Historic Capital Review

Historic Capital: Preservation, Race, and Real Estate in Washington, D.C. by Cameron Logan

Reviewed by: Amber N. Wiley
Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum
Vol. 26, No. 1 (Spring 2019), pp. 94-96

Ann Pamela Cunningham and the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association; the creative restoration of Colonial Williamsburg; the demolition of Pennsylvania Station. These are some of the watershed moments in the history of historic preservation in the United States. What Cameron Logan offers in Historic Capital is not an alternative narrative, but a deeper context from which we can continue to interrogate the metanarrative of historic preservation in the United States.

Curiously, the roots of preservation in Washington are quite distinct from the patriotism and urge to construct and secure the stories of the nation’s forefathers underlying Mount Vernon and Williamsburg, in spite of the position of Washington, D.C., in the national imaginary. Instead, Washington preservation is historically grounded in the safeguarding of residential spaces in the city, both against opportunistic speculators in Georgetown and against the encroachment of the monumental core and the federal government into the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Logan provides the reader with case studies of some of Washington’s better-known and established neighborhoods, as well as areas that have recently undergone gentrification, like the U Street Corridor and LeDroit Park, in an effort to not only reveal the long history of historic preservation in Washington, but to integrate that story with arguments about the relationship between real estate, race, and historic preservation.

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