Whose View Is It Anyway: Preserving The Point
Quick: Where can you find the best view of Washington?
If you're on the left side of an airplane weaving its way down the Potomac, you're in for a lovely, if fleeting, look at the capital. And the old Robert E. Lee mansion in Arlington National Cemetery certainly offers a majestic view of the monuments across the river. The roof of the Hay-Adams Hotel has its fans, and of course there's nothing quite like the scene from atop the Washington Monument.
But for my money -- hey, I'm turning into Larry King here -- the best view of the city can be had from The Point, the piece of parkland that juts out high above the Anacostia River on the grounds of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast.
Good luck getting in to see it, however. Until not that long ago, you could walk or drive onto the hospital grounds, pull up to The Point, and take in the stunning panorama over lunch on a bench that was perfectly positioned to give you the most gorgeous view. But homeland security hysteria has stolen The Point from the people, and the D.C. Preservation League, just out with its annual list of Most Endangered Places in Washington, has done well to put The Point and the hospital grounds front and center in its warning of what we are about to lose.
"This National Historic Landmark would remain closed to the public behind a double security barrier with limited or no access to The Point," the league writes. The federal government's plan to put 6.3 million square feet of offices and other facilities on the site "would destroy the historic significance of the campus." The feds' response to community outcry about losing access to this spectacular piece of parkland has been to propose a viewing platform 50 feet below the plateau where you get the best view.
The preservation league greets this measly offer like this: "So this will take an A+ view and take it to what, a C-?"
Security hysteria has stolen too much already from the city's residents and from tourists. The current headquarters of the Homeland Security department, near American University in upper Northwest, has no big security buffer; it's a well-protected Naval facility hard by the university and NBC's Washington studios, as well as a big apartment building. And everyone gets along just fine. So why does Homeland Security need to cordon off the entire St. E's campus? If they really need that kind of seclusion, there's plenty of federal land in Beltsville, Laurel or Arlington that could be used for that purpose.
Save The Point! Let people see the St. E's campus and think about how our attitudes toward the mentally ill have changed over the decades. Check out the extraordinary architecture of the original hospital buildings, the sense of grace and repose that was intended, as well as the neglect that followed in reality. And let people savor that view, so we can see the openness that was such an essential part of the plan for this city--and that is so very much in danger today.
(Tomorrow on the big blog: A look at some of the Preservation League's other ideas about what to save in Washington.)
By Marc Fisher |
June 5, 2007; 7:31 AM ET
Previous: The Shooter Prevails: Protecting Seung-Hui Cho's Privacy | Next: Preservation Overkill: Fighting for What's Already Lost
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: HAROLDAMAIO | June 5, 2007 9:21 AM
Posted by: SoMD | June 5, 2007 9:40 AM
Posted by: Shawn | June 5, 2007 9:56 AM
Posted by: Mark | June 5, 2007 10:59 AM
Posted by: kthhken | June 5, 2007 11:22 AM
Posted by: I Heart DC | June 5, 2007 11:39 AM
Posted by: I'm just Sayin'... | June 5, 2007 11:45 AM
Posted by: DCAustinite | June 5, 2007 11:51 AM
Posted by: WB | June 5, 2007 12:31 PM
Posted by: Karl | June 5, 2007 3:39 PM
Posted by: U Street | June 5, 2007 4:22 PM
Posted by: ugh | June 5, 2007 5:27 PM
Posted by: RL | June 5, 2007 6:09 PM
Posted by: Mark | June 5, 2007 7:54 PM
Posted by: Kalorama | June 5, 2007 8:21 PM
Posted by: Mark | June 5, 2007 9:27 PM
Posted by: Hillman | June 5, 2007 10:23 PM
Posted by: CEEAF | June 6, 2007 11:23 AM
Posted by: SoMD | June 6, 2007 2:31 PM
Posted by: John in Fort Worth TX | June 6, 2007 6:12 PM
Posted by: WB | June 6, 2007 7:47 PM
Posted by: you know who...... | June 6, 2007 8:41 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.