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Later, Adams Morgan. Good tidings to you, “Washington Heights Historic District.”
If you’ve never heard that Manhattan-esque moniker applied to Northwest D.C.’s most popular ethnically diverse party spot, it’s probably because it describes a neighborhood whose “period of significance [was] 1891 to 1950,” according to a research firm that recently compiled a historic-preservation report on the area. On Sept. 10, the city, responding to the firm’s recommendations and the lobbying of the Kalorama Citizens Association (KCA), smacked the historic label onto the land roughly bounded by Florida Avenue NW, the Washington Hilton, Columbia Road, and the 18th Street strip—-land that years ago held historic fixtures such as the Knickerbocker Theater, a Piggly Wiggly, various sightly berms, and the home of architect Waddy B. Wood (actual name).
Ann Hargrove, zoning and historic-preservation chair of the KCA, says her group wanted to protect the motley façades of the neighborhood against ugly or towering replacements. “They are quite a variety, architecturally,” she says, “and really nice.”
The designation has already clotheslined one business owner, Madam’s Organ’s Bill Duggan, who had planned to renovate the old DCCD building on 18th Street into a New Orleans–style bar/restaurant. Now he’s waiting for a November meeting of the city historic-preservation board to see if he can build or if he has to sell off tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of iron balconies.
“I think…certain neighbors thought it was another way they could interfere with liquor licenses,” says Duggan, noting that at a recent historic-review hearing, “the only thing historic in that room was the age of the people.”