March NCSHPO Tours
Posted on March 17th, 2023 by Elizabeth Nelson
On Tuesday March 7th, Beth Purcell and Joanna Kendig each led a group of historic preservation experts through Capitol Hill, sharing our research and our delight in living here.
The tours were adapted from earlier, longer tours offered in 2021.
CHRS has a long tradition of sharing our interest in Capitol Hill historic neighborhoods with our fellow citizens. We have been offering House Tours on Mother’s Day for 66 years. We often added outdoor, guided walking tours into the mix. We also offered tours highlighting neighborhoods within Capitol Hill – often outside of the Historic District, as part of our Beyond the Boundaries program. In Covid times, when sharing close quarters with others was not an option, we expanded our tour offerings, holding walking tours several times a year.
And now the word has spread. We were approached by organizers of the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers to take their conference attendees on tours near St. Mark’s Church, where their annual meeting were being held.
Beth took a group on an architecture tour centering on East Capitol Street. They learned about the L’Enfant Plan (street plan and large squares) and public parking. They saw alley dwellings in Miller’s Court, vernacular buildings at 324, and 406 – 410 East Capitol Street, along with fine examples of Italianate and Queen Anne styles adapted to rowhouse forms (including Italianates 512-516 East Capitol Street and Queen Anne houses by master builder Charles Gessford, at 638 -642 East Capitol Street). At 500 East Capitol Street, NE they saw the site of Mary’s Blue Room, a Second Empire house built in 1879, and demolished for a church parking lot in the 1970s, before the Capitol Hill Historic District was established. The tour finished with the Richardsonian Romanesque house at 1016 East Capitol Street, designed by John Granville Myers.
On the Parks & Infrastructure Tour, Joanna took the attendees back in time to the creation of Washington in the 1800s, by showcasing the development of a small section of the city between Marion and Garfield Parks. Tour stops included notable buildings: a historically Black church, three school buildings, and a story of a “ghost” hospital, long since demolished. All admired Square 735 with thirty two grand Queen Anne row houses built in the 1890s by developer John Waggman, followed by more houses completing the development a mere ten years later. A short walk further took the group to a one-block street, Duddington Place, with its story of development and ties to a family of original land-owners in what became Washington, DC. The tour ended overlooking the green lawns and kids playing in Garfield Park with a view to the highway and new apartment buildings to the south.
The tours were informative for the guides, also, as there was much lively conversation and “note swapping” on the challenges and rewards inherent in historic preservation.