McGill Building (1891 - 1973)

This Romanesque Revival style commercial building is notable in both construction and demolition.

Designed by Paul J. Pelz (1841-1918), this Romanesque Revival style building was demolished just as the plan to preserve it was beginning. Built in 1891, the McGill Building (named for Architect James H. McGill (1853-1908), who is known for the development of LeDroit Park) was one of the first office buildings in DC to have an elevator. It was also Pelz’s most notable commercial building. Other works by this architect include the Library of Congress and Georgetown University’s Healy Hall

In 1973, the building was declared a Category III landmark by the Joint Committee on Landmarks in an effort to preserve the building, if possible. However, the committee did not know that PMI (Parking Management, Inc.) had already been granted a permit to demolish the building. The complications that followed would be over a signature issue: PMI had signed the demolition permit application even though they were not yet the owner of the McGill Building, which was still owned by the Loughbran Foundation and its trustee Carl Gell. 

In February 1973, the President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation wrote a letter showcasing the ways that the building could be preserved in the form of a parking garage that would mimic the facade. Despite these efforts in the early days of the historic preservation movement, the building would be demolished that same year. However, the McGill Building’s loss would prove to be a crucial milestone in Washington’s historic preservation movement. By the end of the decade, the city adopted a historic preservation ordinance – the Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978 – creating the current process of designating and protecting historic sites.

DC Inventory: February 20, 1973 (Joint Committee on Landmarks)

Demolished: 1973



908 G Street, NW