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Misplaced Park View: The Georgia Theater

A Georgia Avenue theater's historic facade has been absent and in storage since 2007, but a signed agreement with a developer calls for rebuilding and returning it to the avenue in the future.

Left: Façade of the Georgia Theater from original blueprints. Right: Former Georgia Theater shortly before it was demolished. Images courtesy of Peter Sefton.

The Georgia Theater was built in 1912 and at the time it was dismantled was Washington's oldest surviving theater after the Minnehaha, which today houses Ben's Chili Bowl. It was designed by B. Frank Myers and was part of a one story brick strip that contained three stores and the theater valued at $7,000 to build.

In October 1917 it was renamed Park View, but soon afterward became a store and eventually an auto repair shop.

In 2005, the D.C. Preservation League (DCPL) Landmarks committee was advised that the theater building had been sold, but that its historic features would be incorporated into a condominium project. Yet, in 2007 a demolition permit application had been filed. At that point the Georgia had seen better days. A truck had rebounded from a collision earlier that spring damaging the corner of the building and causing the developer to opt for demolition rather that incorporating the theater into the project.

Georgia Avenue today.

DCPL negotiated an agreement in 2007 with the developer to "carefully dismantle the façade of the building and move it to a secure location for storage during construction. Before dismantling, it [was to] be documented through measured drawings and/or photographs sufficient to accurately reconstruct it. Elements of the façade to be restored for reinstallation include[d] the sign; the brick piers, front wall, and parapet; and the metal frieze, cornice, coping and all decorative elements. In addition, the missing finials, seen in the original permit drawings [were to] be reinstalled in cast stone or a similar material. All materials removed [were to] be repaired and reused, not replaced."

As 2010 began the new structure appeared to be complete with the exception of the façade. Should the community fight to have this historically significant façade returned to Georgia Avenue? What do you think?

Kent Boese posts items of historic interest primarily within the District. He's worked in libraries since 1994, both federal and law, and currently works on K Street. He's been an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner serving the northern Columbia Heights and Park View neighborhoods since 2011 (ANC 1A), and is the force behind the blog Park View, D.C.


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It sounds like its a contractual obligation to have the facade installed. Therefore it should be installed. The new builing is plain and ugly, but I am not sure how that original facade would meld with what exists today. Sounds like the developer sold the preservation league out. The developer should be forced to make good on his agreement.

by dano on Mar 2, 2010 4:09 pm • linkreport

This is a good example of why so often preservationists are unwilling to forge agreements that rely on people/organizations carrying out their promises after the fact. For example, for the 3rd Church of Christ Scientist ... I feel that Tregoning's ruling was Salomonic ... She insisted that the church apply for a building permit for the replacement building on the site before allowing a raze permit for the current structure. While many preservationists might have preferred no options for a raze permit in the first place, at least the ruling didn't rely on 'trust' to as much of an extent an many rulings do.

And it's unfortunate that preservationists are often forced into an 'all or nothing' stance ... because they can't rely on enforcement of agreements after the fact.

by Lance on Mar 2, 2010 4:18 pm • linkreport

Good Gravy, that is an ugly building. It's hard to imagine making it worse, but I agree that the facade may not work well with it (y'know what would? A wrecking ball). It may be a better use of resources to repurpose the facade elsewhere and make other streetscape improvements on the developers dime. And there should be a punitive element - all the work they do should cost more than what they would have had they lived up to the agreement - lest we create a moral hazard. But I doubt that will happen.

by David C on Mar 2, 2010 4:47 pm • linkreport


and it actually is a word despite what spellcheck in WORD thinks ... ;)

by Lance on Mar 2, 2010 5:36 pm • linkreport

how about a punitive element for such an ugly building? I thought these deisgns had to be reviewed by some committiee? Not that I'm always for that -art (and architechture) by committee will almost always produce something mundane and banal if not ugly - this thing is ugly though.

by Bianchi on Mar 2, 2010 5:36 pm • linkreport

The building wouldn't looks so bad in a block of typical mid-century mid-rises, like you'd find in much of NW DC. By itself, it just looks ridiculous.

by Rich on Mar 2, 2010 8:42 pm • linkreport

It looks like they tried to pull off a cubistic scheme with the paint job in a two tone, but swing and a miss. The real shame of the building is the way it addresses the street. WTF? Maybe there would be some standards if they made Georgia Avenue a historic district, but not enough cash in the hood for that.

I agree with Lance. The historic people need some real teeth. Nothing's going to make this a nice building, so stick it to them and have them re-build the facade.
Tough cookies!

by Thayer-D on Mar 3, 2010 6:46 am • linkreport

The building wasn't a designated landmark, so it was outside of DC's preservation law and regs. This is what happens when you leave preservation to private parties: dueling lawyers and failed agreements.

by crin on Mar 3, 2010 9:27 am • linkreport

You cant save everything. There was no love in this buildings design.

by othello on Mar 3, 2010 10:34 am • linkreport

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