Baird Smith

Baird Smith, FAIA, FAPT, Director of Preservation for QUINN EVANS | ARCHITECTS in Washington, DC, was director of the architect/engineering team for the Eastern Market project. 

His April, 2009, interview with Ev Barnes provides the history of the Market, including the building of the Adolph Cluss-designed South Hall in 1872, addition of the North Hall in 1906-1908, and the restoration following the April 2007 fire. He describes in detail the structural changes required to ensure safety and improve heating, air conditioning, lighting, bathrooms, and public access while still maintaining the atmosphere and feel of the original Market. It is a fascinating interview with the architect intimately involved with every detail of the Market's two-year renovation.

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Interview Date
April 30, 2009
Ev Barnes
Jim McMahon

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Interview with Baird Smith

Interview Date: Interviewer: Transcriber:

April 30, 2009 Ev Barnes
James McMahon

This interview transcript is the property of the Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Baird Smith Interview, April 30, 2009


BARNES: It’s April the 30th, 2009 and I’m interviewing Baird Smith. Mr. Smith would you start by just telling us about your involvement with Eastern Market.

SMITH: Yes, I’d be happy to. I have been an architect in practice here in DC for almost 30 years and always with architectural firms in the private sector, who have specialized in historic building work. So, I have had the benefit of being in town here for—on many, many projects to understand sort of the fabric
of the town in a literal sense and also the—some of the politics, and some of the movers and shakers. Eastern Market is, of course, a beloved structure way beyond its architectural significance as a community resource and place to meet people, place to coalesce as a community. And you will hear me talk about two very different phases. I will briefly say that [the] first phase is in the 1990’s when I was part of a private citizens effort, essentially mounted to block or stop ... DC government’s intended actions on the Market. They were trying to renovate the Market and then you roll the clock forward to about sometime in the 2003–2004 period when lots of people came together and, as I often describe it, the stars were aligning that both the citizenry of all different organizations on Capitol Hill as well as the vendors, as well as DC government, many other entities were all pulling together to try and now renovate the building and have a successful project. So that’s the framework. If you want—let me go back then to this 1990’s period a little bit. Any of you who know Washington very well, know that there were—I may

have the number wrong—something in the order of 20 public markets throughout town. And over the years many of them were replaced with other major public buildings and for other reasons. And we get down to the 1960’s and 70’s and I think there are only three remaining: the Georgetown Market, the O Street Market, and Eastern Market. I believe DC government owns all three of them and Georgetown Market was converted in ... something, I am going to guess, something like 1985. And, if you go in now, most of the work that you see there at Dean & DeLuca’s really is from this 1985 period, when the Market building was viewed as a container. And a lot of new things were introduced inside that were characterized by stainless steel display cabinets, stainless steel work tables, stainless steel—and they actually kind of subdivided the space by having an upper level and lower level. They introduce[d] a mezzanine. And of course that was relatively well received.

Then, the DC government proposed to do much the same thing at Eastern Market. But the Capitol Hill community really, really wanted to keep the Market as it was. They certainly wanted it to be renovated. No one ever questioned that it didn’t need to be renovated, but they did not like the concept of such an aggressive project and literally subdividing it and maybe making mezzanines or levels. So, I was part of a team brought together to prepare a historic resource report to try to give credence to leaving the Market more in its current condition or its condition at the time, than doing this really aggressive renovation. If,

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you are a student of history you know it was kind of a major collision between what the DC government wanted to do and they wanted to do it in big way. They had three million—something like two million or three million dollars at hand to do the project. So, it wasn’t hypothetical. They had drawings completed by architects. They were ready to do it. But the citizens came together, were able to successfully mount an effort to have that project slowed down and essentially it was stopped.

