Kirkbride Buildings Blog

January 10th, 2009

DHS Headquarters Plan Approved

Saint Elizabeths
The National Capital Planning Commission has approved plans for a new Department of Homeland Security headquarters on the abandoned West Campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital: Planning Agency Approves Homeland Security Complex. While getting Congress to pony up the necessary funds still remains an issue, I’ll wager they’ll be forthcoming eventually—even if it takes a little while given the current economic turmoil.

The bad news: as stated before, this development may affect the site’s national landmark status, and the campus will be off-limits to all but a few thousand government employees. The good news: Kirkbride preservation and reuse is part of the redevelopment plan. Even though it’s sad that the Kirk will be hidden behind multiple layers of security, it’s good to know that its odds for survival are favorable. I also think it’s remarkably fitting for the building to become part of the DHS’s headquarters. No, not because it’ll make an easy joke about the DHS being an insane asylum, but because it’s fortress-like facade will be in keeping with its use.

For some differing views on this development, see these two write ups on other blogs: A Dangerous Turn for St. Elizabeths (Preservation Nation) and St. E’s West Campus Wins Final OK (And Now, Anacostia).

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  1. WSH January 13, 2009, 10:18 am

    I like this quote:

    “Fifty-two of the 62 historic structures on the grounds would be renovated and used by the agency, including the Center Building, a red-brick structure in the Gothic-revival style that was designed by Thomas U. Walter, the architect responsible for the U.S. Capitol dome.”

    But I don’t like this one:

    “In the end, the approval of the St. Elizabeths master plan sets a terrible precedent for America’s National Historic Landmarks. These exceptional places are accorded special protection under federal law. In the case of St. Elizabeths, those protections were overlooked in favor of real estate considerations.”

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