Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blagden Alley and Naylor Court acknowledged for their historic contributions to the city.

Tear it down! Save it!

This month there is a wonderful article in the Washingtonian magazine discussing the history of historic architectural preservation in Washington D.C. by Larry Van Dyne. I highly recommend it to anyone with any interest at all in the architectural history of this city. It is insightful, well written, well balanced and filled with a myriad of facts and small vignettes of the struggle between progress and preservation.

“Robert Peck – who has held top positions at the Preservation League, the Greater Washington Board of Trade and General Services Administration – sums up the past 30 years this way: Preservationists once had to sit in the path of the bulldozer to save buildings. Then we got one of the strongest laws in the country and had to adapt to having lots of leverage.”

Blagden Alley and Naylor Court were recognized in the article for their unique role in the history of the city: - “Blagden Alley and Naylor Court preserves examples of the alley dwellings that once housed many of Washington’s working poor.”

While landmark historic designation is designed to confer protection, this does not always happen. It’s up to the community to consolidate and focus their efforts to protect buildings such as the Rhodes Tavern built in 1800 that was summarily razed as was the home of Francis Scott Key at the entrance of the bridge that now bears his name. While these were examples of failures to protect history, there are many stories about how communities rallied to save buildings that would otherwise have perished.

“Each year the Preservation League (since 1996) garners press coverage by issuing a list of ten historic places it considers the city’s “most endangered” … The local list usually includes some landmarks that are legally protected but are deteriorating or face a threat from development as well as places that have yet to gain recognition.” A nomination has been submitted for Blagden Alley and Naylor Court this year in light of recent aggressive development and destruction of landmark protected historic properties in these alleys. This article clearly demonstrates that a coalition of caring individualists can ultimately make profound differences in the world Washington D.C. historic preservation.

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