And, of course, the Market continues then for 15 years. And as we start talking about the new project, I wanted to remind everyone of the actual conditions in the Market at that time period. You all know that the South Hall was the area of food sales, we call it the vendor area. The North Hall was more of a semi- public space for, perhaps theater presentations, for lectures. There’s an art gallery in there. It was a multi- use space. A lot o people didn’t know until the project came about that the North Hall had heat, a little bit of heat, no air conditioning and no bathrooms. So, that for most of this last 20 years there were Sanijohns in the corner, that would support the activity. So, the North Hall was ... barely came up to the definition of a public multi-use space. The South Hall had water and electricity and heat, but the heat was in the form of some overhead fans, no air conditioning. There were —although people liked it the way it was, at the same time many vendors and the public—it was pretty clear that in the summer a lot of people shopped in the morning. But about two o’clock in the afternoon, you would rarely see people there. Although people—always you would hear them say: we want to keep the Market the way it is—the reality is that shopping patterns and everything else, it was clear that people were adjusting their habits to what the conditions were in the building. And in the winter it was cold. They had other occurrences in the summer, where they actually had a couple of people pass out. A couple shoppers passed out from the heat—heat exhaustion—they would be carrying a little bit of heavy groceries or whatever and they had couple of accidents in the late afternoon. And so ... sewage would back up down in the basement. There were a lot of behind-the-scenes things ... rodent infestations and other things that it was barely coming up to a standard of public health. And all but still—having said all that, the vendors loved the spaces, the public loved the spaces you had a great following.

In any case the organization of managers of Eastern Market, known by the acronym of EMCAC, Eastern Market Citizens Advisory Council [ed: Committee], and the vendors, tenants council, and others came together with DC government ... I don’t know the actual story of who started the conversations, but ... those organizations met with DC over a two year period—I would guess it would be 2003–2004—to come up with recommendations for how the Market could be rehabilitated. Some of the key things were that in any sort of rehabilitation project they wanted to keep the building fully useable during the construction activity. That is, to keep the vendors vending and the public visiting. So that as this, what we call the scope of work as it evolved, everyone wanted much better restrooms and toilet rooms for the

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public, better facilities for the vendors in the terms of sort of behind the scenes, washrooms and janitors’ closets and sort of thing. As there was no air conditioning previously, they specifically wanted air conditioning so they could extend their daily sales period. At the same time they wanted better heat, they also wanted, because of the many doors on the building and the many windows, they wanted to be able during the mild times of the year to be able to use natural ventilation. So a project scope was developed. We were very lucky to be selected as the architect and in 2005, in September then we began work on a design project to prepare the drawings and specs to initiate this ... what was called a renovation of the Market. Which is noted by what I mentioned in an upgrade of these building systems and keeping the building occupied during the work as well as—and it had a budget, construction—an estimated construction budget of between about two and three million dollars. So, it was a very comprehensive effort, sizeable and [it] started off.

I wanted to depart just a little bit to give a few minutes of observations about the building itself from an architectural point of view, and then I’ll come back to the project as it evolved. But you all know that the original South Hall building was constructed in 1872, it was apparently quite a successful market and there was a need for expansion. So in 19—I think it was 1906 or 1908 the Center or North Halls were added to it, to not double the amount of vending space but it added at least 50% more space for vending. But the South Hall was designed by this now locally and some times nationally very famous architect Adolf Cluss. Who was German-born and educated and came to the U.S. right at the tail end of the Civil War, 1864-65. [He] immediately became engaged in—it pretty fascinating—there are two things that are really remarkable about Adolf Cluss, and that is in about a 15 year period he designed—I’m estimating now—I think 15 to 20 major public buildings in DC. He must have been the hottest thing at any cocktail hour or any party. Everybody was probably talking about what the ...

BARNES: Cluss was doing.[laughter]

SMITH: What the architect Cluss was doing. He was remarkable in the sense of the town, before that, had been institutional with marble and granite classical buildings with front pediments and columns, if you think of the Treasury Department, Old Executive Office Building, and that was the setting ... Washington. Though the Old Executive Office Building is kind of parallel, but he—I don’t know that he introduced red brick but he almost solely used red brick, many, many very interesting shapes of buildings with turrets and projecting bays, round headed windows, very large windows, and multiple materials. He was very innovative, using cast iron and rolled iron for inside structure, different kinds of stone and brick and decorative brick, glazed brick. He was very innovative.

