HPO: Proceed With Caution in Historic Designation of Kingman Park

by Nena Perry-Brown

HPO: Proceed With Caution in Historic Designation of Kingman Park: Figure 1
Kingman Park

While the pending application to add DC's Kingman Park neighborhood to the disproportionately-long list of historically-designated districts or sites in DC has been mired in controversy, the debate may be nearing an end as the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) is given the opportunity to either approve or deny the application.

And the staff of the Historic Preservation Office (HPO) has issued its recommendations for how the Board should vote: proceed with caution.

Two years ago, the Kingman Park Civic Association, a body established in 1928 that has since lost recognition by the city, applied to have the neighborhood designated as a historic district. The application cites boundaries of East Capitol Street, 19th and M Streets NE, Maryland Avenue NE and the Anacostia River.

The application stakes its claim as to the neighborhood's merit based on Kingman Park's emergence as a thriving historically-Black area settled due to restrictive covenants prevalent throughout the city in the early 20th century. Early Black residents established services, the future Phelps-Spingarn school campus, and Langston Golf Course, while the government also erected the Langston Terrace Dwellings, all of which created a "separate but equal" neighborhood.

The HPO report states that this historical narrative meets both the city's and the National Register's criteria by being associated “with historical periods, social
movements, groups, institutions, achievements, or patterns of growth and change that contributed significantly to the heritage, culture or development of the District of Columbia or the nation." The neighborhood also contains properties which “embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable
entity whose components may lack individual distinction.”

However, HPO staff recommends that the boundaries be shrunk to only encompass the historic nucleus, with the original Kingman Park subdivisions, Langston Terrace, the golf course and the school. Staff also recommends that the Board consider all of the letters added to the record both for and against the designation, as well as the ANCs' positions on the matter. ANC 6A voted against the designation and ANC 7D took no position, although both cited a lack of adequate communication as part of their letters.

HPO recommends that the Board request that the nomination form be revised in light of the altered boundary, that an inventory of contributing and non-contributing sites be included, and that HPO draft design guidelines for the district, while encouraging further dialogue between the applicant and the ANCs involved. 

The HPRB is scheduled to consider the application on January 25th.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/hpo-recommends-restricting-boundaries-caution-in-historic-designation-of-ki/13452

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