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Historic Dupont East Church Raising Funds to Restore its Landmark Tower

By Ben Lasky*

Images accompanying this feature can be viewed in the February, 2011 issue PDF

In June of 2009, those working at the Church of the Holy City, located on 16th Street, Northwest, noticed that the inside of the 95 foot tower was deteriorating.


According to Elfa Halloway, who has held a variety of positions at the church since 1980 and now runs its day-to-day business, constant care must be taken to make sure the tower stays in good condition. But this has not been so — a combination of bird droppings, termites, and a broken drain that caused water damage have all contributed to the tower’s deterioration.

The cornerstone was laid in December of 1894 and the church was completed in 1896. H. Langford Warren, a professor from Harvard, worked with local architect Mark Pelz to design the church. Original drawings from that time show a large spire on the tower, but money ran out, precluding that plan.

The tower, located at the corner of Corcoran Street and 16th Street, can first be seen on the left from Meridian Hill. As Halloway remarked,  “It is quite exciting because the square [tower] has the four pinnacles, so it’s quite nice to see because you cannot see any of the other churches. . . .”


An historic preservation contractors report prepared in 2010 detailed the damage to the tower.  Fortunately, according to the report, the damage is not as bad as first thought.  Of particular reassurance was the finding that the high resin content in the wood framing was not a good food source for termites, thus limiting the damage in that respect.

Halloway says that because of the report’s findings, the church now believes that while repairs to the tower framing cannot be put off, it will use the time to raise the funds for the next step.  “All of that is good news, even though the report cost quite a bit of money, almost $20,000,” she said.  Nevertheless, the church will save considerable money because instead of replacing the entire tower framing, it can be replaced section by section.

To aid in this restoration project, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has made a matching grant of $5,000 – the maximum it is authorized to award – with the church required to raise another $5,000.  In addition, the Middle Atlantic Association of Swedenborgian Churches has made the matching contribution.  Overall, the church must still raise another $20,000 for structural engineering work.

With various fundraising events, including it’s monthly “Music with the Angels” concert series which has raised over $1,000 so far, the church is confident it can come up with the needed funds.


*Ben Lasky, a contributing writer for The InTowner, is also a staff writer for The American University’s student newspaper, The Eagle, while he pursues his degree in communications and journalism at AU.