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Historic Capital

Preservation, Race, and Real Estate in Washington, D.C.

2017
Author:

Cameron Logan

Historic Capital

A chronicle of historic preservation’s profound impact on Washington, D.C., highlighting the major changes urban revitalization has made on American cities

Historic Capital shows how Washington, D.C.’s historic buildings and neighborhoods have been a site of contestation between local interests and the expansion of the federal government’s footprint. It ultimately makes the case that historic preservation has had as great an impact on the physical fabric of U.S. cities as any other private or public sector initiative in the twentieth century.

Cameron Logan presents a clear, convincing thesis—that historic preservation was a driver of urban development, politics and culture, not an afterthought or a sideline. His account is compelling and rich; it will appeal to urbanists, historians and preservationists alike. Critically, the history of preservation is framed not as insular matter—a progressive narrative of preservationist victories. He rightly presents preservation as part of the mix of urban movements (in urban design, poverty alleviation, community organizing, economic development) competing for political attention.

Randall Mason, University of Pennsylvania

Washington, D.C. has long been known as a frustrating and sometimes confusing city for its residents to call home. The monumental core of federal office buildings, museums, and the National Mall dominates the city’s surrounding neighborhoods and urban fabric. For much of the postwar era, Washingtonians battled to make the city their own, fighting the federal government over the basic question of home rule, the right of the city’s residents to govern their local affairs.

In Historic Capital, urban historian Cameron Logan examines how the historic preservation movement played an integral role in Washingtonians’ claiming the city as their own. Going back to the earliest days of the local historic preservation movement in the 1920s, Logan shows how Washington, D.C.’s historic buildings and neighborhoods have been a site of contestation between local interests and the expansion of the federal government’s footprint. He carefully analyzes the long history of fights over the right to name and define historic districts in Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and Capitol Hill and documents a series of high-profile conflicts surrounding the fate of Lafayette Square, Rhodes Tavern, and Capitol Park, SW before discussing D.C. today.

Diving deep into the racial fault lines of D.C., Historic Capital also explores how the historic preservation movement affected poor and African American residents in Anacostia and the U Street and Shaw neighborhoods and changed the social and cultural fabric of the nation’s capital. Broadening his inquiry to the United States as a whole, Logan ultimately makes the provocative and compelling case that historic preservation has had as great an impact on the physical fabric of U.S. cities as any other private or public sector initiative in the twentieth century.

Historic Capital

Cameron Logan is director of the postgraduate program in heritage conservation in the School of Architecture, Design, and Planning at the University of Sydney. He is an urban and architectural historian and explores how heritage conservation shapes cities.

Historic Capital

Cameron Logan presents a clear, convincing thesis—that historic preservation was a driver of urban development, politics and culture, not an afterthought or a sideline. His account is compelling and rich; it will appeal to urbanists, historians and preservationists alike. Critically, the history of preservation is framed not as insular matter—a progressive narrative of preservationist victories. He rightly presents preservation as part of the mix of urban movements (in urban design, poverty alleviation, community organizing, economic development) competing for political attention.

Randall Mason, University of Pennsylvania

Historic Capital

Introduction: From “Life Inside a Monument” to Living in Historic Neighborhoods
1. Value: Property, History, and Homeliness in Georgetown
2. Taste: Architectural Complexity and Social Diversity in the 1960s
3. The White House and Its Neighborhood: Federal City Making and Local Preservation, 1960–1975
4. Race and Resistance: Gentrification and the Critique of Historic Preservation
5. Whose Neighborhood? Whose History? Expanding Dupont Circle, 1975–1985
6. Rhodes Tavern and the Problem with Preservation in the 1980s
7. Modernist Urbanism as History: Preserving the Southwest Urban Renewal Area
Conclusion: Preservation, Profits, and Loss
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index