Save This Historic D.C. Home

I came across the following Facebook post on Friday and was horrified to see the following post about the beautiful home at 3400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. It’s just awful that the new owner wants to tear down this beautiful 1925 home. You can help stop this by signing this petition.

[vc_button title=”Sign the petition” target=”_self” color=”default” size=”size_large2″ href=”https://www.change.org/p/help-save-this-historic-d-c-home”]

We want to bring this to all GoDCers’ attention, because, as loyal local history fans, you should be outraged that this would happen. Not too long ago, the home was featured as the house of the week in The Washington Post. 

We need to have a unified voice that’s loud and clear, that we don’t want to lost important historic buildings like this. Please fill out this petition, send an email to the Historic Preservation Review Board ([email protected]), and contact your councilmember.

The raze application lists State Central Bank as the property owner and CAS Engineering as the contracting firm representing the owner, and Don Murphy Excavating as the contractor that will do the razing.

[vc_button title=”Sign the petition” target=”_self” color=”default” size=”size_large2″ href=”https://www.change.org/p/help-save-this-historic-d-c-home”]

Look at this interior photo and you’ll be even more sad that someone would think about knocking the home down.

- click image for more -
(Photo by HomeVisit) The living room has a cast stone fireplace with a chestnut mantel.
(Photo by HomeVisit) The living room has a cast stone fireplace with a chestnut mantel.

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • richardlayman

    I hope you realize a petition doesn’t do s**t. It’s totally worthless. In DC, building regulations are legal matters. There is a process by which the building could be saved. That’s what you have to follow. A petition doesn’t do it.

    If you want to save the building, you need to create and file a historic landmark nomination. It has to be filed within a certain period of time within the filing for the raze application. And then there is something like a 60 day period within which the nomination has to be reviewed and a decision made. Given the building’s association with a prominent local industrialist, there is a decent chance it could be approved. But there is no guarantee. And it is a lot of work to create and file a nomination.

    The recent case of 16 Grant Circle is a comparable example, although in my opinion, the building didn’t rise to the level of a landmark, and it wasn’t granted landmark status. However, this pushed the neighborhood to file an application to create a historic district for the circle, which was approved. however, timing issues mean that the 16 Grant Circle building isn’t protected as there was a raze application on file, comparable to the 3400 Mass. Ave. NW case.

    P.S. writing a blog on preservation related matters, you ought to bone up on the local law and regulation. cf. http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2011/08/preservation-laws-do-matter.html

    • Carin Ruff

      Cases like this point up the limitations of the tools available to preserve individual houses. As with Grant Circle, there’s no doubt that this house and its neighbors would collectively meet the standard for an historic district, if the energy, funds, and consensus were there for a nomination, but the house alone probably does not rise to the standard of an individual landmark. A case like this brings to people’s attention the often rather arbitrary division between designated historic districts and their non-designated neighbors. A petition will not save the house, but it may make people more aware of the landscape of designated vs. nondesignated space in the immediate vicinity of the Naval Observatory. (Relatedly, it seems like the Naval Observatory grounds are precisely the kind of federal space that Shipstead-Luce *should* protect with controls on adjacent properties, but Shipstead Luce doesn’t apply — presumably because the Observatory’s status as the VP’s home postdates Shipstead-Luce by 25+ years. There *is* a Naval Observatory zoning overlay, which limits the size of what can be built on this lot, but without any design review.)

      • richardlayman

        Interesting point about Shipstead-Luce, although it’s arguable that they’d decide against a demolition if it did apply. CFA’s members these days have a predilection for modernism. Interesting point though.

        wrt your point about “the petition” as an educating and precipitating event, I am not much a believer that loss of buildings somehow motivates people to be more engaged and active in their neighborhoods and pricked to become historic preservationists. Sure it happens to some people (in fact, people like me), but it’s not enough for the average person to get engaged.

        Because there are no “next steps,” plus probably a lot of petition signers may not even be local. Organizing is a tough slog.

        But in terms of “next steps/what can be done,” for a number of years I’ve been arguing for the need for mandatory design review and demolition protections across the city, regardless of whether or not a particular area is designated.

        In fact, had I been more thoughtful in my original response, I could have used this as but another opportunity to make this point, which I guess I will do going forward.

        • Carin Ruff

          If I thought a really good and interesting modernist building were going to end up on that spot, I’d be somewhat less depressed about the loss of this pretty house. (Cf. the Finnish Embassy.)

      • richardlayman

        Oh, I had a similar reaction to 16 Grant Circle. My first response when the nomination was filed was that it was a valiant effort, but that the building didn’t rise to the level of an individual landmark, and that the residents needed to create a historic district to have the necessary protections.

        Shockingly, they followed my advice and one of the households donated money to accelerate the preparation of a full blown nomination, which was submitted in February, and heard on an accelerated basis, and the Grant Circle Historic District was created just last month. (Although legally, it won’t take effect until early May, because there are required timing and posting requirements.)

        But from a timing standpoint, even though what they did is inspiring, it wasn’t quick enough to save that particular building. Although the creation of the historic district will trigger design review of the buildings to be constructed in its place.

  • Audrey Burtrum-Stanley

    This was a ‘stinging reply’ (from RICHARDLAYMAN) about how to HOPEFULLY save the structure but it was adsolutely, positively needed. I am glad you published it so others will not repeat this cycle. Wise RICHARD told the truth regarding the ‘Good Hearted Petitions’ which only help with informing the public; The bottomline is THE LAW. A National Register status will NOT save the house but will certainly make the shallow-new-owners look like *'(fill-in-the-space-yourself)’ if the wonderful structure is felled and replaced with some Modern McMansion squat’n amongst elegant examples of the District’s history and architecture!

    • richardlayman

      actually, in DC, with our strong laws (I am writing a blog entry about this for tomorrow, at http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com), if the building is designated a local landmark, in most circumstances it would be safe from demolition. Although it is possible, but very difficult, to demolish a historic building if the determination that there is extraordinary “special merit” that justifies demolition. However, economic hardship is not deemed a special merit justification.

  • midcityguy

    This
    house sits on a 17,000 SF lot, and is zoned R1B, which has a minimum
    lot size of 5,000 SF. So theoretically they could raze this property,
    subdivide the lot into 3 parcels and replace it with 3 houses.