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.
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