Magazine article Sunset

In Washington, D.C., a 1-Mile Stroll of Revived Pennsylvania Avenue

Magazine article Sunset

In Washington, D.C., a 1-Mile Stroll of Revived Pennsylvania Avenue

Article excerpt

In Washington, D.C., a 1-mile stroll of revived Pennsylvania Avenue Walking the mile along Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol building used to be a trip to avoid. But thanks to some well-planned redevelopment, it now makes for a pleasant autumn stroll.

Pennsylvania Avenue was laid out in Pierre L'Enfant's 1791 city plan as "a large and direct avenue ... proportioned to the greatness which ... the Capital of a powerful Empire ought to manifest." Until a few years ago, however, the 160-foot-wide avenue didn't live up to the plan--classical government edifices contrasted with scruffy buildings and vacant lots.

Since 1972, a well-drawn long-range plan for the avenue has been administered by the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation. According to Berkeley architect John Woodbridge, in charge of planning from 1973 to 1977, "In terms of renewal, it's been an unqualified success." Our walk takes you past restored and new hotels and shopping spaces, pocket parks, government buildings, the 1978 East Building of the National Gallery of Art, to the Capitol itself.

Spend as little as an hour, or take a day or longer to visit museums and to shop, dine, or attend the theater. The street is liveliest on weekdays, when nearby workers make up most of the pedestrians, but more and more people are coming at night and on weekends, too.

From the White House, head southeast

Treasury Building, 1500 Pennsylvania. Built between 1836 and 1869, this Greek revival structure sits on a site said to have been arbitrarily chosen by Andrew Jackson, destroying L'Enfant's intended sight line from the White House to the Capitol.

Hotel Washington, northeast corner of 15th Street; (202) 638-5900. Oldest continuously operating hotel in the city, the 1918 Renaissance-style building retains its original furnishings in the lobby. Its top-floor lounge and continental dining room offer fine views, especially at night.

Willard Hotel, 1401; 628-9100. Built in 1901, the Beaux-Arts hotel housed visiting dignitaries before declining along with the neighborhood; it's now restored and open for business.

Pershing Park, across from two hotels, is an inviting place with outdoor cafe; in winter its reflecting pool becomes a skating rink.

The Shops at National Place, 1331; 783-9090. In its lively arcade, you'll find 85 shops and restaurants run by Rouse Croporation--already known for Baltimore's Harborplace and Boston's Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

National Theatre, 1321. Period furnishings enhance the 1984 renovation of the theater, founded in 1835; it now specializes in Broadway shows. To join a free 1-1/2-hour tour on Mondays at 11, call 783-3370.

Western Plaza, between 14th and 13th streets. This plaza, shown above, was designed in 1980 by Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown. Greenery, seating, and a tranquil fountain make this a pleasant stop. However, "its brilliant design concept was eviscerated by each design review, and it doesn't work as well for people as Pershing Park," according to Woodbridge.

1201 pennsylvania. The granite facade of this huge (considering D.C.'s height limits) office block, built in 1981, blends well with surrounding buildings. Inside are skylit court and a two-story waterfall.

Post Office Department, between 13th and 12th. …

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