At least once a month, I look back at what I was photographing a year ago, especially when the weather prevents me from going out and doing something useful. Today is such a day. Going back to my images of this week one year ago it turns out that I had been working on twilight shots of the Old Post Office Building which, among other things, has an observation tower that boasts the second highest viewing point in the downtown area. The Washington Monument, of course, is higher. But looking over those images, I was reminded that, even though the 100-year-old building is still standing, it is yet another example of how the Washington architectural scene is constantly changing.
Originally Originally constructed in 1898-99, it became a target for demolition almost immediately, but managed to fend off proposal after proposal for “redevelopment.” (An excellent history of the Old Post Office can be found here, WashingtonStreets.com.) The building’s most recent incarnation included the tower, operated by the National Park Service, a commercial pavilion on the ground floor featuring tourist shops and fast-food eateries, and federal offices in the upper floors. But all that is about to change. The General Services Administration, which owns the building, has awarded the Trump Organization (Yes, that Trump!) a 60-year lease to renovate the building and operate it as a luxury hotel. The commercial pavilion closed down earlier this month and I’ve been told by a National Park Service representative at the Tower that once construction begins, it will be closed to the public for about two years. So if you want to check out that view from the tower before 2016, you had better get over there before the end of March.
The good news is that the exterior of the Old Post Office will remain essentially unchanged and the Tower will re-open to the public once the construction work inside is finished.
The photograph here was taken from a location in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue, using the median strip to avoid the traffic passing in both directions on either side of me. (Technical data: Nikon D800E with 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. The exposure was 15 seconds at f/16, ISO 400, and lens set to 16mm.) The small aperture produces the “star effect” of the street lights. The trick was to choreograph the exposure with the traffic lights so no cars would pass through the scene. It was easier than on a normal evening because that day was a federal holiday and there was no rush hour to speak of.