The View From Tudor Place

-Readers of The Georgetowner’s October 6 issue were presented with a summary of the ANC meeting including the Tudor Place Resolution in the GT Observer section and a letter by Neighbors of Tudor Place. As President of the Board of the Tudor Place Foundation, I want to address misconceptions presented in the latter.

Following proper preservation practice, in 2004 we invited proposals from two local architects, one currently a member of the Citizens Association of Georgetown’s Historic Preservation Committee and the Neighbors of Tudor Place, and selected one to lead a team of highly regarded experts to draft a preservation plan. They rigorously assessed the needs of the property’s historic resources. Then, with something concrete to discuss, we openly and in good faith engaged in public dialogue with neighbors and other stakeholders. Since January 2010, we have held nine meetings, five of them with a working
group of Neighbors of Tudor Place. We carefully considered all concerns and options presented, answering each one after extensive deliberation (and considerable expense), and made significant changes to the plan. To cite one, the proposed alterations to archives and collections storage adds $800,000 to the original $2 million estimate, hardly what we consider “a minor adjustment.”

The last private owner of Tudor Place, Armistead Peter III, granted to the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1966 “for the benefit of the United States of America [and] for the inspiration of the people.” As successors to Mr. Peter’s easement and his will, we take his mandates seriously. In the easement, Mr. Peter forbade any new construction that would “interfere with … the view of the main house from Q Street, or the view from the main house toward Q Street.” No one need fear that “what was once glorious open space will now feature imposing buildings.”

Mr. Peter also wisely foresaw the need for supplementary facilities, including “a greenhouse, a gatehouse or administration building, additions to the garage … in order to increase its storage capacity,” and other structures “necessary for making its historic values more easily or adequately
appreciated.” The National Park Service is responsible for ensuring provisions of the easement
are maintained, and we have consulted with them throughout this project.

The four new structures provided for in the easement are the same as those mentioned in the Citizens Association’s column, although there the Gatehouse has become “a large visitor’s center” and the storage facility “an extensive addition to the existing garage.” In reality, the Gatehouse will have a footprint of only 1,040 square feet, far smaller than any house fronting either side of the long 1600 block of 31st Street. The gatehouse will “stretch” all of 25 feet within Tudor Place’s 645-foot frontage on that block. What the Gatehouse will accomplish belies its small size. It will provide security, ticket sales, a gift shop and visitor toilets.

Neighbors acknowledge that the “obscenely large” addition to the 1914 garage has “now been reduced to a very large addition.” The length of this proposed fireproof and climate-controlled archive and collections repository will be reduced far more substantially than they imply, from 49 feet to 25 feet, and will be 95 feet from houses on 32nd Street. Additionally, Tudor Place will lower the addition to one story (east side) above grade (due to the slope, two stories west side) by building three stories underground.

The greenhouse has been reduced in size and height. It will be at least 125 feet from houses facing 32nd Street. “The large one-story education center [that] is still proposed a short distance from neighbors’ properties” will actually be farther from the properties than the existing garage, which will be demolished. A vegetative screen and fencing will be installed, and access to the rear yards of neighbor properties permitted.

Because the Board of Trustees takes our mission and our concern for neighbors seriously, we have made conscientious efforts to be transparent in our presentations and will continue to do so. Our planning process has been no secret; we have written and talked about it since 2004. We have offered open forums at Tudor Place on Oct. 14 and again on Oct. 20 to review what is proposed. To sign up, or if there are concerns or inquiries, we encourage you to call 202-965-0400, ext. 100. We want everyone to know not only where and what we plan to build, but why we must.

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