1115 Rhode Island Ave NW

I lived across the street from this spot for nearly a year in the basement of the squat apartment and never really gave it much thought. Then when I went to work at that place that pays me, I kept seeing the address pop up in various documents and really couldn’t place it in my head. Well bopping around in databases it popped up with a picture and now I know why I kept seeing the address, it’s part of the Historic American Buildings Survey (Survey number HABS DC-470).
Here’s my problem. There are over 900 locations in the District of Columbia in this survey. New York City, over 200. New York is bigger, older, and more f’ing populous why does the District have such a concentration of ‘historic’ buildings? Among the District’s buildings on the list are some notable and inarguably truly historic buildings, with an actual role in national history, and then, there are some plain Janes.

3 thoughts on “1115 Rhode Island Ave NW”

  1. We’re not talking about the National Register here. The only judgement someone has made, for inclusion in HABS, is that the building is worthy of documentation. A HABS entry does not mean that the building merits preservation or public attention of any kind.

    HABS (and its sister projects) do a lot of plain-jane recording. That means going out, taking pictures, maybe making measured drawings and, for exceptional structures, writing up a history.

    An plain old rowhouse might not mean a lot, but for researchers, a record of what DC rowhouses of a certain period looked like can be invaluable. I’ve used these records myself.

    HABS doesn’t blanket the country. They haven’t got the resources. Instead they tend to focus on particular projects. There are dozens of recent records for Chicago-area bridges, because a recent project addressed that subject. Back before the Panama Canal returned to Panamanian control, HABS/HAER embarked on a major effort to document the Canal Zone.

    So why so many entries for DC and so few for New York?

    I don’t know much about the NYC entries, but I do know that a lot of the DC records are just photos – one or two images of a building, taken over the course of a few years. It looks as if one of the HABS photographers got assigned to go out with a camera and take a lot of one-off photos.

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