Monday, July 17, 2006

Katharine Graham: Ideas about Buildings

I've been reading Katharine Graham's memoir, Personal History. She was the owner and publisher of the Washington Post during the Watergate crisis.

In one excerpt she talks about their decision to move the Post out of its 56-year-old dilapidated building into a brand new one. It's a telling paragraph about the relationship between people and buildings:

Groundbreaking took place in late 1949, and the first full paper was printed at the new L Street site in November 1950. There was a very alcoholic, emotional party as everyone finally left the old E Street building behind. The party -- more of a wake, actually -- was, as someone put it, to "mourn the death of a building" which, with all its inconvenient horrors, was still much loved.
In fact, many longtime employees were less than enthusiastic about moving from the dingy but bustling E Street plant into the spic-and-span newness of the quiet L Street building. The new building doubled our press capacity, while providing modern conveniences like air-conditioning, soundproofing, and a clean environment, but it looked cold and impersonal in contrast to the old. One Post old-timer was quoted saying, "It'll be all right once we get to spitting on the floor again."

The photo is of the building they moved out of at 1335 E Street. It was built in 1893.

1335 E Street building photo borrowed from The Washington Post company history here.

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