“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
Boom times in Washington’s real estate market continued into the 2000s, providing numerous preservation opportunities, as it became economically advantageous to restore or adapt significant buildings. At the same time, development pressures increasingly threatened historic buildings and structures throughout the District, broadening DCPL’s focus to neighborhoods far from the city’s monumental core. In 2000, DCPL co-sponsored, along with HPO, a symposium titled New Directions for Historic Preservation, focused on making Washington’s preservation efforts more inclusive of neighborhood preservation concerns. Also that year, DCPL first established its presence on the internet at www.dcpreservation.org. In 2006, DCPL began online postings of its monthly e-Advocate newsletter, which quickly replaced the League’s print newsletter. These actions would be followed by DCPL’s embrace of social media, further enhancing the organization’s communications and connections to local communities.
In September 2002, DCPL’s first annual Row House Month made city residents aware of the historic value of row houses, informed them of economic incentives for owning a city home, and generated enthusiasm for preservation-friendly renovation/restoration. DCPL also sponsored a multi-faceted exploration of the legacy of Harry Wardman, one of Washington’s most prolific early 20th century builders, through a mobile exhibit on Wardman row houses, partially funded by a grant from the Humanities Council of Washington, DC.
Another focus in the 2000s was on the city’s many Mid-Century Modern properties, which were increasingly threatened with demolition or drastic alteration. DCPL sought to raise the level of appreciation for mid-twentieth century buildings, and to establish that modernism is of equal significance to earlier architectural styles. In 2006, DCPL presented an acclaimed, two-day symposium, DC Modern, followed by another two-day program, DC Modern: Washington INSIDE. Both sold-out programs, organized by former trustee Joan M. Brierton, brought together for the first time, architects, designers, property owners, and other interested participants to highlight the role of modernism in the shaping of post-World War II Washington.
DCPL kicked-off 2007 by celebrating DCPL’s 35-years of successes, with a sold-out anniversary fundraiser at the Willard Inter-Continental Hotel. The packed ballroom of 450 cheered when newly elected mayor Adrian Fenty proclaimed himself the “451st preservationist in the room.”
Nevertheless, DCPL’s efforts to protect modernist structures were met with mixed success. For example, in 2008, the DCPL-nominated National Permanent Building (1977) at 1775 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, was denied landmark status, despite a favorable report from HPO, because building owners had already begun destroying some of its character-defining elements. Additionally, as early as 1991, DCPL had co-sponsored, along with the Committee of 100, a landmark nomination for I.M. Pei’s Third Church of Christ, Scientist (1972) at 900 16th Street NW. The nomination of that iconic brutalist structure was widely supported by architectural historians and was approved by HPRB in 2007. Nevertheless, after much publicity, the building was demolished in 2014. DCPL subsequently administered a fund, created as partial mitigation for the destruction of the church, that supported preservation initiatives related to other modernist and/or religious structures. This fund has supported preservation projects at numerous properties, including the Tifereth Israel Congregation, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, the Washington National Cathedral, and the Kreeger Museum. In the years since, two additional grant funds have been established.