Archive for the Downtown Category

Neon Traffic Indicators on 17th Street

Posted in Downtown, Neon with tags , on August 7, 2009 by Kent

Neon Traffic sign -- malfunction17th Street becomes a one way south street during the morning rush, and these neon signs are to remind drivers at intersections of that fact. This one has malfunctioned, and the arrow stays on. The signs are to flash between the arrow and the words “one way.” This sign is located between the Mayflower Hotel and the National Geographic Building.

You can get an idea of how they function from the photos below.
Neon Traffic sign
Neon Traffic sign

Then and Now: The Investment Building

Posted in Beaux Arts, Downtown, Then and Now with tags , , , on July 24, 2009 by Kent

Investment Building ca. 1925Investment Building

Then (left): The Investment Building ca. 1925. Now (right): The same location today.

The Investment Building was scheduled for occupancy on July 1, 1924. Situated on the northwest corner of 15th and K Streets, NW, the building was designed by Washington’s premiere Beaux-Arts architect, Jules Henri de Sibour.

According to the Washington Post of the time, it was considered to be in the Italian renaissance style with the entire frontage finished in limestone. The facades were broken up with fluted ionic columns, the bays emphasized by spiral cut stone and rusticated quoins.

Many novel and interesting features were included in the Investment Building, chief among them the provision for parking in the basement. The Post claimed the building was the first office structure in the East to adopt this feature with parking for 200 automobiles. Other modern conveniences included six high-speed elevators, with express service for the upper floors of the eleven story building. There was also a separate freight elevator.

A public information bureau was also installed in the main lobby which furnished data regarding trains, theaters, hotels, current events, etc., to the general public. This was unique to the Investment building in 1924.

Fast forwarding to 1999, with the exception of the southern and eastern facades, the entire building was razed and replaced by Cesar Pelli. The new Investment Building opened in the fall of 2000. Some consider the new interior space among the best in the city. The upper floors are currently occupied by Sidley Austin LLP.
Investment Building(Image from March 9, 1924, Washington Post)

Fresh Fish

Posted in Downtown, Neon with tags , on July 24, 2009 by Kent

This neon fish is in the window of McCormick & Schmick’s on K Street, near the intersection of 17th Street, NW.
Fresh Fish

Sculptures at National Geographic Society

Posted in Downtown, Sculpture with tags , on July 14, 2009 by Kent

I was meeting a friend at the National Geographic Society the other day, and its the first time I’ve ever been in there courtyard. I was surprised to find large sculptures of insects there. Here are two that I saw.
Praying Mantis

Lost Washington: the Trans-Lux Theater

Posted in Art Deco, Downtown, Lost Washington, Theaters with tags , , , on July 9, 2009 by Kent

Trans-Lux theaterThe Trans-Lux was once located on the west side of 14th Street, NW, between New York Avenue and H Street. The Trans-Lux was designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb in 1936.  The theater opened on March 13, 1937.

One of Washington’s most elegant art deco buildings, the streamlined theater was designed to show exclusively the latest newsreels from all corners of the globe together with an assortment of shorts, comedies, and travelogs.

The theater had many features unique for its day in Washington — well-spaced seats, indirect lighting, rear screen projection, wall-to-wall carpeting, sound-absorbent walls, and one of the first air-conditioning systems in a public building in the city.

Efforts were made to save the Trans-Lux but they proved futile. In the end, Washington preservationists lost as the parking-lot firm PMI razed it in 1975.Trans-Lux demolition 1Trans-Lux demolition 2

Uneven Pavement

Posted in Downtown, Random Observations with tags , , , on July 9, 2009 by Kent

Really, nothing more than a sign I liked. It looks like the work on K Streets going to involve a certain amount of repaving.Uneven Pavement

David Bakalar’s Renaissance

Posted in Downtown, Sculpture with tags , on July 7, 2009 by Kent

This sculpture is in front of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) 12th street entrance and is titled Renaissance by David Bakalar. If I read the AAAS Web site correctly, the sculpture dates to 2000 or a little before. The Web site also states that Bakalar sculptures can be seen at M.I.T., Harvard, Brandeis, Columbia Law School and other universities, as well as at the Marine Biology Laboratories at Woods Hole, the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston, and the Nike Corporate Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.Bakalar Renaissance

Lost Washington: the McLean House

Posted in Downtown, Lost Washington with tags , , on July 2, 2009 by Kent

McLean House
The McLean House, located at 1500 Eye Street, NW, was perhaps the most opulent of the many great houses erected in Washington at the turn of the century. A Renaissance-inspired structure, the house covered one-third of a city block on the south side of McPherson Square.

The mansion incorporated the original house on the southwest corner of 15th and Eye Streets that was built in 1860 by Jonah Hoover. From 1865 to 1869, the house was occupied by Senator Edwin D. Morgan, a wealthy stockbroker and wholesale grocery merchant.

The house was leased by John Roll McLean — who purchased it several years later — in 1884. Subsequently, the home was enlarged in 1886, 1891, 1894, and 1896. McLean was the only son of Washington McLean, who started as a boilermaker in Ohio and made a fortune as a manufacturer of Ohio River steamboats.

McLean House, music room from staircaseThe younger McLean got his start at his father’s paper, the Cincinnati Enquirer, taking charge when the family moved to Washington. In 1905, McLean purchased the Washington Post, which deteriorated under his leadership.

In his personal life, McLean liked to entertain on a grand scale. To this end, he commission John Russell Pope to expand the house (which he’d already added on to four times) into a block-long Renaissance in-town villa in 1907. For the interior decoration, the leading New York designer Elsie de Wolfe was engaged.

Upon John’s death in 1916, the house passed to his son Edward. Edward, a known alcoholic, had married Evalyn Walsh. Edward spent his last days in a Maryland sanitarium, where he died in 1941.

Evalyn Walsh McLean leased the house to the federal government in 1935 for use as office space for three of the New Deal agencies. In 1939, it was sold for $2 million and demolished for the  Lafayette Office Building.McLean House, staircase detailMcLean House, music room looking toward ballroomMcLean House, view of dining room showing mantel & cupboardMcLean House, view of ballroom showing fireplace and four tapestries

Penang Closed

Posted in Downtown, Dupont Circle, Restaurants with tags , , on July 2, 2009 by Kent

PenangI noticed yesterday morning that Penang was closed. It’s not someplace that I’ve eaten at a lot since its a little out of the way for me as I work on 18th and K and its on 19th and M. Still, I like the option.

In looking at the permits on the door, it looks like its mostly just a major redo. So, I’m curious how long it will take to repair floors and freshen it up so that the doors can reopen.Penang Closed

Lost Washington: Wisteria House

Posted in Downtown, Lost Washington with tags , on June 30, 2009 by Kent

Wisteria House ca. 1920Once located on the northwest corner of Massachusetts Avenue and 11th Street, NW, the Wisteria House was built during the Civil War (ca. 1863) for hardware merchant William Thomas. Thomas added a two story portico in 1869. The Wisteria was brought to Washington from China and was a gift to Thomas by a naval officer.

In 1878, Thomas moved to Saint Louis. The new owner was Gustavus Ricker, a businessman with investments in marble, iron, and railroads. Ricker removed the original gable roof and added a third story with a flat roof in 1882.

Upon Ricker’s death, his widow continued to live in the home until her death in 1922. The house was razed in 1924 to make way for the Wisteria Mansions Apartments.Wisteria House detail