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Park View Playground designated a historic landmark

Park View field house

Park View Playground and field house

The Historic Preservation Review Board recently voted unanimously to designate the Park View Playground a historic site and to forward its nomination for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The property is notable for its significant role in integrating playgrounds in D.C. and for its Albert Harris-designed field house.

According to Kent Boese, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 1A08, the landmark designation will preserve green spaces, ensure that the site will always serve the recreational needs of children, and protect the field house, a Colonial Revival design with Tudor Revival-style elements. But, most importantly, Boese says, it starts a conversation about the site's unique history.

Park View, like other District playgrounds, had been racially segregated. In 1947, it was among the first D.C. playgrounds to be considered for integration, and it was opened to all children in 1952, two years before the integration of all D.C. playgrounds. The Park View community's five-year struggle for an integrated playground was reported nationally, extending the conversation about race and segregation, according to the NRHP application.

Sometimes people assume that the drive to designate something as historical is a form of NIMBYism, says Boese. "But preservation never really stops development, it just changes the conversation.  People like to be grounded and know the importance of where they are."

Boese, the application's author, has been communicating with the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation about developing a marker and an informational board for the site. Being next to the Park View School, the playground becomes an important educational component, he says.

The school, which was built in 1916, was designated for the National Register of Historic Places in May 2013. Harris, a municipal architect, designed the school's 1931 additions as well as the field house, one of only five remaining.

Located on Warder Street between Otis and Princeton Places, NW, Park View was established as a permanent playground in 1921, and improved in 1932 with a 1-1/2 story field house, a wading pool, and a tennis court. Facing the school to the south, the playground was considered an extension of that property. 

The field house currently needs renovations. Boese says that he went to the D.C. Council prior to the PRB hearing and that $400,000 was earmarked for its renovation in FY '14. 
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