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There are a lot of stories in this period where—when he got the first commission to do Eastern Market, I believe the record shows that he traveled to Philadelphia and New York to examine other markets, public markets. Came back with a very specific feeling of what was needed in a public market and they were—I won’t quote him exactly but the gist of it is that they needed to be full of fresh air, sanitary, lots of light and open and to promote good health and vending of food, fresh food, and being able to be sanitary in the sense of being able to clean up and have surfaces that would be durable. So, Eastern Market becomes designed with many large windows, different layers of windows from the prime windows up to the lunettes and up into the roof with a continuous vent along the roof ridge to allow hot air to escape. Doors, almost into every stall ... looking from our modern perspective sometimes we are wondering why would you put so many doors in? A couple of answers is to make it easy to bring in, for each vendor to be able to bring in and stock his foodstuffs with carriages or wagons or whatever that would park nearby and come directly into his stall. And then the public of course could come in and out of many, many openings. So and they could be left to again promote the natural light and the ventilation.

So, the building has many, many doors ... a lot of the people don’t know that the South Hall was literally constructed with the north end—the floor of the north end high in a continuous slope down to the south end of over 16 inches. So, literally, if you are washing the floors, you start at the north end, all the water would run at a continuous sheet down to the south, and there are two big drains down at the corner of the south [end] where the water would drain down into the basement. [Just] one example of how he was really thinking about sanitation and cleanliness ... so he is quite remarkable and trying to understand all these features now, bringing us up to modern era, of course, we wanted to try and retain as many of these features as we could and understand them and to the extent that we could, to take advantage of them. Can we take a little break?

Let me then bring in another little sidebar about our involvement then with one of the really important groups here, and that are the vendors themselves: the South Hall vendors. It doesn’t take very long at all to find out that the name Glasgow is—has been at the market for at least 50 years. And that there are four of the current vendors that are part of the Glasgow family. And when you add in Mr. Bower [ed: Bowers] at the cheese shop, you have a couple of individuals we have been dealing with were literally as I understand the stories young boys, eight or nine years old in the market helping their dad’s at their shops. So, we have the terrific opportunity of getting to know with and working with people who have been in the market continuously for since that time period. And the other thing in this day and age, you don’t have an opportunity often to deal with so many small businessmen, period. You know, sometimes we have dry cleaners and we have maybe a dentist. But you don’t really get to know the people who own the shop very often—here you are getting to know the owners. And you find out pretty quickly the owners are

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there standing at their stalls most of the time the stalls are open. And any time of the day you are going in there and it’s been very heartwarming for me now that I can give a wave or a smile or tip my hat to any one or all of the owners, and many of the other staff people, who gotten to know us, we have gotten to know them. And to see how much they labor for—to establish their own business and to make a living and how loyal all the customers are. Clearly, that brings in this other whole factor way beyond that it’s just a building, that it is this community establishment.

Anyway then to go back to the story of the renovation: with all the plans we literally had drawings and specifications completed to a 90% point within a few months of potentially launching a construction activity to renovate the building. Obviously, there is a tragic and severe fire in April of 2008 and— 2007—I’m corrected—time passes on, doesn’t it?—which not only tragically interrupts all of these people’s lives and all the players here between the vendors and the community but massively damages the building. Most people know and would understand that the fire was so intense that it erupted through the roof, through the wooden roof, the day after the fire you could see daylight up through the South Hall through the entire roof. Most people may not have appreciated that the roof was a combination of wood and iron and cast iron. Clearly, iron and cast iron doesn’t burn, it’s not flammable. But the severe heat causes it to twist and turn so that the roof— not only were the wooden parts burned away severely, but the structure, the iron structure, was severely deformed and damaged to the point that after our structural analysis we concluded that it no longer could carry the loads even when repaired, that it was so badly damaged. Although we hate to think of the fire as a tragedy [but] as an opportunity, it did actually become an opportunity because now clearly the building was going to be vacated. Any project we did as a construction would be in an empty building, not [an occupied] building which makes many, many— opens up many, many opportunities. And the fact that the roof had been so severely damaged, we— clearly, we had to replace the roof and all the roof structure.

