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Pennsylvania Ave. Makes List Of 'Endangered Landscapes'

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A national nonprofit has named Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C. as one of the country's 10 most endangered landmarks.
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A national nonprofit has named Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C. as one of the country's 10 most endangered landmarks.

D.C.'s historic Pennsylvania Avenue is now listed among the nation's most endangered landscapes, and a preservation group blames the problem on neglect and maintenance issues.

From a vantage point on Pennsylvania Avenue near 3rd Street NW, the United States Capitol looms over a grand avenue leading all the way to the gates of the White House. 

But a closer look reveals an aging infrastructure complete with park benches falling apart, water fountains that don't work and landscaping in desperate need of some TLC.

Well that's what the the Cultural Landscape Foundation sees, anyway. The nonprofit has released its annual report of the 12 most "at-risk" historic sites in the nation, and this year D.C.'s Pennsylvania Avenue is on the list. 

"Think about this the next time you walk there. I've never seen square pavers like that that are that deep brown," says Charles Birnbaum, the foundation's founder as he walks down the sidewalk of the storied street. "And then the benches the tree gates, the water fountains — all of those things remind you of French boulevards, but yet they are modern. So you have all of these features, which have been slowly and incrementally declining."

The maintenance issues started in 1996, the foundation says, when Congress cut funding for the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation. Also a concern: the security features added after 9/11 that the foundation says were added without regard for the historic significance of the street.

"The other thing that's happened is sort of the plop and drop of all of these planters over time," Birnbaum says.

The National Park Service, which has jurisdiction over the avenue, is working with a variety of stakeholders on the preservation of the avenue and welcomes the interest of the foundation, the parks superintendent says.

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