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Central Heating Plant

Original Name: Central Heating Plant
Year Of Construction: 1933
Address: 13th and C Streets, SW Washington, DC 20024
Architect(s): Paul Cret
Current Status: Extant
Original Use: Heating Plant
Function: Central Heating & Refrigeration Plant for Government Buildings

According to the website: “In April 1931, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced its plan to construct the Central Heating Plant, which would furnish steam to twenty-six federal buildings in Washington…The government selected prominent French-American architect Paul Philippe Cret, who also designed the Organization of American States building and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, to develop plans…Cret incorporated (smoke) stacks within the building….allowed them to rise to a height at which fumes would not be objectionable to occupants of nearby buildings….cornerstone was laid on July 7, 1933, the… facility was characterized as the largest heating plant in the world. Despite numerous equipment changes, the Central Heating Plant retains its original configuration, materials, and function. In 2007, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.…the monolithic steel and masonry main building in the Art Deco style, characterized by a stepped facade, linear composition with walls broken into vertical planes by long expanses of recessed windows, and stylized ornamentation. … the six-story variegated buff, brown, and yellow brick building is symmetrically designed with a limestone base. A continuous limestone string course separates the first floor from the upper floors, which contain vertically arranged industrial awning windows. The windows rhythmically break up the expansive elevations on the west, north and south…  the symmetrical west facade is articulated by a projecting tower and central main entrance. Limestone stairs flanked by rounded limestone cheek walls lead to the entrance sheltered by a streamlined metal overhang. Aluminum-frame sidelights and transom surround double glass doors, and are encased within a rounded limestone frame. On the first floor, four terracotta panels depict machinery housed within the building… Projecting brick bays framing the windows are flanked by narrow vertical window stacks, which are in turn framed by brick buttresses. Above the central stack of windows, a terra cotta stylized panel illustrates the heating plant boiler. A denticulate classicized cornice caps the entrance block…The secondary elevations contain architectural details…including vertical bays of industrial awning windows alternating with brick buttresses, and a classical cornice. A six-story refrigeration plant addition was built in 1958, while designed to echo the original plant, has wider bays and slightly different brick hues. The lobby is…finished in a brown-veined marble and brown-toned terrazzo floors framed by a black granite border… The stairway… contains original terrazzo treads and a stylized metal balustrade… Today, the plant services about one hundred Washington buildings.”