If you travel on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE between the 11th Street Bridges and the Anacostia Metro station, you will see the below on the southeast side of the block bounded by Maple View Place SE and Morris Road SE: the now-shuttered Big K convenience store (which has a preschool and playground in the rear), an empty lot, and then four Victorian-style (sort of) homes. two of them are set far, far back from the road. All the homes are abandoned.
This is 2226, 2228, 2234, 2238 and 2252 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE.
Two of the homes are contributing properties to the Anacostia Historic District. Two are not, and neither is the ugly commercial building that used to house Big K.
An unnamed developer wanted to move to of the houses to an undisclosed location. The rest of the properties would be torn down and a six-story residential and retail building constructed.
The D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board unanimously denied the entire project. It said moving the two houses was not compatible with law governing the historic district. The Board called the six-story development incompatible with the historic district (even though the new Salvation Army headquarters across the street is five stories tall... six if you include mechanical penhouses and rooftop recreational facilities).
The Board said it might approve retaining the two houses if they were kept pretty much on site, just moved around on the block.
My take on this? Moving the houses even a few feet destroys their historic integrity. Period.
But so what? The houses are abandoned and falling apart. Within a few years, they will have been torched or fallen down or collapsed. No one is going to live in them, no one is going to renovate them, no one is going to make this residential again. No one famous has lived in the houses, there are hundreds of similar examples of such housing in the historic district, and the homes are neither good examples of Victorian architecture nor are they excellently constructed nor do they exhibit signs of unique construction or any other historic value of any kind. They just have the poor luck of being within the boundary of the district.
In the meantime, decent housing for the people of Anacostia is desperately needed. New retail in the area is desperately needed. The razing of these abandoned, decrepit homes is desperately needed so they don't become hangouts for drug dealers. Until they are gone, no one is going to redevelop the parking lot across the street, either.
At some point, historic preservation has to give way to human need.
It hasn't in Anacostia. And that's sad.