The “Palisades Recreation Center is significant under National Register criteria A, C, and D:
(A) Associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.
The construction of the Palisades Recreation Center was an important event in the development of the modern recreation system in the nation’s capital, and is representative of the public improvement programs of the Depression era.
(C) Embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction.
The Palisades Recreation Center is characteristic of the Colonial Revival style, and represents an artistic blending of architecture and landscape design by the National Park Service, Branch of Plans and Design.
(D) Have yielded or may be likely to yield, information important in history or prehistory. The Palisades Recreation Center property holds considerable potential for both prehistoric and historic archaeology.
Therefore, it is recommended this property is eligible for listing in the National Register.”
The fact that somebody can use these reasons to claim historical importance is mind-boggling. When historical importance is based on this much subjectivity, it certainly weakens the whole historical preservation mission. The fact that a division was created within the NPS to design recreation centers in the 1930′s does not constitute an important event, and the Colonial Revival style holds little artistic value. As for the final point D (above) – archeological importance!? So . . . the answer is to develop a large area that has been previously undisturbed? On the archeological issue, the assessment reads:
The site of the Palisades Recreation Center possesses a high level of potential for archaeological investigation, as determined by a preliminary archaeological survey of the property in 1984. Shovel test pits at that time located undisturbed soils on the site that contained both prehistoric and historic artifacts.19
Yes, this report went temporarily missing for the last few park developments, but evidence for the prehistory at the Palisades Park should be pretty well established at this point (unless you have carefully avoided using the internet for research).
According to sources that know more than I about the city’s intentions, the ten million dollars available this year might be jeopardized if the field house demolition approach is taken. As typical, the process for park improvements is being driven by developer concerns. The other recurring theme is how the DCHPO continues to have a negative impact on the Palisades Park. With ten million dollars to burn fast, the DCHPO process is something (apparently) to avoid. Perhaps the HPO does good work elsewhere in the city, but for the Palisades, I think we would be better off without their oversight.