Most readers chimed in that the rowhouses should ideally be saved. One did offer this:
OK folks – to play devil’s advocate here, not EVERY historic building is worth saving or should be saved. The idea of historic preservation is to save representative examples of architecture styles from different periods for posterity so we can have an idea of what buildings once looked like. The idea is not to save EVERY building. These buildings, while nice, are represented in many other places in the city, and therefore they don’t have historic preservation status. Our neigbhorhood is not where historians are going to go for an architectural history lesson. That said, I’m glad there are SOME preserved buildings in the Triangle, and I’m much more interested in preserving the historic garages and stables than the victorian houses. Unfortunately, most of those were destroyed in the aftermath of the race riots.
What’s reader reaction to this comment? I appreciate the commenter’s willingness to play the devil’s advocate here. The part I would readily disagree with is the blanket rule that if there are other similar buildings elsewhere in the city then the buildings in your neighborhood do not need to be saved. That’s a useful test when debating whether a brutalist eyesore needs to be preserved. The brutalist buildings aren’t very old and almost everyone bleeds from the eyes when staring directly at them. On the flipside Victorians row houses are a celebrated style of architecture still popular among current residents after a hundred years. Preserving enclaves of them, such as the 500 block of I Street NW (just south of the Triangle), is worthwhile. It tells a story that “hey, downtown used to be like this” and it creates a more diverse urban fabric downtown.
I’m not a fan of blanket criteria when it comes to preservation but I understand why the criteria are structured that way. It’s an attempt to be objective rather than subjective and therefore more legally defensible. However, when it comes to the court of public opinion I think you can reject that blanket criteria without it meaning you want to “save EVERY building“.