|Photo by the author.|
|Detail of the adjoining townhouse, included in the historic landmark nomination (photo by the author).|
|1017 K Street in 2004 (Source: DC Property Information Verification System).|
|Col. Harrison Allen during the Civil War (Source: Library of Congress).|
After Allen's death, the inexorable process of change for 1017 K—and all of downtown Washington—slowly took shape. The wealthy began moving to the trendier, northwestern "suburban" neighborhoods of Dupont Circle and Kalorama and ultimately out of the city altogether. Many of the large buildings they left behind were subdivided for boarders or converted for commercial uses before eventually being torn down. A photo from the Library of Congress of a K Street row near 14th Street, circa 1915, shows the transition taking place: A large Department of Justice building rises between two elegant Second Empire houses, looking ready to push them out. They'd all be gone before long.
|Department of Justice Building on K Street c. 1915 (Source: Library of Congress).|
It's been many years now since 1017 K has been occupied by the Statehood Party or any other organization, despite its unique status as the last of its breed. Striking parallels can be drawn with a legendary historic preservation case from the past, the Rhodes Tavern at 15th and F Streets NW. In the late 1970s and early 1980s an extraordinary effort was mounted by concerned local preservationists to save the tavern, which had been built in 1801 and was a polling place in the first DC municipal elections held in 1802. There were many very good reasons to save that rare building, but one of the most compelling was that it was one of the last reminders we had left of the type of building that used to line Washington's central business district in the the city's earliest days. As Nelson Rimensnyder has pointed out, Washington's first building regulations, decreed by George Washington himself in 1791, specified that "the wall of no house be higher than forty feet to the roof" and that "the outer and party walls of all houses...be of brick or stone." The result was uniform rows of simple but elegant Federal-style townhouses along the city's few main thoroughfares, including Pennsylvania Avenue and F Street. The strategically located Rhodes Tavern, a prominent example of this type, witnessed every Presidential inauguration from Thomas Jefferson to Ronald Reagan. It was devastating when the fight to save the humble building ended in 1984 with its complete destruction. Not only was this particular jewel of early Washington gone, but all traces of the original building type specified by George Washington were lost forever from the inaugural parade route.
|Rhodes Tavern before its destruction (Source: Library of Congress).|