Wednesday, September 24, 2008
the campaign to save 1357 Good Hope
A development company has plans to demolish this building and replace it with a suburban-style office building. Fortunately, the community is beginning to rally around its preservation. The post below is excerpted and edited from a letter sent by the Historic Anacostia Block Association to the DC Preservation League enlisting their support.
This two-story brick structure, located on the northwest corner of the intersection of Good Hope Road and 14th Street SE, is among the oldest remaining commercial buildings on Good Hope Road, historically a prominent thoroughfare east of the Anacostia River. 1357 Good Hope Road is located directly adjacent to the existing historic district, and is a prominent physical reminder of the local commercial district, most of which has in the past half century been either demolished or replaced.
Anacostia is often called one of the city’s “most fragile” historic districts. Despite early efforts to preserve the unique character of the neighborhood by creating the historic district, the official boundaries fail to include many of the commercial structures along Good Hope Road. An aerial photograph from 1921 shows 1357 Good Hope Road as part of a streetscape filled with small-scale shops and buildings lining its few-block corridor, yet today is the only building of them still standing. Rather than allow demolition to further erase Anacostia’s fragile yet significant physical and architectural heritage – significant not for its grand facades or Corinthian columns but instead for its “working class” aesthetic that recalls the much more everyday history of our city – we have a chance to preserve this building for this and future generations.
Originally known as 157 Harrison Street, the building permit for 1357 Good Hope Road is dated December 14, 1906. Designed by S.C. Yates, a local architect residing just up the road at 317 Harrison Street, the corner building was built for Sarah A. Brady, who with her family lived at and operated a grocery store at the site for some time prior. Two earlier building permits show her as the owner of a frame store/dwelling at the same address, both for repairs to the store and a stable. Her application for a building permit for a brick structure at the site display the kind of permanence that Brady anticipated, and records show the Brady name (Brady & Son) associated with the store through the 1910s.
As it still stands, the building’s distinguishing architecture is evident in its tall pediment that wraps the eastern edge of the building, giving it a larger appearance than the interior reality. It is the last surviving example on this stretch of Anacostia's Good Hope corridor of the simple, utilitarian false front commercial building type. Although false-fronted buildings were popularized after the gold rush as a means of giving new main street commercial buildings out West the same appearance as those in the more-established East, the style was used in small towns elsewhere to create a more urban atmosphere. Houses possessing a false front tend to be along the main street, as was the case for 1357 Good Hope Road, where Sarah A. Brady lived above her store until her death in 1916. It is notable that the architect designed the false front for the side of the building flanking 14th Street (then Pierce Street). Although all of the buildings on the opposite side of the street have since been demolished, the building was once an integral part of the impression of urban commercial success that the corridor imparted.
We all know that Anacostia is in the midst of great change. It is incredibly important that our community preserve the aging and historic assets that remain, so that we are remembered and known not just for the great transformations to reinvent our streets, but also for the unique, newly-appreciated, and often undervalued history that although mostly hidden, is inescapably written into every remaining “Old Anacostia” building in our fair neighborhood.
Many of us moved to Anacostia for its village feel, its historic character, and its potential. Preserving 1357 Good Hope Road by specially designating it as a historic asset is no small issue. At stake is one of the last remaining reminders of a life and vitality that Anacostia so deserves to grasp again.
For information on how to get involved, please email me by clicking Here.
1903 map, showing original structure, courtesy of the Library of Congress map collections