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Church project threatens Ft. Stevens

A few weeks ago, it appeared that a meeting of minds between good people on each side would save the day for Ft. Stevens in Northwest Washington, D.C., the fortification that President Lincoln visited when Confederate forces advanced on the city.

A church that shares the city block with the small national park wants to build an addition with a five-story brick wall facing the park.

Supporters of the park say Emory United Methodist Church, built atop one of the berms of the fort, should be able to expand but they would like the new wing to incorporate the fort as a neighbor and not shut it out.

One proposal was for the church to build an addition that would offer visitor services-- information, coffee, light meals--on the first floor to the thousands who come to see Ft. Stevens and in turn make use of the park's extended green space.

The National Park Service, with jurisdiction over the fort, has been meeting with the church for several months at the urging of the D.C. planning office to try and find a compromise on the new construction. Park supporters, including the Civil War Round Table of the District of Columbia, have done their best to bring attention to the situation but last week, church officials walked away from the talks and say they will make no changes to the plans.

Tomorrow is the second and final hearing by the planning office's
Historic Preservation Review Board, and a decision is expected at that time. It doesn't look good for Ft. Stevens.

The Park Service was in a difficult position defending the integrity of the park, since it has mostly neglected it for decades. The tiny park with its earthen works and a couple of cannons has always deserved better treatment from the the Park Service. Now it is up to an agency of the government of the District of Columbia to make the call on what visitors to Ft. Stevens will experience as the nation observes the Sesquicentennial of the war.

By Linda Wheeler  |  February 22, 2010; 2:24 PM ET
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Thanks to you, Linda, for covering this.

We have not given up and hope tomorrow's outcome will go in favor of Ft. Stevens. Years of neglect don't sanction additional abuse.

The two, Fort Stevens and Emory Church, are forever linked by their shared history. The coming relocation of Walter Reed to Bethesda offers more opportunity to tell the story completely of the historic events that occurred in this area. The dream is that improved interpretation will draw visitors to enrich the neighborhood and bring a huge sense of pride to those who live there.

All that opportunity will be lost if we lose this round. We must insist that Emory and Fort Stevens not be divided or further degraded.

Thanks again!

Susan Claffey

Posted by: sclaffey | February 22, 2010 8:52 PM | Report abuse


Thanks for telling this important story. The 1864 Confederate attack on Washington, which focused on Ft. Stevens, could have changed the course of the Civil War. The city should not countenance this threat to its "Gettysburg."

Gail Stephens

Posted by: gailsteph | February 23, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

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