Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Three Capitol Hill locales labeled 'most endangered'

From the Voice of the Hill web site
Three Capitol Hill locales — the Barney Circle neighborhood, Meads Row on H Street, and “The Maples” house — today made the D.C. Preservation League’s list of the six “Most Endangered Places” in the city.

The preservation league has released the list annually since 1996 to draw attention to sites it deems culturally and architecturally noteworthy and that face the threat of neglect, alteration or demolition.

The league presented this year’s list on the grounds of “The Maples” on D Street SE in front of its boarded-up front door. Friendship House, a social service group that had occupied the site since 1936, declared bankruptcy last year and put the circa 1800 house on the market.

Meanwhile, the building, believed to have been visited by President George Washington, has been suffering from neglect for years. Many of the windows have been boarded up to keep out vagrants and paint is peeling off its facade.

Sources said several potential buyers have been interested in the building, including a condominium developer and a private school. The bidding process for the building is part of the bankruptcy proceedings and is currently being overseen by a judge.
A nearby neighbor, Sonja Sweek, told the small crowd gathered at The Maples that she bid on the building and wants to keep it as a social service organization, starting with a daycare. She also eventually wants to live there with her family, but said she needs financial backing to buy the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“I’m very cognizant of and have always respected historical designation,” she said.
The Barney Circle neighborhood — bounded by Potomac Avenue SE to the north, 17th Street SE to the east, Kentucky Avenue SE to the west and Pennsylvania Avenue SE to the south -- borders the Capitol Hill Historic District. In recent years, a group of residents has been trying to designate the area as the Barney Circle Historic District.

The neighborhood, made up of homes built as workforce housing in the post-World War I era, has been subject to development pressures that came along with D.C.’s booming real estate market in the last decade. According to the preservation league, a desire to build larger houses and add on to existing ones threatens “to destroy the historic fabric of the neighborhood, irrevocably compromising its historic and architectural integrity.”

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