City Paper Widget

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rosario School Nominated as Historic Building

The century-old building now housing the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School (1100 Harvard Street NW) may soon become a historic landmark.

The school as seen from Harvard Street
The Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street voted 4 - 1 to support the petition by Historic Washington Architecture, Inc., to DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) to have the building declared a landmark. The vote took place at the Design Review Committee's meeting of October 28.

Kent Boese, President of Historic Washington Architecture, Inc., appeared before ANC2B to make the request. Boese is also chair of ANC 1A/Columbia Heights.

Boese explained the building was designed in 1910 by Snowden Ashford, a noted Washington architect. Although a designer of many DC schools, Ashford's most well-known building may be the North Hall expansion of Eastern Market.

The school started operation in 1913 and was originally known as the Washington Normal School. Later, it was called the James Ormand Wilson Normal School, after the then-superintendent of DC schools. It was a whites-only school in segregated Washington, dedicated largely to teacher preparation.

The application for historic protection outlines the school's more recent history:
After sitting vacant for a period, the property was leased to the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School in 2001. At that time, the school was an abandoned shell with broken windows. So the school embarked on an $18 million renovation. Upon completion, the school moved into the building in 2004.
The DC government owns this property. However, the DC has decided charter schools are not subject to historic preservation rules to the same extent as schools run directly by the city. Boese explained this gave the school the freedom put on a new glass atrium at the front entrance of the building (see photo) without seeking HPRB approval.

If the school became a listed landmark, it would become more difficult to make  further changes to the appearance of the building. However, existing changes would remain.

The school is in ANC1B district 09. The Commissioner is James Turner. Turner sent a message to the committee asking for support for the application.

The Design Review Committee's recommendation will go to the full ANC1B for approval. Their next scheduled meeting is Thursday, November 7, at 7pm, at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets).

The application for historic landmark status is available as a 28-page .pdf file here.

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