1C(ANC1C preparing to get started before a packed house.)

Last night’s meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C was well attended, primarily due to the Commission’s consideration of the proposed development at Meridian International  (more below). In addition, the Commission also voted to approve a letter of support for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon, unanimously supported a resolution calling for a Moratorium on Pop-Up Development (noting that ANC 1A passed an identical resolution in February), voted to join residents on a BZA Appeal for 2305-2307 Ontario Road, NW, and unanimously approved a resolution calling upon  DCRA to stop using the perimeter wall method when calculating Gross Floor Area/Floor Area Ratio and calling for an administrative review of DCRA operations.

Site plan of proposed development (from ANC 1C Web site).

Site plan of proposed development (from ANC 1C Website).

The agenda item of most interest to the community was the proposed development at Meridian International. Attendance was high at the meeting with attendees — many from Beekman Place and Crescent Place — overflowing into the hallway. The development  in question would face 16th Street between Belmont Street and Crescent Place, include approximately 130 units of residential housing, and include a conference center for Meridian International (connecting to the White Meyer House beneath a terrace). The development team gave a brief overview of the plans and spoke about how the building’s design is compatible with other apartment buildings on 16th Street.

After their presentation, members of the community spoke. There was acknowledgment that the development team has been responsive during the process and that Meridian International has been a good neighbor. But with regards to the proposal thus far, there was board consensus that the plan isn’t there yet. The chief concerns were:

  • The building is too high, especially in relationship to Beekman Place to the south, where the grade of 16th Street results in the building towering over the residential community;
  • The building’s massing;
  • How the development will impact traffic;
  • How the conference center will impact local parking, and what the impact will be due to catering and delivery services;
  • Architectural compatibility — a spokesperson from Crescent place described how each structure on that short street was an architectural “jewel”, with nearly all of them being on the National Register of Historic Places. When adding a new building to this “jewel box”, they argued that it should also be a “jewel” and a noteworthy architectural endeavor. Following up on this, another resident noted that the design for the addition to the former Italian Embassy successfully integrated with the historic character of its surroundings illustrating that a more compatible design at Meridian International was possible.

Added to the list of community concerns, Chairman Billy Simpson introduced an amendment to the resolution under consideration that the design relate better to 16th Street. It was noted that other large apartment buildings on 16th Street have central entrances but that the design for this building did not, disconnecting it from the thoroughfare.

After hearing from the community, the Commission voted in support of the recommendations of its Planning, Zoning, and Transportation Committee — the recommendations being that the Commission call on the Historic Preservation Review Board to:

  1. Require that the height of the building be reduced;
  2. Require that the scale and massing be reduced;
  3. Require that the materials be revised and enhanced; and,
  4. Require a central entrance on 16th Street.

Meridian International proposal 16th Street(Rendering showing current design’s relationship to 16th Street (from ANC 1C Website).)

New Book on Meridian Hill History Worth Checking Out

August 27, 2014

Meridian Hill bookI’ve recently learned that there is a new book out this year on the history of Meridian Hill by Ward 1 resident Stephen R. McKevitt … titled appropriately: Meridian Hill: A History.

Unlike the Arcadia books that are primarily image based, this one, by the History Press, is text based (while it has some good images) which means it has a lot more detail. I’ve recently begun to read it and already appreciate how its organized and the historical overview of this part of Washington.

I decided to mention it here because it also has some interesting historical information for those who want to learn more about Columbia Heights. While that isn’t the focus of the book, it contains a historical sketch of James Holmead and a good history of Rock Creek Church Road (including the various names its had over the years).

Below is the publishers description to help you decide if this is something you’d like reading as well.

In the nineteenth century, Commodore David Porter built his mansion on a prominent hill sitting directly north of the White House, and the rest of Meridian Hill’s history is indelibly tied to the fabric of Washington. John Quincy Adams once resided in Porter’s mansion. Union troops used the estate and its lands during the Civil War. Later, part of the old estate was famously developed by Mary Henderson into a noted group of embassy mansions, and the extraordinary Meridian Hill Park was created. The rest of the land became a diverse, thriving residential neighborhood. Join local author Stephen McKevitt as he chronicles the fascinating story of this interesting urban locale in the nation’s capital.

Photos of Meridian Hill ca. 1921

January 9, 2014

Meridian Hill ca 1921

Here are a few photos that I recently found that show the Meridian Hill area around 1921 (based on the other photos in the series). The photo above was taken from the park looking toward the southeast. The church just right of center is St. Augustine‘s located at 15th and V Streets, NW. The large building just south of St. Augustine’s is the Portner Flats.

Below is a photo of two women on the southeast corner of Belmont and 15th Streets from the same time.

Meridian Hill ca 1921 2

In the image above, only the second house from the left is still standing (the yellow house below). Also, the balustrade behind the women is largely gone … but I think it would be nice if it could be restored. Below is a photo of this area today.

Belmont and 15th


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