Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Unstable "Stable"

A light blue Victorian home lives at 403 P Street NW with a small stable-like building behind it. There is currently a dumpster in front of the building on P Street and there are neighborhood rumors that the rear building is going to be torn down to make space for parking or expansion of the primary building. The home (built in 1890) was designed by George S. Cooper, an architect who designed about 850 buildings in Washington. The building in the rear was built in 1891, measures 15 feet by 27 feet and has many of the typical features of a stable or a small warehouse. The original permit describes it as being a “fuel house and storeroom.” No architect is listed for this building but the builder was Galloway and son.

Unlike Naylor Court NW, with a unique collection of small buildings that has been protected by law (every address) through the National Register of Landmark Historic Properties since 1990, this alley building has much less (if any) protection. The author is unaware of a unifying HPO policy that governs their decision making process about stables and other small alley buildings in the city. This little building (403 rear P Street NW) is not a part of a unique and cohesive collection, although there are several stables in the alley.

In the author’s opinion, at the very least, the building should be documented architecturally, (dimensions, inner structure etc), bricks salvaged where possible for use in historic preservation projects in the city (these bricks are in high demand), the original “hayloft doors” salvaged and eye kept out for archeological artifacts that might be uncovered during the process of its destruction, should that eventually happen.

Stables and other small rear alley buildings are prime targets for destruction, because their disappearance makes it so much easier for developers to gain access to work on the rear of the primary building. These are charming little properties that can almost always be restored, rehabilitated and adaptively reused given the expertise and the will to do so. Stables and utilitarian alley buildings are very simple structures. These buildings are a unique and characteristic historic architectural feature of Washington D.C. today, for no other major cities in America have such a sizable number of standing stables. Some go back to Lincoln’s era and are irreplaceable.

1 comment:

Alison said...

Hey there - just discovered your blog. I am a 36 year resident of NW and can NOT wait to read more!!!