Washington, D.C. “Most Endangered Places” stand quietly in plain view. Often wedged between twinkling new buildings whose glass and steel facades deflect and detract one’s gaze, these patiently neglected, sometimes scarred, sites take notes for us on the city’s ongoing rapid transformation and provide us with a fading glimpse of a metropolis past. Other sites lie in wait, still far enough away from the bustle, still far enough from becoming a temptation for developers, yet still within eyeshot of the cranes, the steel beamed birds, temporary imports, that arrive overnight, stretching themselves high above the city at daybreak to start their new construction jobs.
Beginning in 1996, The D.C. Preservation League devised a list of ‘Most Endangered Places” to highlight the city’s “historically, culturally and architecturally significant places that may be threatened with ill-advised alteration or demolition through neglect or abandonment. While many properties have been saved, many others remain in peril.”
About a year ago, I became drawn to Southwest D.C., the smallest quadrant in the city. Tucked away from downtown, separated from other neighborhoods by a freeway, and dotted with a combination of Brutalist architecture, mid-century modern gems and lots of trees, it captured my attention because of the ongoing redevelopment that will, no doubt, morph its character again, one that underwent a radical change only a mere half century ago.
Below are photos of Benjamin Banneker Park, a circular park ringed with benches, perched atop a hill at the end of a long, mostly unused promenade. The park is included on the List of Most Endangered Places and overlooks the Potomac River and D.C.’s famous fish market. Lately, it watches the activity taking shape at the bottom of the hill, the riverfront’s transformation, where the cranes are busy at work.
The Carnegie Library will be showing artworks, including the photos above, from a mix of artists on D.C.’s changing landscape in its upcoming exhibit For the Record: Artfully Historic D.C. from April 22- May 27, 2015. For more information, see http://www.dcpreservation.org/for-the-record/
Tickets to the opening reception are available at: http://www.dchistory.org/events/for-the-record/