“The Old 1899 Post Office is a massive bulwark of the city’s historic charm. Without it, all that frozen bureaucracy on Pennsylvania Avenue would become unbearably oppressive. Besides, it was there first.”
— Wolf Von Eckardt
After the grand reopening of the Old Post Office in 1984, the Board of Directors changed the group’s name to reflect a broader scope. Rather than focusing narrowly on opposition to planned demolitions, the new name, the DC Preservation League, reflected a more multi-faceted, proactive, and comprehensive approach that enlisted the collaboration of architects, engineers, urban planners, property owners, local officials, neighborhood and historic district interests, local residents, and the development community. “These initiatives,” wrote President Robert A. Peck (1983-1989) in the organization’s newsletter, “reflect a consensus of the Board of Directors that it is time for a change; that the District of Columbia needs a strong and sophisticated organization; and that the current structure of Don’t Tear It Down will not permit us to evolve into that organization.”
DCPL championed the preservation of many iconic downtown landmarks, such as the Colorado Building, Red Lion Row, and the Greyhound Bus Station. In one complex and challenging case, DCPL agreed not to object to the demolition of the historic Rhodes Tavern in return for saving major elements of two adjoining structures, the Keith-Albee (Riggs) Building and National Metropolitan Bank Building. This controversial, one-of-a-kind agreement was reached before the recently-passed DC Historic Landmark Act went into effect. Given today’s preservation protections, such an agreement would now be very unlikely.
In the meantime, DCPL’s successes continued and expanded beyond individual historic landmarks. Historic districts in Mount Pleasant, Sixteenth Street, Takoma, and Kalorama Triangle are among those established in the 1970s and 1980s. Thanks to Don’t Tear It Down/DCPL’s sponsorship of historic district nominations, many small neighborhood buildings continue to stand, symbols of the early development strengths that created them. In 1987, in conjunction with the Metropolitan Planning and Housing Association, DCPL initiated the Joint Project on Preserving Small Buildings Downtown. This led to a proposal for the creation of the Downtown Historic District. One important aspect of this effort was the zoning commission’s adoption of a new rule to allow for the transfer of development rights to sites outside of the new historic district.