Pennsylvania Avenue joins list of endangered spaces
BY Associated Press
Thursday, October 04, 2012
10/04/12 at 4:29 AM
WASHINGTON (AP) - Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue, sometimes called "America's Main Street," is being listed among the nation's endangered landscapes because of neglect and deferred maintenance by the National Park Service.
The grand avenue connecting the Capitol and White House is slowly falling into disrepair, the nonprofit Cultural Landscape Foundation told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Water fountains rarely function, benches are broken and some trees have been removed.
In the 1960s, President John F. Kennedy called for a revitalization of Pennsylvania Avenue. Improvements included the creation of small parks designed by top landscape architects, including M. Paul Friedberg and Carol Johnson. But they haven't been maintained.
"There really is this kind of very slow downward spiral that is happening," said Charles Birnbaum, the group's founding president.
Except for part of the road that was redesigned as a pedestrian plaza in 2004 for security in front of the White House, "the lion's share of the 1.2-mile stretch hasn't been renewed," Birnbaum said.
National Mall Superintendent Robert Vogel said in an emailed statement that the park service is working on ways to preserve and restore Pennsylvania Avenue, though he did not elaborate.
"We welcome the interest and support of the Cultural Landscape Foundation and the attention they can bring to this effort," he said.
The Washington-based foundation, created in 1998, aims to educate people about historic landscapes through training programs, partnering with local groups and publicity for at-risk spaces. It has a track record of saving threatened landscapes by raising awareness with its annual Landslide listing.
Eleven other sites are being added to the group's Landslide 2012 list, which will be announced Thursday at an event with New York's Central Park Conservancy. They include Los Angeles' Hannah Carter Japanese Garden, Nasher Sculpture Garden in Dallas and New York's Jones Beach, a public beach and park designed by Robert Moses in the 1920s that continues to draw 6 million to 8 million visitors each year.
This year's list also honors the patrons who helped create such notable spaces. For Washington, it was the federal Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp., which funded improvements but disbanded in the 1990s.
"Back in the old days, great buildings, great landscapes, great art collections were the result of great patronage," Birnbaum said. But this year's listings are "dying a quiet death because of deferred maintenance and neglect."
The historic corridor may see new development, though, as Donald Trump recently won rights to redevelop Washington's Old Post Office into a luxury hotel. Birnbaum said such big investors on the avenue could add pressure to change the design.
Original Print Headline: Pennsylvania Ave. joins nation's list of endangered spaces
Tourists on Segways pass dilapidated benches and fencing blocking a heating grate at John Marshall Park on Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington. JACQUELYN MARTIN/Associated Press