One of the things we were unable to do with the earlier concept was to correct what were fairly substantial structural problems in the floor of the South Hall. It was concrete floor but the concrete was over the top of a brick arched system in the basement. And over time water had gotten into the structure to such an extent that it was fractured and there were cracks just like you might have [been] walking on a sidewalk and seen a tree that had caused a sidewalk tile to lift up. We had many of those same heaving conditions in the current floor but many of them were obscured or just kind of hidden in the vendors’ [equipment] but the floor was [in] very, very poor condition. It was serviceable we could reuse it, but now with the fact that we were able to empty the South Hall of all the equipment, [we could] open up the space completely. Now the scope was radically changed to where we could now correct and replace the floor system to the extent that it was needed, replace the structure of the roof, replace the roof itself, [and] put

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new slates on. It also gave us the opportunity to restore the roof back as close as we thought it was to its original configuration, that is, with this continuous ridge roof for ventilation and a skylight.

So, that project evolves and we also have many more opportunities now to deal with the air conditioning and the heating because of the—we have this big open space. We literally changed the design entirely. Whereas the design before [the fire] was to put duct work in big round ducts that were going laterally that were suspended from the ceiling trusses up 18 feet off the ground and two long round ducts down through the Center Hall [for] blowing air down. That was the design before the fire because that was the only option we had. After the fire, we could completely change the design, run these big ducts down in the basement and bring up much, much smaller supply ducts associated with each vendor stall. So now there is nothing overhead in the way of HVAC supply ducts. All of those major ducts are down in the basement.

It also gave us the opportunity to clean up the basement because the basement was the source of a fair amount of water intrusion from the outside from rain water. I mentioned the earlier thing about the sanitary sewer backing up. It had been altered and remodeled—all the plumbing pipes—so often the person who was almost ... you couldn’t walk down through the center part of the basement because of piping [that] was literally at chest height, rather than at, you know, high or low. So with the fire then all the basement now is being cleaned up entirely, a new concrete floor put down there, the structure repaired, the ceiling brick work all repaired. Any duct work and pipe work we are putting in there we are keeping up above head level so that there are many areas where now it’s free access to walk down through. We are incorporating—we are putting a couple of large freezer, walk-in freezers down there [that] the vendors will be able to use for the long term storage of frozen materials. They will also have dry storage down there, so that a lot of the things that tended to clutter the upstairs vending area: their boxes and sacks and paper bags that those dry goods, their bulk storage will now be down in the basement now.

Many people know we also are moving the pottery studio down, so the south, extreme south end of the basement is actually used—will be used now by the pottery studio. So part of the basement will have full utilization. The rest of the basement is for, as I mentioned, the dry good storage and frozen food storage, as well as a lot of mechanical equipment. We were able to put many of our ducts and air handlers—[and the] very much larger electrical room is down there. We have a telephone communications room. We have a security room, a lot of the infrastructure or backbone is down in the basement now.

So, at this point in time as we talk at the end of April 2009, we have a renovation project that is about 75% complete. It is due to be complete toward the first of June. And there are plans to move the vendors from the East Hall, their temporary building, to the South Hall during the last two weeks of June. And we

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have work crews, I say we as the architect at this point we are kind of in the sideline. It’s really the contractor Forney Enterprises who is doing the work and at times they have well over 75 people on site working. They are working double shifts, they are working an evening shift, and a Saturday shift in order to get complete. And when the vendors move, that entire process is going to take about two to three weeks. So, why don’t we cut this off for ...[a precious child calling for his Mommy interrupts the interview]

