If you cracked open the New York Times op-ed page this morning, you would have found a rare and welcome sight: Discussion of a local historic site, Fort Stevens, where President Abraham Lincoln came out to observe a battle in 1864 (the Confederate forces were repelled, and Lincoln came out unscathed).
The point of the column’s placement on this coveted journalistic real estate, though, was less clear. Columnist Maureen Dowd—who now lives in Georgetown—grew up a few blocks away from the site, and she starts out reminiscing about how her brother smoked his first cigarette there as a kid. Recently, she toured the site with the Civil War Preservation Trust, which is worried that a new five-story, mixed-use building next to the historic Emory Methodist Church will obscure views to the East.
That potential problem has been extensively hashed out with the Historic Preservation Office, and discussed before the Board of Zoning Adjustment, which granted several variances for the project’s height and density back in February. Emory made concessions in its design to the battlefield’s historic nature, and will be incorporating an interpretive center into the facility, which includes 67 units of senior housing, 19 units of affordable rental housing, and 24 units of transitional housing for families—all in all, an exciting project for that strip of Georgia Avenue. The Office of Planning is for it, the local ANC is for it, and it will allow more people to appreciate the place where Abraham Lincoln once stood.
Dowd gives Emory’s Pastor Joseph Daniels a chance to say his piece about the project. But then, she disregards all those painstaking plans, and falls back onto a vague homage to the War and its significance.
“Still, in a day and age when people don’t remember what happened last year, we’ve got to be careful to protect our history,” she writes, before throwing out a few tidbits about the engagement. “Afterward, General Early drawled that he may not have taken Washington from the Yankees, but ‘we’ve scared Abe Lincoln like hell,'” she finishes, with a quote taken from the National Park Service’s battle summary.
So, Dowd, since you grew up here and all, what do you think should happen to this site? Should the church be able to build its addition? Or should the view of the rising sun over the battlefield really not be obstructed? Did you actually forge an opinion after your jaunt around the park?
Or was this just a vehicle for indulging in nostalgia for a childhood long past?