Sunday, December 16, 2007

Should This Church Be Designated "Historic?"

Under normal circumstances, having your place of worship labeled as "historic" would be a sought after honor. In a city with the Church of the Presidents, National Cathedral, Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Islamic Center and "Lincoln's Church," the bar has been set pretty high regarding famous houses or worship. However, with our insane, unflappable real estate market and rabid architectural oversight, the term "historic" may not make sense this time around. At least according to the Third Church of Christ, Scientist.

The church and its congregation want to raze the now historic structure at 16th and I (two blocks from the White House, on the 42 bus route) and build a new center of worship on the site. They are officially tenants. The owners, a development company, ICG Properties, want the same, and also want to build an office tower on the adjacent land. The new designation from the Historic Preservation Review Board essentially means the building and the land it sits on are untouchable for alteration or demolition. I don't know. Its pretty ugly to me. The Board argues that the church building is a prime example of a now extinct architectural style popular in the 1950s and 60s called "brutalism." Yeah, well, its an accurate term. A strain of modernism. Its what gave us such a beautiful SW quadrant and many federal government buildings downtown. The church argues that its members should be able to replace the deteriorating, unfit building if it pleases. Hopefully, this issue can be decided with some common sense, but for now, it looks like the Third Church of Christ, Scientist and the developer/owners have lost this round, and maybe the fight. Read more on the Post, and pick up the latest Dupont Current for more on this story.