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Home Working with Section 106 ACHP Case Digest Fall 2004 District of Columbia: Renovation of the Old Patent Office Building
District of Columbia: Renovation of the Old Patent Office Building
Agency: Smithsonian Institution
Constructed between 1836 and 1867, the Old Patent Office in Washington, DC, is the largest of the early Federal buildings and intimately associated with the development of the early Republic and its architecture.
In addition to its many historic uses, the building is a part of the citys historic LEnfant Plan and is largely the work of Washington Monument architect Robert Mills and Capitol dome designer Thomas U. Walter.
View of the Old Patent Office Building courtyard, Washington, DC (photo: Timothy Bell Photography)
After being saved from demolition a century later, the building, which now houses the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American Art, is undergoing renovation. In 2003, Congress authorized the renovation and allowed for the possibility of enclosing the buildings courtyard.
In July 2004, the ACHP notified the Secretary of the Smithsonian that the ACHP would participate in Section 106 review of the effects of renovation on the historic character of the National Historic Landmark building.
That same month, the ACHP participated in a consultation meeting on the proposed project with the National Park Service, General Services Administration, DC State Historic Preservation Officer, National Capital Planning Commission, Commission of Fine Arts, Committee of 100 on the Federal City, and the DC Preservation League.
The enclosure will adversely affect the Old Patent Office. While the absence of the Roman dome is a distinguishing feature of Greek architecture, the Old Patent Offices proposed roof would add a dome-like form to the building known as one of the Nations foremost civic buildings of the Greek Revival period. At nighttime, the spill of light from the atrium could further affect the buildings historic appearance.
The Smithsonian has already largely installed the foundations for the columns that will support the new roof of the enclosed courtyard.
Section 213 of the National Historic Preservation Act allows the ACHP to request the Secretary of the Interior to assist the ACHP in discharging its responsibilities. Because of the importance of the Old Patent Office, the ACHP chairman has requested the Secretary of the Interior to prepare such a report, which will detail the significance of the historic property, the effects the proposed undertaking would have on the affected property, and the recommended measures to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects.
Staff contact: Martha
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