Friday, July 12, 2013

Meridian Hill Historic District: coming soon to a Meridian Hill near you?

Are you historic? This week there was a brief presentation at the ANC 1A meeting about an effort to declare the area around Meridian Hill Park a historic district. The idea would be to preserve a lot of the historic buildings there, places like the Josephine Butler Parks Center (pictured above in an old painting), current and former embassies on 15th and 16th Street, historic churches and apartment buildings, many from the 1950s or earlier, and Meridian Hill Park itself. (John F. Kennedy and his sister lived in apartment 502 or 542 in the Dorchester House, for example.)

The area was largely developed by Mary Henderson and her husband Sen. John Henderson, who wanted it to become Embassy Row, and even hoped the White House would move there. They were partially successful in the first, as there were and still are a fair amount of Embassies here, mostly Latin American (and as you may recall, Fidel Castro was at the park in the 60s visiting the Cuban Embassy, now the Swiss Embassy's Cuban Interest Section.) The Hendersons also built the huge Henderson Castle on 16th north of Florida. The castle is no longer there, but the red stone battlements and towers along 16th Street are a legacy of that.

There weren't really any questions from the crowd, and the ANC voted unanimously to approve a resolution supporting it. I was actually surprised nobody complained, since if you're in a historic district there are additional "historic review" rules about renovations, construction, additions and such. However, looking at the actual borders of the proposed district (see below) there are very few single-family homes in it.

The ANC also has a Powerpoint on the district, which you can download here. It has a few points as to why you should designate a historic area and why is historic review important?
Why Designate?
•Maintains Community Character and Sense of Place
•Promotes Rehabilitation and Restoration
•Allows for Community Involvement in Managing Change
•Promotes Civic Pride 
Why Historic Review?
•Helps to Ensure Compatibility with the Historic Character of the District
•Minimizes the Loss of Historic Building Materials and Fabric
•Helps Maintain Important Views
In short, I hope this goes through, as there is certainly a lot worth preserving. I'm not sure the actual process, the city's website isn't very clear on it, but I imagine it includes the Office of Planning and city's Historic Preservation Review Board.


  1. I live in a house that was built in 1996, will my house be grand-fathered in to this "historic designation?

  2. Topryder1
    The pattern is the same, we get in make all of the changes we want then we move to exclude everybody else. This needs to happen like cancer needs to spread.

  3. Yep, that's usually the way it goes.


Please don't advertise in the comments, and please enter some kind of name when you comment instead of being anonymous.

If the post is more than 28 days old, your comment must be approved first.