Who really knows how many vintage buildings the District lost in 2002? On a September afternoon hazy with powdered plaster and dusty soil, a backhoe operator on a suddenly-vacant Anacostia lot told me he had toppled over 100 since the winter.
A building can lose its hold on life for the most paradoxical reasons. What is an eminently restorable building in NW may be bulldozed as an uneconomic rehabilitation candidate in Anacostia. But the opposite effect happens, too, as when a neighborhood suddenly becomes too fashionable for its more modest houses.
Not every vanished building goes through a downward spiral of neglect, abandonment, and vandalism or fire before its demolition. Some are simply in the wrong place. Much of the demolition in Washington is silently taking place on upper class residential streets in Spring Valley and Pacific Pallisades, as ranchhouses, colonials, and craftsmen bungalows on large lots fall for McMansions.