Archive for the ‘historic preservation’ Category

Uline Arena. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.

July 24, 2013

Uline Arena. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.

It hosted the Beatles’ first American concert, boxing, hockey, speeches by Malcolm X, and Dwight Eisenhower’s first inaugural ball . It was an ice house and a trash transfer station. Now the Uline Arena will be redeveloped as offices, retail, parking, and possibly performance space.


“Uline Arena, Washington Venue Where Beatles Played First U.S. Show, To Become…Offices And Retail,” Will Wrigley, Huffington Post

“Uline Arena, get ready for your next phase,” Rachel Kaufman, Elevation DC

“Pictorial History Of Uline Arena,” 1959 BHS Mustangs

“Uline Ice Plant,” HAER No. DC-66


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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here.  Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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Historic Capitol Hill

August 5, 2011

Historic Capitol Hill

Archaeologists excavating the site of an abandoned Blockbuster store on Washington’s Barracks Row have uncovered the ruins of an ancient Erol’s Video Club (above). This DC-area cult flourished in the late 20th century and involved contemplation of moving images and veneration of magnetized plastic tape.


Pinball Museum: Game Over

May 25, 2011

Pinball Museum: Game Over

The National Pinball Museum is closing. The NPM is located in Washington’s Georgetown Park mall, and the new landlord has hit the flipper, bouncing the museum out. The institution had only been open for five months.

Is nothing sacred? The Pinball Museum is more than a repository of amusement industry technology. It is a tribute to billions of wasted hours of 20th century American youth.


Gettysburg Gambling?

July 5, 2010

Gettysburg Gambling?

A new monument to America’s Civil War history is proposed for Gettysburg: a gambling casino. The Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino would be located a half mile from Gettysburg National Military Park on what was known as South Cavalry Field, scene of fighting on July 3, 1863.

Historians are not pleased. On the 147th anniversary of the bloody Civil War battle, 276 American historians sent a letter to the state gaming control board, protesting the project. “This ground is as hallowed as any other part of the Gettysburg battlefield, and the idea of a casino near the fields and woods where men of both North and South gave the last full measure of devotion is simply outrageous,” said Pulitzer Prize winner James M. McPherson. 


Civil War Shame in Virginia

April 9, 2010


Civil War Shame in Virginia

There is a Civil War scandal in Virginia that has nothing to do with Governor Bob McDonnell. The culprit: Arlington National Cemetery.

1,500 African American soldiers who served in the Union’s U.S. Colored Troops and thousands of freed slaves housed on the Arlington Estate grounds were buried in the cemetery’s Section 27, which was neglected and allowed to fall into disrepair. The cemetery was ordered to correct this shameful situation almost two decades ago.

Cosmetic changes compounded the institutional disrespect, reports Salon‘s Mark Benjamin. 500 graves now lack headstones, previously identified burials are now marked “Unknown,” some graves are misidentified, and records claim that one man is buried in two places. Cemetery Superintendent John C. Metzler, Jr. who told Congress that neglect of Section 27 would be rectified, still holds his position today.


Eastern Market Building to Re-Open June 26

June 23, 2009

Eastern Market Building to Re-Open June 26

UPDATE: Free music at Eastern Market June 27-28.

Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market building will re-open Friday, June 26th, refurbished and re-interpreted, after it was gutted by fire on April 30, 2007. While the 1873 building is of questionable historical or aesthetic merit, it will certainly go down in history for its rehab pricetag: $22 million in public funds.

Great pains were taken to use historically accurate paint colors and streetlamp forms in the adaptive restoration, but astonishing anachronisms (lead-free paint, electric lights, air conditioning) abound. There is no word when historically-correct horse manure and flies will be installed in surrounding streets and alleys.


DC OKs Demolition of Brutalist Church

May 13, 2009

DC OKs Demolition of Brutalist Church

Third Church of Christ, Scientist, Washington, D.C. Oh, wait ….

The DC Historic Preservation Review Board had designated the 37-year-old Third Church of Christ, Scientist a Historic Landmark and prevented its demolition, against the wishes of the congregation, the Mayor’s Office, and anyone with at least minimal eyesight who passes 900 16th St. NW. The structure is in the mercifully-extinct style of “Brutalism,” a term derived from the French béton brut, “raw concrete.” It is a huge concrete blockhouse.

Yesterday Harriet Tregoning, Director of the DC Office of Planning, acting as Mayor’s Agent for Historic Preservation,  issued what appears to be a final ruling on the issue:  junk the joint.

The report observes that “design errors” and “defective workmanship” make the building unsuitable for human pursuits of any kind, even with huge operating expenditures for lighting, temperature and humidity control and ventilation. The DC Government will permit the structure’s demolition. The full document is here. Some excerpts:

— The building’s design and choice of materials, particularly the use of uninsulated concrete, were experimental and it could not have been predicted when the building opened in 1971 whether it would succeed as a place of worship.  …the experiment failed badly.

— Adaptive reuse of the church building is not a viable option.

— The use of uninsulated concrete also resulted in the inability to stabilize the wide range of temperature and humidity levels that exist within the building.

— …the Church could operate in the existing building for only three to five years before exhausting its cash reserves.


Acqua Alta

December 3, 2008

Acqua Alta

It wasn’t quite this bad in Venice, but the high water (acqua alta) was deep these past two days, up to 5 feet, 2 inches (“1.56 meters” to natives). This was the worst flooding in the ancient island city In 22 years, endangering the city’s wealth of art and architecture, a major part of the legacy of Western Civilization.

The waters are now receding, but Venice has been flooded 50 times between 1993 and 2002 due to subsidence of the underlying soil and rising sea levels due to global warming. Projects are under way to mitigate future flood damage


George Washington’s Study Renovated

October 12, 2008

George Washington's Study Renovated

George Washington’s private study at Mount Vernon has re-opened to the public after four years of exhaustive research, conservation, and cleaning. The restoration re-creates the appearance of the room in 1799.

Complete explanation of the curatorial decisions pictured above should be available here on the Mount Vernon web site, but that page is completely blank. Perhaps this is due to overzealous conservation and cleaning.

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Arts and the City

September 9, 2008

Highrise Carroll Square (10th and F Streets, NW) is just another Washington office building, except for one thing. It has a small visual arts gallery, but so do other downtown buildings in the Nation’s Capital. What makes Carroll Square different is artists, working artists. There are artist studios in the building; art is made there.

Back when the 9:30 Club was actually at 930 F Street, NW, artists and performers had studios throughout downdown. When speculators ran up the price of downtown real estate and developers planned to rip down the century-old buildings, artist work spaces were displaced. The stubbornest member of the nonprofit Downtown Artists’ Coalition, painter Michael Berman, continued to negotiate with DC Government planners and private developers to maintain studio space for visual artists. It took a decade, but working artists are back on F Street.

Arts and the City
Find the artist in this picture.

Visual artists are returning as F St|Arts, and their studios occupy the rehabbed townhouses that step-back into the high-rise portion of the new development. Paintings, photographs, sculpture, and jewelry and wood craft media are produced there by Michael Berman, Richard Dana, Matthew Falls, Stuart Gosswein, Judy Jashinsky, Gediyon KifleKurt Massé, Mimi Massé, and Beatrice Valdes Paz.

You can see the new studios and the work artists produce there on Saturday, September 13, 2008 during Arts On Foot, the downtown celebration of Washington’s visual and performing arts.  F St|Arts studios will also exhibit work by guest artists Janis Goodman, Joe Hicks, Pepa Leon, Barbara Liotta, Quint Marshall, and Johanna Muelle.