SAVED? City Orders Preservation of Epworth’s Stained Glass Windows – Photos
by Larry Janezich
Last Thursday, the DC government ruled that the character-defining stained glass windows at the 1895 Epworth Church, 700 A Street, NE, must be preserved. Portions of the windows have been removed without a permit and these are currently in storage waiting the ultimate outcome of the efforts by owners to permanently remove them. See previous posting here: https://capitolhillcorner.org/2012/03/20/neighbors-rally-to-save-historic-church-windows-historic-preservation-runs-up-against-religious-freedom/
World Mission Society, Inc. (Church of God), current owners of Epworth Church, removed portions of the windows in January of 2012, justifying the action as being required by their religious belief that prevents them from worshiping in the presence of images. Neighbors alerted the city’s Historic Preservation Office who contacted the owners and was told by them that they had not removed the windows. Neighbors provided evidence that the owners had, in fact, removed the windows and HPO ordered their restoration. The Church responded by filing a Historic Preservation Application with Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) to legally remove the windows.
Neighbors activated the Capitol Hill Coalition for Sensible Development established in 2000 to oppose the move by World Mission, and recruited allies, including ANC6B, CHRS, the DC Preservation League, and David Holmes, commissioner from adjoining ANC6A03 to support the preservation of the windows. HPRB agreed with them, denying the Historic Preservation Application. The World Mission Society, Inc, then appealed the decision on the grounds of religious freedom to the city – the Mayor’s Agent – a final administrative appeal before redress is sought in court. Last week’s decision by the Mayor’s Agent re-affirmed the earlier decision of the HPRB. The Mayor’s Agent ruled that the church “created the confilct between the preservation law and its religious doctrine” by failing to provide due diligence in the purchase.
Bobbi Krengel, Chair of the Capitol Hill Coalition for Sensible Development, said, “We are fully expecting the owners to appeal this decision to the Court of Appeals, and do not know if there would be any role for the neighborhood to play there, but stand ready to participate in any way that may be required to protect our neighborhood.
It is clear to us that community participation is essential to good government, and makes our community strong enough to survive devastating fires, bureaucratic bungling, and greedy developers seeking to cash in on our cachet.”