The synagogue’s streetscape has been permanently altered – the trees on the adjacent sidewalk were removed in August. Around the construction zone, utilities continue to be relocated, including the installation of the new water main along Third Street. Down on I-395, crews have been installing deep foundation columns and walls and excavating the Second Street retaining wall.
For more information, visit www.3rdsttunnel.com.
A New Jewish Museum
In late October, the Board of Directors selected SmithGroup JJR as architects for the new museum.
The selection process began with sending a Request for Qualifications to approximately 20 firms with experience in additions to historic buildings, museum design, and complex projects in Washington, D.C. After receiving packages from 12 firms, the Museum Steering Committee invited five firms for interviews. Three of the five were asked to submit fee proposals and participate in a design exercise and additional interview. The Steering Committee then visited local projects designed by the two finalists.
This decision to engage SmithGroup JJR took into account the firm’s extensive museum experience, attention to value engineering, and pricing.
Catching Up With… Lief Dormsjo, Director, District Department of Transportation
Nominated by Mayor Muriel Bowser soon after she took office, Leif Dormsjo was confirmed as director of the District of Columbia Department of Transportation in March. Making a Museum spoke with Dormsjo, who was previously deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, about the Third Street Tunnel Project, the first phase of Capitol Crossing.
MaM: When you came to DDOT, how much did you know about Capitol Crossing?
Dormsjo: I knew about the project mainly from the concerns raised about some of the traffic impacts. Shortly before Mayor Bowser came into office, there was a story about the idea that 395 would be closed permanently during the construction period. And that generated a lot of severe reaction from the Congressional delegations. I know Senator [Mark] Warner and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton intervened pretty rapidly to try to halt any plans associated with that.
MaM: What’s happening now and what is DDOT’s involvement?
Dormsjo: As you can see from the site right now, they’re working on those caissons. So you’ve got a lot of heavy equipment, you’ve got a lot of personnel out on the job site. We’ve got to keep them safe… And then we’re also looking very closely at the travel experience: whether or not we have clear signage and we’ve got clear markings on the road, or the Jersey barriers have been set up appropriately. So far we haven’t had any issues on the safety front. It is slower travel through there, without a doubt—that kind of is the price of progress—but it’s safe travel.
MaM: Is this the biggest transportation-related project in the District right now?
Dormsjo: This is the Big Kahuna in terms of real-estate development in the city. It’s three whole city blocks. So the development program is really exciting and will generate a lot of activity in this area. The infrastructure piece is $200 million. That’s a big-ticket project, but—as far as our transportation program—the South Capitol Bridge project is north of $500 million. Now, the construction here is being done by the private company. It’s not a government project. There’s no government money in the project, which is pretty phenomenal… And it’s great that they’re actually going to be making some improvements that the public will benefit from on the transportation side. They’re going to replace all the ventilation systems, give us a brand new tunnel ventilation system.
MaM: So that part of the highway will not only be decked over, but upgraded.
Dormsjo: We’re going to be the beneficiary of new equipment, new systems, and hopefully a ventilation system that’s durable for the long haul. The highway system helps us support commerce and commuting. You’ve got to have a roadway system that works not just for the District residents, but also our visitors and employees coming from Virginia, Maryland, and elsewhere. So this is a great example of us reinvesting in the Eisenhower Highway System, but at the same time not being held back by those original transportation-planning decisions. We’re able to kind of remake history a bit here and retrofit a highway that’s served its purpose, and will continue to serve its purpose. But the 1950s and ’60s style of transportation planning—neighborhood connectivity, urban planning principles, walkable green neighborhoods was not in their vocabulary.
MaM: How does transit-oriented thinking fit into the project?
Dormsjo: When you look at a project you normally want to see what percentage of your trips are going to be auto category vs. transit vs. pedestrian… They’re got a very healthy percentage that’s in that transit-pedestrian-and-bike category. Development that’s emphasizing those categories of travel are the ones that we really want to support. Certainly there’s good bus service running through there—not just the Metro, but we have our Circulator bus that comes through there as well.
Bernard Glassman, who was featured in a previous issue of Making a Museum, contributed this scale model of the historic synagogue to use in meetings between the Jewish Historical Society and government agencies during the efforts to preserve the building in the late 1960s. The model is now on display in the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum.
Did You Know?
Due to its significance as the first synagogue erected in Washington, DC, the 1876 building is included in the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS).
HABS, the National Park Service’s effort to document the country’s architecture, is the federal government’s oldest historic preservation program. HABS’s records are housed at the Library of Congress and the synagogue’s documentation, which includes photographs, a detailed description of the building and its history, and architectural drawings, can be accessed online.
The material was prepared in 1969 before the synagogue was moved and was updated later to indicate the new location. The architectural drawings depict the synagogue’s interior and exterior prior to the restoration work, which was completed five years after the move. Four of five accompanying photographs show the building at Sixth & G Street, NW. The fifth depicts the building moving down G Street, NW.