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News: The GCA Urges Planning Commission to Reject Smithsonian Plan Jeopardizing Haupt Garden; Coalition Concurs

 

May 14, 2018

Renewing its opposition to the Smithsonian Institution’s planned destruction of the Enid A. Haupt Garden on the National Mall, The Garden Club of America on May 8 formally submitted comments urging the National Capital Planning Commission not to approve the Draft Programmatic Agreement for the South Mall Campus Master Plan. The GCA’s comments immediately were endorsed by the Coalition to Save the Haupt Garden.

Writing on behalf of the GCA’s 200 member clubs and their nearly 18,000 members, GCA President Anne Neal Petri condemned specific aspects of the Programmatic Agreement, including the violation of donor intent. In addition, the GCA disputed which version of the plan would be most responsive to public concerns and mitigate adverse impacts; observed that action now would be “premature and prejudicial to the kind of open discussions the Smithsonian purports to invite;” and urged that use the Arts and Industries Building be defined before the plan proceeds further.

“Given that the Smithsonian’s stated vision is to shape ‘the future by preserving our heritage,’ it is ironic that the proposed plans aggressively ignore the Quadrangle's historical and cultural significance, while simultaneously dismissing the clear intent of donor Enid A. Haupt,” said Petri.

The Coalition to Save the Haupt Garden, which stands with the GCA, represents thousands of concerned citizens and several leading organizations, including National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Garden Conservancy, the DC Preservation League, and The Committee of 100 on the Federal City.  

Two years ago, the GCA joined these and other like-minded organizations and individuals in opposing the Smithsonian’s proposal to destroy the Haupt garden, calling on planners to undertake further study before moving forward to assess and address the period of significance for the garden; to revisit whether the garden should indeed be included on the National Register of Historic Places; and to honor the terms of the Haupt gift.  

In late 2017, the GCA escalated its concerns, exchanging correspondence with Smithsonian Institution Secretary David J. Skorton, calling the plans “misguided and costly.” The GCA urged the Smithsonian to abide by donor intent, to reject its current plans, and instead to pursue reasonable measures that would retain both the historic garden and allow for necessary repair.

In January 2018, Petri testified before the NCPC at a public hearing on the South Mall Campus Master Plan, calling on the commission to go slow. “Those of us who care deeply about the iconic and beloved Haupt garden,” said Petri, “want reassurance from the Smithsonian that the garden will be preserved and that donor Enid A. Haupt’s clear intent will be followed.”  

In a letter to the editor of The Washington Post in February, Petri urged the Smithsonian to adhere to Haupt’s intent, honor the historic and cultural significance of the Quadrangle, and adapt the garden to today’s climatic challenges.

Among GCA clubs that have actively voiced opposition to the destruction of the Haupt garden are Albemarle Garden Club in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Kenilworth Garden Club in suburban Chicago.

Completed in 1987, the Haupt garden is one of several “outdoor museums” in the Smithsonian complex. Its parterre and changing colorful flower displays offer an iconic resting spot for hundreds of thousands of visitors to Washington, D.C. The garden is threatened by the Smithsonian’s South Mall Campus Master Plan, which would raze the four-acre public garden in the Smithsonian Castle quadrangle and implement a new design.

Click to read the full comments to NCPC by the GCA.

 

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