NPR Highlights ambitious MVT preservation efforts

National Public Radio Headquarters (for the time being) sits across K Street from all the construction activity of the AAMC headquarters project. The endeavor of moving five historic structures on the site to make way for excavation has generated a great deal of curiousity and fascination. Robert Siegel and Melissa Block of All Things Considered hosted an informative 8 minute segment (audio | transcript) on the transformative project with sound bytes from Expert House Movers, DC Preservation Society, Douglas Development, architect Shalom Baranes, and Kebrab Tekla – a resident who sold the townhouse he lived in for 25 years to accommodate the site assemblage.

Expert House Movers move MVT buildings on wheels (Doriane Raiman/NPR)

Hat Tip: @pency87

My favorite excerpts from the transcript:

On one building having a history as a former brothel:

BLOCK: And in the middle of the block, there were a couple of faded Grand Dames built with when this was a thriving German immigrant neighborhood; three skinny Victorian-era row houses, and most recently one of them was known to be a brothel.

TYLER ANDERSON: I just told my guys, don’t touch anything.

BLOCK: I found Tyler Anderson outside that narrow three-story house. His company was reinforcing it so it could be moved without falling apart.

ANDERSON: There were saunas and whirlpools and walk-in showers, all on every floor. It was like oh, my God.

On whether moving the structures is worth the effort:

BLOCK: Still, it takes hours to move this small building 40 feet. I find crew member Kevin Kolb on a break and ask him, why bother? When he looks at this building, what does he see?

KEVIN KOLB: Brick is solid. It wears. It has age, you can see. It’s like an old man’s face. There are lines and wrinkles in it. But you know, you can power-wash that away and clean it. So, you know, it’s something that can be fixed – I think.

BLOCK: What’s really interesting is that it’s not just the façade of being preserved. They’re keeping most of the depth of these buildings to. And Rebecca Miller, with the D.C. Historic Preservation League, likes to see that.

REBECCA MILLER: Facade jobs kind of became rampant in Washington in the ’80s.

BLOCK: Facade jobs?

MILLER: Facade jobs, they describe them as facadetomies or facadectomies.

BLOCK: So if it’s done badly, it’s basically like a bad facelift – you can tell right away.

MILLER: You can tell right away, definitely. The facade just kind of sticks out in like a sore thumb, and you kind of think it looks strange. And it’s not good historic preservation.

On the impressiveness of moving entire buildings:

PAUL MILLSTEIN: This is amazing. Absolutely just amazing.

BLOCK: Meet Paul Millstein, the gung-ho head of construction at Douglas Development.

MILLSTEIN: I love it.


MILLSTEIN: It’s big toys to me. It’s the ultimate. You’re moving buildings. You know, people move a house, they move a table. We’re moving buildings. I mean, what could be more exciting? The whole concept is just amazing to me.

BLOCK: And a lot of them.

MILLSTEIN: And a lot of them, which makes it even better. Anybody could move one. We wanted to move a lot of them. So it makes it a lot of fun.

Kebrab Tekla, on selling his home to make way for this project:

BLOCK: Kebrab Tekla is an immigrant from Ethiopia. He lived on this block for 25 years, back when the neighborhood was a crime-ridden wasteland. Tekla was the last property owner to sell, and his house was demolished. But he did manage to save a bit of it.

TEKLA: You know, I saved some of my house bricks. So…


BLOCK: You did?

TEKLA: So I have contact with them every day.

: You saved some of the bricks.



TEKLA: It’s history. Because all my children born in this house. And my father, he died in this house. So it’s a lot of history on there, to me, to that house.

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    LStreeter says

    Seems like a waste of money – too bad, funds for the part of this project to move around these buildings around could have been better spent to assist those in the District who have so many needs. If there was something historic or unique, sure, but these structures are without distinction.

    One wonders what was demolished to make way for the current NPR building?