Horse’s Ass Award – Carter G. Woodson House

Well it’s been a year and a half since I said the Carter G. Woodson House deserves better. The home is located at 1538 Ninth Street, NW and its Web site says:

“On February 27, 2006, the building was officially dedicated as the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site, the 389th unit of the National Park System. The National Park Service will be restoring the building and developing a visitor center for the historic site.”

Well this is new:

10 Comment

  • Carter Woodson? Are we just saving everybody’s house these days?

  • i’m pretty sure the national park service has a huge backlog of work that needs to be done, nationwide, and their budgets are not commensurately huge.

  • As a former Park Ranger I know that this is something that the Park Service would like to fix, but the maintenance backlog in the Park Service is now estimated to be between $4.1 and $6.8 BILLION. The Park Service has buildings that are falling over in practically every one of their parks. Congress keeps giving them more park land, buildings, etc… but doesn’t provide the funding to maintain them. Many parks are turning to private donors to try to deal with the most serious issues. The site falls under the administration of National Capital Parks East, which is already an underfunded Park Service unit. I wouldn’t expect much to change there anytime soon.

    • Then the park service needs to start selling properties or gifting them to non-profits.

      • NPS property can only be transferred with authorization from Congress. It is also worth noting that this property was sold to the Park Service by a non-profit, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), which wanted to unload it to the Federal Government. I don’t know the details behind the transfer authorization legislation, but I’m sure there are a few congressman you can thank for the current situation.

  • My understanding is that NPS is not out there trying to pick up properties, particularly poorly known dilapidated city buildings that once housed marginal historical figures.

    NPS is forced to take these properties on at the behest of park or historical activists, local elected officials and Members of Congress. They issue nice press releases that make locals smile for a minute and then say, “NPS, here you go. You take it from here.”

    Those involved think it is nice to have the property “saved” by taking it off the hands of an owner who cannot manage it and giving it to NPS. But NPS has millions of acres, many decaying structures and billions in unfunded maintenance backlogs. NPS seeks funding to address this each and every appropriations cycle, but Congress is rightly or wrongly unwilling to prioritize and adequately fund this work.

    I do not think NPS can unload these properties once they become federal property. “Selling off our nation’s heritage” is a no-no, and in any case it is hard for the feds to sell off federal land. And to whom would they give or sell this property with greater expectations for a Magical Makeover?

    So – the Horse’s Ass Award should rightly go to whoever claimed this house was going to get a Magical Makeover.

    But the Award should also go to anyone who claimed that making this the 389th property in the hands of the NPS was going to lead to its Magical Makeover. They all knew full well that funding for NPS is direly needed for other priorities. They knew that there has never been enough funding to go around for NPS renovations of any kind.

    Why would anyone create the expectation that there would be enough funding within NPS for Full Restorations and Visitors’ Centers for Former Homes of Long-Deceased Obscure Leaders?

    • I have to argue one point; NPS can give away property pretty easily when politically motivated.

      NPS gave away the garden of the gods like it was a hot potato.

  • two words: public auction. There are many lovingly maintained, privately owned properties in DC that are on the NRHP. A private investor would certainly be able to put more money into it than the Park Service, and (I assume; I’m not really familiar with historic overlays here) the historic site designation would keep investors from tearing it down and building condos.

    • I’m sure there would be an outcry if it were to be sold, unfortunately. The property will be seen through different lens now that it has been put into the parks system, particularly given the local politics related to why it is considered historical.

      People need to see that the Woodson house is just one more empty uninhabitable building on a block with too many boarded up houses at this point. Condos, offices, visitors’ centers or lovingly restored homes, more occupied buildings on that block means a better city.

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