Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission headquarters. Photo from Docomomo DC.

Modern Maryland: Proposed Demolition of Modern WSSC Headquarters

11/22/2017
By Meagan Baco

Plans to demolish and redevelop the 7 acre site of the ca. 1939 former headquarters of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) in Hyattsville, Maryland have been presented to the community.

Update: On July 26, 2018, Preservation Maryland will provide testimony to the Prince George’s County Planning Board in support of reuse of the WSSC building.

Read the testimony

Touring at WSSC, 2015.

The Art Deco structure is currently vacant and owned by Douglas Development Corporation, a major land and property owner. Negotiations between Douglas and the potential developers, Werrlein Properties are currently taking place. Over 200 people attended a public meeting and presentation by Werrlein Properties, on November 6, 2017. The plans for the 7 acre site include 71 townhomes and 14 single family homes.

Many community members and the group SOS Hyattsville have voiced strong opposition to the demolition of the WSSC building and to development of the adjoining parking lot parcel. On June 4, 2018, the Mayor of Hyattsville and the City Council voted not to support Werrlein’s request to change the Table of Uses governing the WSSC parcels. Again, on July 16, 2018, the Mayor and City Council voted not to support Werrlein’s request to rezone the WSSC parcels to Mixed-Use Infill. A meeting of the Prince George’s County Planning Board is scheduled for July 26, 2018.

The Hyattsville Life & Times newspaper has a poll open to gauge support of the project.

ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY

Original rendering WSSC. Image from Preserve Hyattsville.

Docomomo US is a chapter of the international Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighbourhoods of the Modern Movement (Docomomo) that is dedicated to the preservation of modern architecture, landscape, and design. The Washington, DC chapter of the organization, Docomomo DC, summarized the architecture of the WSSC Headquarters building as such; The original Art Deco building was constructed in 1939 and designed by local architects Paul H. Kea of Hyattsville and Howard W. Cutler of Silver Spring. Additions were added in 1953 and 1964. Paul Kea (1886-1968) was one of the first two licensed architects in Maryland and founded the firm Kea, Shaw, Grimm & Crichton, a precursor to today’s Grimm + Parker Architects. Kea’s firm built numerous banks, churches, schools and commercial buildings. The building is further described in a Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties Form and included as a contributing structure to the Hyattsville National Register Historic District.

There are several great examples of mid-century architecture in the Prince George’s County area including the historic Lustine Showroom that was adaptively reused. In 2015, Preservation Maryland included the WSSC Headquarters on a tour of mid-century architecture.

TAKE THE POLL

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Meagan Baco · Director of Communications

Meagan Baco shares the stories of the Old Line State’s important history and unique places – and the people working to preserve it, through Preservation Maryland’s website and publications.

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