Letter to the Editor: West Heating Plant’s history, architecture warrant preservation

The West Heating Plant is located at 29th and K streets NW. (Brian Kapur/The Current/April 2015)

The Current’s Oct. 25 editorial “Overprotective preservation” could not be more wrong as it applies to the West Heating Plant. The design of the building must be seen from afar to be appreciated — from my apartment on 26th Street NW in Foggy Bottom, for example, or from a boat looking up the Rock Creek Valley from the Potomac. From these vantage points the form of the building clearly echoes that of the Lincoln Memorial. It tells us about a time when Americans were proud of their capital city and found that pride embodied in its monumental architecture as well as a form of heating that was popular in its time.

Like many disused industrial beings, the West Heating Plant is not attractive viewed close up. But neither are the smokestacks that were preserved in lower Georgetown and that now compete with the spires of the university to define the historic skyline. The West Heating Plant is part of the town’s industrial history of a later vintage.

Whether through guile or inattention, a developer bought the site and its prime land along Rock Creek and now argues that it’s unsuitable for the luxury housing he wants to build. Well, let a cleverer or less guileful developer have a go at it. Don’t use an aesthetic smokescreen to justify pulling the building down.

John Alexander Williams, Foggy Bottom