HPA No. 1980-041, 1980-042, 1980-043, and 1980-046 (In re. Rhodes Tavern, National Metropolitan Bank Building, Keith's Theater-Albee Building)
- HPA Numbers: 80-041, 80-042, 80-043, 80-046
- Case Name: In the Matter of: Rhodes Tavern, the National Metropolitan Bank Building, and the Keith’s Theater-Albee Building (note – no official title appears in the Mayor Agent’s decision)
- Building Names: Rhodes Tavern; National Metropolitan Bank Building; Keith's Theater-Albee Building
- Address(es): 1429 F St. NW; 613 15th St. NW; 610 15th St., NW
- Type of Case/Type of Permit Sought: Demolition & Alteration
- Disposition: Granted
- Date of Decision: February 11, 1980
- Date of Case Summary: 6/29/2007
- Issue Area(s): Mayor’s Agent – Procedural, Necessary in the Public Interest, Project of Special Merit – Exemplary Architecture, Compatibility, Façade
Summary of Decision:
Oliver Carr and George Beuchert (the “Applicants”) sought permits for demolition and alteration of several structures at the corner of 15th and F Streets, about a block from the White House, to make room for a new construction. Specifically, the Applicants wished to demolish or relocate the Rhodes Tavern, a Category II Landmark listed on the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites and National Register of Historic Places, which was constructed between 1799 and 1801 and thought to be the oldest extant commercial structure in downtown Washington. They also sought partial demolition of the neighboring National Metropolitan Bank Building and alteration of the Keith’s Theater-Albee Building and the Bank Building. Amid protracted discussions and legal battles with community preservationist groups, the Applicants proposed a plan to retain portions of the façades of Keith-Albee and the Bank, while demolishing the Rhodes Tavern. The Mayor’s Agent granted the requested demolition and alteration permits, concluding that the proposed development was necessary in the public interest as a project of special merit by virtue of exemplary architecture.
Mayor’s Agent – Procedural:
- After the Applicants stated their intentions to proceed with the demolitions and alteration, the Committee to Preserve the Rhodes Tavern and the National Processional Route filed as a party in opposition and was accepted as a party by the hearing agent. The Committee subsequently withdrew less than a month later.
- The Mayor’s Agent stated that the applicant has the burden of proving a case of special merit.
Necessary in the Public Interest:
The Mayor’s Agent held that the Applicant’s proposed alteration and demolition was necessary in the public interest in order to allow the construction of a project of special merit.
Project of Special Merit – Exemplary Architecture:
The Mayor’s Agent concluded that the alteration was one of exemplary architecture because of “the sensitive incorporation” of the façades of the two partially retained buildings “into the total project.” The scale, massing, fenestration, and other details of the façades were integrated into the new construction on the block, achieving a “sense of monumentality and rhythm” along 15th Street. For example, the triple arch motif of entryways, the ornamental railings, and the column designed as pilasters in the new construction all mirror design features of the Beaux Arts style of the preserved façades.
The Mayor’s Agent found that the new construction would use similar materials and details to those of the historic buildings in the area, particularly complementing the U.S. Treasury Building and the façades of the Keith-Albee and the Bank. By incorporating these architectural and historic elements, the Applicant’s design proposal would “sensitively blend the old and new.” That the new construction would be setback from the 15th Street façade by 45 feet and designed with recesses on various floors to lessen the apparent mass of the new building helps to enhance the “historic fabric” of the neighborhood.
Preservation of the building façades of the Keith-Albee and the Bank was central to the architectural continuity contemplated by the Applicants’ proposed construction.
See Citizens Committee to Save Historic Rhodes Tavern v. D.C. Dep’t of Housing and Community Development , 432 A.2d 710 (D.C. 1981) for subsequent history.
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