The Atlantic Building

The Atlantic Building

Reviving a Local Landmark Through Historic Preservation

Standing 10 stories tall and extending five floors below grade, the Atlantic Building on the 900 block of F Street is a vibrant symbol of history — both culturally and architecturally. Located next to Ford’s Theatre (the legendary site of President Lincoln’s assassination), the building is located on a block rich in historical significance. The Atlantic Building itself is known as the first privately constructed high-rise building in DC and the first with passenger elevator service.

Because of these rarities, the reconstruction of this property required meticulous planning to retain its charm and maintain the structural integrity of its surrounding historic neighbors. Thus, when Douglas Development needed a trusted partner with far-reaching historic preservation and renovation expertise, they called on DAVIS.

  • Project type
    Commercial Repositioning
  • Architect
    Shalom Baranes Associates
  • client
    Douglas Development Corporation; CarrAmerica
  • awards
    WBC Craftsmanship Award, Interior Stone and Marble; AIA DC Merit Award, Resources; NAIOP MD/DC Award of Excellence, Best Renovation

It takes a special type of team to handle the complexities that come with a historic preservation — and with Douglas Development, we are that team.

Jim Dugan, Senior Vice President, DAVIS

A Stream of Surprises

When you’re working with a building that was built in 1887, you have to expect the unexpected. And the unexpected is exactly what we encountered. Everything from intractable historic preservation restrictions to unpredictable soil and water conditions seemed to be stacked against us. We didn't shy away from the challenge.

Upon discovering that the foundation of the Atlantic Building was compromised beyond repair, we had to find a way to remove the unsound features while keeping the historic façade intact. This was a setback that forced us to conduct highly precise demolition while retaining, bracing, and restoring the façade to its former glory. To do this, we referenced historical documents and drawings — cleaned and repainted original masonry, terra cotta facing, and the ornamental cast iron. We replaced all windows with wood sash replicas of the originals, complete with thermal glazing.

On a lower level, excavation to accommodate the underground floors unearthed a stream running 24 feet above the bottom of the excavation area. Fortunately, our team of specialists was able to divert the stream and safeguard the site against potential leakage.

Where Modern Meets Tradition

To comply with restrictions and uphold the Atlantic Building’s notable historic legacy, our work with this property embodied the respectful balance between old and new. Through a combination of renovation, restoration, and infill construction, building features pay tribute to former elements — like the detailed storefronts — which meld beautifully with the new cast-in-place concrete office tower comprised of glass and masonry.

Inside, the new lobby echoes the original details of salvaged cast-iron columns and wood stairways. A perfect complement to these features is the ornately decorated metal elevator cage and cab — restored and reinstalled to comply with current regulations. Adding to the comfort of the occupants, new building systems were added.

Ultimately, this property symbolizes present-day downtown DC; it is historic yet modern, charming yet functional.

Photos by Maxwell MacKenzie