The Watha T. Daniel Library has actually been demolished…

3 minute read

April 23, 2008, 8:28 PM

I’ve known the Shaw neighborhood in DC for almost four years now due to my patronage of the Infoshop that is located within it. In that time, Shaw has definitely grown up, as the Washington Convention Center is causing gentrification of the area. However, one major sore spot in the neighborhood for as long as I’ve been visiting Shaw has been the Watha T. Daniel Library, which is located directly across the street from the Shaw Metro station. The library closed in 2004 for a reconstruction, and was originally projected to reopen in 2006. That didn’t happen. From its closing in 2004 through about early 2007, the building just sat abandoned.

You may recall that I ran a photo of the Watha T. Daniel Library last May in the Photo Feature, shortly after the fence went up:

A chain-link fence surrounds the site of the Watha T. Daniel branch library in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington DC. The facility has been closed since 2004.

So imagine my surprise when, after swinging by the Infoshop last Friday, I saw this:

Site of the demolished Watha T. Daniel Library

The library is gone! I never thought I’d see the day. They finally demolished the old library. Totally wiped off the map without a trace. They even got rid of the trees that were on the property. What surprised me, though, is, if they are allegedly building a new library, that they filled in the holes and seeded the entire lot. You can see the straw, and grass was indeed growing, though you can’t see the grass in my cell phone shot. One would think that they would leave the big hole in the ground for the new library, especially since the entire lot is already fenced off. But it appears that they returned the site to raw land. Go fig.

Now I kind of figured prior to this that the end was possibly coming soon, but still, I didn’t expect to see it actually happen. On an Infoshop visit in December, I noticed heavy equipment in front of the building, and the sidewalk was torn up in front of it:

Heavy equipment at the Watha T. Daniel Library

However, the building was still completely intact, as you can see. So for all I knew, they could have been doing utility work that just happened to go through the library property. You never know. I figured that if that were the case, they wouldn’t bother to repair the sidewalk.

But yeah, that ended up leading to this:

Demolition of the Watha T. Daniel Library
Photo: army.arch on Flickr

The new library, meanwhile, is supposed to be all ultramodern:

Rendering of the new Watha T. Daniel Library
Photo: Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Library Project page on DC Libraries site

According to what I’ve read, the building is going to be as environmentally “green” as they can possibly make it, and that’s great. However, somehow I don’t see this all-glass design fitting in well with its surroundings. That part of Shaw is very much a residential area, with darling little brick row houses all around, as well as some apartment buildings. I, in fact, would love to own one of those row houses in Shaw one day. But about the only thing that this new library would even remotely match would be the canopy on the south entrance to the Metro station located across the street from the library. One would have thought that they would try to harmonize with the surrounding neighborhood a little bit more, but I suppose not. They could have done something with a bit less glass that could really have harmonized well with the row houses, but it seems that this will not be the case.

Of course, regardless of whether the ultramodern structure shown here gets built or whether it undergoes design modifications, it will be great to see a library return to Shaw.

Web site: Goodspeed Update on the demolition of the Watha T. Daniel Library

Song: Improv Everywhere's "Napkin" song

Quote: Meanwhile, has anyone else found it interesting that even though I live in Montgomery County, that I have a closer affinity to the District of Columbia than the place where I actually live? I pay more attention to the concerns of Washington DC, and follow their local politics with far more interest than I do Montgomery County. I'm embarrassed to say that I see signs for "Fennel" and "Robin" running for County Council in Montgomery, and I haven't the foggiest on the issues going on there, or who these people even are. I guess it's a product of my three years of DC trips, where I spent many days in Washington DC, and developed quite a bond with it. I guess that's why I want to eventually buy a row house in DC itself. I wouldn't want to be a homeowner in Montgomery, Prince George's, Arlington, or Fairfax. For me, it would have to be DC...

Categories: Washington DC