St. Elizabeths listed most-endangered site

St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast is the most endangered site in the District, according to the D.C. Preservation League’s 10th annual list of endangered places, which was released yesterday.

“As anyone knows, it takes a long time in D.C. for things to happen,” said Rebecca Miller, executive director of the group. “It takes telling people over and over.”

The federal government plans to build 4.5 million square feet of office space and parking on the hospital property for the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security, an action the group says will “virtually destroy the historic integrity” of the national landmark.

St. Elizabeths was founded by leading mental health reformer Dorothea Dix in 1855 as a treatment center for the mentally ill. There also is a Civil War cemetery on the hospital grounds.

Each year, nominations for the list of endangered places are submitted by concerned people and groups, then chosen by the league’s Board of Trustees.

Sites are selected based on the severity of the threat to the buildings and landscapes through demolition, neglect or alteration.

All the endangered places listed are in the District.

The sites on the 2006 list are the St. Elizabeths’ West Campus, the Armed Forces Retirement Home, the McMillan Reservoir sand-filtration site, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, three D.C. public schools, the World War I Memorial and the Walter Reed Army Medial Center.

A second list focuses on sites not immediately threatened but deemed worthy of attention.

“Not everything has to happen through” the Preservation League, Miss Miller said. “We more than welcome people in the community who say, ‘Hey, I love that place — I played there as a child.’

“The only way change is going to happen is at the grass-roots level.”

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