You Have to Watch Them Every Minute….
by Larry Janezich
There was a lot of back and forth between the owner of 326 A Street, SE, near St. Mark’s Church and the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) the past couple of years over a proposed renovation of this property. The bottom line was HPRB’s approval of a renovation entailing the demolition of a small attached structure at the rear of the house. Any other demolition was to have been only after a report detailing conditions and plans regarding dismantling, salvaging, and reconstructing the house using as much of the original material as possible, and with the stricture that the east elevation of the house should be retained.
However, once a contractor gets started, sometimes it’s hard for them to stop. The result is shown above: a demolition that goes far beyond anything authorized by the HPRB, with no possibility for salvage, the construction material already having been hauled off.
Once the extent of the work was called to HPRB’ attention, an inspector slapped a stop work order on the project – too late to comply with any HPRB attempt to preserve a contributing structure to the Historic District. The contractor was reported to have justified the virtual raze by claiming unsafe conditions at the site.
HPRB has mandated that work cannot resume until a revised building permit is reviewed and approved by that office and approved by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs – the forced delay apparently being the only penalty for transgressing HPRB’s license.
As they say, sometimes it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.
6 responses to “You Have to Watch Them Every Minute….”
Not the first time this has happened.
That house has been a disaster for decades. I recall that in the 70s it was decrepit and it could not have faired any better since then if only because there had been no improvements. Some properties are not worth saving and even the front of the house has little going for it. Historic preservation vigilantes have overstepped any public benefit they offer by insisting on the preservation of buildings that are not only unsafe but have no architectural merit. The Fragers building for instance, is a disaster marrying an old and ugly building that would have benefited the Hill by being torn down and replaced with a coherent design. The only people who will benefit from the new building are those inside who will be spared having to look at it.
Same play as those who did the work on the former historic bldg at H St & 10th NE at what’s now the Ben’s Chili Bowl. Oooops, demo that goes too far and all the city can donis hand slap and make them put some savage bricks on facade to comply. Pathetic.
Agree that not every building is worth saving. And it would be awesome to have buildings of great contemporary design in our historic district–not merely new builds that endlessly copy circa 1886 facades or buildings that make a pretense of preservation by keeping, literally, one wall that cannot even stand on its own and calling the project a “renovation.” Unfortunately, we appear to have little original contemporary design OR true preservation in our historic district–which is a tremendous loss for all of us (well, except for the developers making lots of $$ and getting what amounts to a slap on the wrist for blatant permit violations like what this appears to be). You gotta also ask why, if we truly value historic preservation, the city isn’t more proactive against allowing historic properties like this to remain vacant AND decrepit. (Other jurisdictions do–it just seems unheard of here.)
I find that when I report possible illegal construction to the city the response can take days, especially over a weekend. A lot of demolition can take place between a report and a visit by an inspector.
Ed. Note. Posted on behalf of anonymous: I do not know if the Owner directed the contractor to demolish the East Side or whether the contractor decided on his own to demolition the east side or whether it was a joint agreement.
The contractor would save significant dollars in removing the entire east side and then install all new materials in lieu of the retention of the existing structure.
You indicate in your article that the “materials already having been hauled off” which is the case, however, most of the floor and ceiling joists and vertical side wall studs that were fabricated from period un-milled lumber was painstakingly cleaned on site to remove any nails etc. Then this lumber was then neatly stacked and taken away on separate trucks to be undoubtedly sold to suppliers that specialize in the sale of un-milled period lumber. Therefore, the lumber still exist neatly stacked somewhere for sale.
The tin form the roof was also removed and loaded separately on trucks to be sold to a scrap yard.
There was no justification that the retention of the east side was not doable based upon a safety hazard.