Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hill's Old Naval Hospital Halfway to Rebirth


In June 1866, a 24-year-old African American seaman named Benjamin Drummond became the first patient to be treated at what was then the state-of-the-art Naval Hospital (more recently known as the Old Naval Hospital). Having escaped from a Confederate prison in Galveston, Texas, Drummond attempted to return to duty as a Union sailor, but complications from a gunshot wound suffered three years prior while serving in the Gulf of Mexico forced him to seek medical attention in Washington DC. Drummond was discharged in 1868 with a government pension. The Old Naval Hospital has served many purposes since it first served Drummond in the 19th century, but until recently the stately structure has sat lonely, abandoned, and slowly rotting. Now, after a festive groundbreaking in July, the historic landmark is roughly halfway to its completed $10 million renovation and highly anticipated reincarnation as the community-oriented Hill Center at 9th and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE.

In 2002 the locally-spawned Old Naval Hospital Foundation (ONHF) submitted a comprehensive plan for the property's renovation and reuse as an "educational center for children and adults and a gathering place for community residents" to the city. After earning the endorsement of the Historic Preservation Review Board in 2009, and following the culmination of several years of securing federal grants ($5.5 million of District funds, and $2 million from the federal government), the ONHF is currently moving swiftly forward with plans to open the Hill Center by next summer.

David Bell of Bell Architects PC, a local firm specializing in historic preservation and adaptive reuse projects, helped draw up design plans for the renovation, and continues to work closely with the Foundation. Rosemary Freeman, handling public affairs for the Foundation, explained that her community and the ONHF wishes to "blend the old with the new, so to leave this historic property to our children and future citizens, as well as save lots of energy dollars going forward." In tandem with the development team and architects, the community endeavored to these ends, ensuring that several "nifty, environmentally sustainable, energy-efficient components" were included in the design plans. Two of those gadgets were recently installed, as 32 150-feet-deep geothermal heating wells are nearing completion, and an energy saving machine-room-less elevator was recently shafted into the structure. "We feel it is a model for historic renovations using 'green' technologies," Freeman boasts. Architect Bell believes the geothermal wells to be the "first ground source heat pump of this scale in an historic building in Washington DC."

The Center will offer nine fourth-floor offices, rented to local non-profits hungry for affordable operating space. The rest of the building will offer classrooms and multipurpose meeting spaces (one room will hold 100 people) for "activities, learning, meetings, lectures, classes, exhibits, performances, and civic and social functions for people of all ages and interests." Once the doors are reopened, visitors can expect "drawing and painting, music, parenting, creative writing, cooking and more." A portion of the building will serve to commemorate the proud history of the Naval Hospital, and the Carriage House will be transformed into a "family-friendly cafe." The Foundation is leading mid-construction tours this afternoon for savvy journalist-types to show off their achievements.


Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a pipe dream... The Hill Center will never operate without massive subsidy from the DC government. They should have sold it to the highest bidder. Since it's already a designated landmark however bought would have had to restore it.

Anonymous said...

Maybe becuase it's already a designated landmark, developers would be slow to purchase and restore it?

 

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