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Home Working with Section 106 ACHP Case Digest Summer 2005 District of Columbia: Renovation of the Old Patent Office Building
District of Columbia: Renovation of the Old Patent Office Building
Agency: Smithsonian Institution
In January 2005, the Secretary of the Interior transmitted a Section 213 report to the ACHP. Because of the importance of the Old Patent Office building, the ACHP chairman requested the Secretary of the Interior prepare such a report, which detailed 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.
In February 2005, the Smithsonian Institution informed the ACHP that the Secretary of the Interiors Section 213 report had not provided any new information or analysis, and that the Smithsonian planned to proceed with its plan to enclose the Old Patent Office buildings courtyard. That same month, the proposed projects consulting parties met to address the issues raised in the Secretarys report.
After the ACHP requested that the Smithsonian change its plan so that adverse effects would be reduced on the National Historic Landmark, the Smithsonian terminated the Section 106 review process.
The ACHP chairman appointed a panel of ACHP members to provide comments on the project. Following a public meeting conducted by the panel in April 2005, the ACHP found that the Smithsonian Institution had failed to consider or appreciate the architectural importance of the Old Patent Office Building before destroying the buildings historic courtyard and making plans to enclose it.
In a letter to Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lawrence M. Small, ACHP Chairman John L. Nau, III, recommended that the Smithsonian abandon its plans to enclose the courtyard and restore it to its historic appearance.
If the project continued despite that recommendation, the ACHP recommended modifying the current plan to develop a less-intrusive structure that did not overwhelm the historic building.
In his response to the ACHPs letter, Secretary Small said that his agency planned to continue with the project, and would seek final approval from the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC).
The ACHP also issued comments on the courtyard enclosure plan to NCPC, stating that the outcome of the ACHPs public meeting on the project and the Secretary of the Interiors Section 213 report constitute new information that NCPC should consider before it reviewed the Smithsonians final plans.
Based in part on the comments of the ACHP and the Secretary of the Interior, NCPC voted in June 2005 to deny final approval of the proposed canopy project. The Smithsonian is expected to redesign the canopy to address NCPCs concerns.
NCPC has recommended that the Smithsonians design alternatives be commensurate with the quality of the building and compatible with its fundamental character; that the character and use of the courtyard be recreated or restored to the extent feasible; and that the visual conflicts between a canopy and the buildings pediment and remaining courtyard elements be eliminated.
information on this case, see the fall 2004 ACHP Case Digest at www.achp.gov/casearchive/casesfall04DC2.html.
contact: Martha Catlin