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Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C. joins list of at-risk landscapes

October 04, 2012|By Richard Simon
  • Pennsylvania Avenue NW leads toward the Capitol as seen from the Old Post Office Tower in Washington.
Pennsylvania Avenue NW leads toward the Capitol as seen from the Old Post… (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated…)

WASHINGTON-- Add Pennsylvania Avenue, the president’s street, to the list of America’s troubled spots.

The famed street between the U.S Capitol and the White House has "fallen into disrepair,’’ according to the Cultural Landscape Foundation, which placed the avenue on its list of a dozen threatened landscapes around the country.

Benches are falling apart, trees have been cut down, water fountains often don’t work, and "unsightly security planters’’ litter the avenue, according to the group dedicated to raising awareness of important landscapes.

PHOTOS: Endangered historic places

The poor report card on the avenue, the route of the inaugural parade and designated a national historic site in 1965, is the latest blow to the nation’s capital.

Budget cuts have delayed repairs of 1,300 cracks in the Capitol dome. A thick layer of green algae in the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial after a $34-million renovation project has forced the National Park Service to drain the site. And the Washington Monument will remain closed for at least a year for earthquake repairs.

National Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson said of the criticism of Pennsylvania Avenue,  "We know that this is an important historical corridor that needs some work, and are working on a plan to improve it."

Among the foundation’s concerns are the security planters that have been placed along the avenue.

"Many of these concrete planters, which look like a temporary solution to security concerns, are filled with dead or dying plants (and sometimes no plants at all), and they diminish the character of the avenue, disrupt pedestrian flow and deter from the iconic streetscape,’’ the group says.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district’s delegate to the House, said that residents had hoped the opening of a pedestrian plaza in front of the White House several years ago would signal the continuation of the revitalization of Pennsylvania Avenue, begun during the John F. Kennedy administration.

"But it never much made it to Pennsylvania Avenue at all,’’ she said. "Perhaps putting Pennsylvania Avenue on the endangered spaces list will help jump start yet another attempt to take on Pennsylvania Avenue itself.’’  (The stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was closed to vehicles after the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.)

The group’s list also includes two Los Angeles sites: Hannah Carter Japanese Garden in Bel-Air, the subject of a court fight, and Fern Dell in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park.

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Richard.simon@latimes.com

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