Sometimes I forget about some of the more remarkable stages in this project. Immediately after the fire, we were asked as the design team—were there some parts of the project that could be initiated and done early to get things going. And we said yes. And so efforts were made to accelerate the design for the replacement of the roof of the South Hall. One other part that could be done were reconditioning all the windows, because the windows—a few were severely burned in the fire, to where they were actually—the wood was burned away and damaged. The fire was hot enough to burn away paint on a number of the windows. But, by and large that was the extent [of the damage]. So, in any case we—DC government and the design team—initiated work on two advance projects, as we called it. One was the roof replacements. So the people have noticed the roof was done early. It was started in the fall of 2007 and completed four or five months later and which meant the replacement of some of the structure—retainage of other parts of the structure. If you were in the hall—the next time you’re in there and you are looking up at these iron trusses and if you are counting, you will see that there are ten trusses. Half of them, if you will look closely, literally the members, the iron and steel members are thicker or bigger on every other one. So those are the new one, the replacements, the steel has to be just a little bit bigger so that the bottom of the truss, you will see that it is eight inches across instead of five or six inches. The other ones are the original trusses, they are left in place. But we have done it in such a way where they are no longer carrying the weight. All the weight is carried on the new trusses. So if you look up now you’ll see this pattern of every other one, a little bit thicker, a little bit thinner. And you know you will see that the original ones are between. And hopefully, by the way, there will be some sort of photographic exhibit in the building that will actually tell the story.

But backing up then with redoing the roof then, we could reintroduce this missing element the continuous vent and the skylights, the clear glass on either side running down the entire center of this ridge. And with the window work being complete, there was a remarkable time somewhere about April of 2008 where the skylight was done, the roof was done, the windows were all done and you were standing in this big open South Hall with skylight—with, with sunlight just cascading into the space, bright! Everyone was cheering—the mayor came and we had sort of special step where we had achieved—the team had achieved something. And everyone was smiling and shaking hands. It was really terrific. In order to

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protect these new windows, then, they were only left in that condition for a week or two and then plywood was put back on both the outside and inside so that these murals that had been developed were put back to protect these restored windows. So, now the skylight—


SMITH: To pick up the story then: The plywood covers, protecting covers were put back on the windows. So then we kind of went back into a period inside the South Hall of semi-darkness, although the skylight overhead was still well lit. So that was a—quite a magnanimous point. At that point then the project evolved and the construction effort turned to the major renovation. And as soon as they started this selective work on the concrete floor by partially removing the concrete and examining [it]—there are iron beams down in the concrete floor that provide actual the structure that supports this concrete. Regrettably, we found these iron beams were massively and severely deteriorated and corroded, to the point that within a couple of weeks after more intensive examination and a lot of, head scratching, but examination by our structural engineers and ourselves, we concluded that about two-thirds of the beams were not—could not be reused. So we had a very important delay in the project at that point to redesign a new floor system and bring in the Historic Preservation Office to review and approve the work because they needed—they were partners all the way through this. And all the way through we were maintaining very, very high standards of historic preservation of the space. But this sort of field condition necessitated removal of historic materials and replacement with modern steel in all the floor.

Anyway that went ahead but was fairly substantial delay to the project through the months of November and December, January of this last—just a few months ago. The project gets back on track though and the new floor was finished and if you can imagine, you can’t do much on top of the—in the South Hall—until you get the floor finished. So it was a pretty important issue to have delayed the project. But the floor was finished, I think along about February 15th, maybe March 1st, in the South Hall. And, very quickly, then in these last two or three months we—the contractors got in and done all the plaster repair that was needed on the walls and introduced all the substrate for electrical systems and plumbing systems. And at this point, if you visit both the South Hall and the North Hall, all of the plaster has been replaced, all the walls are pretty trim and they are now doing the actual installation of electrical lighting and electrical systems, the rough ends for the plumbing for each vendor has sinks and work areas. So, all of that sort of behind the scenes mechanical, electrical, fire protection materials are being put in. And speaking of fire protection, so now the building will have its own full fire sprinkler system, throughout all parts of the

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building, more smoke detectors and other safety devices. So we think it’s rather unlikely that there will ever be another—there could be a fire but it will certainly be extinguished quickly with the sprinklers.

And we are building up to a point where as I mentioned in about the month of June all of the building components will be completed so that the vendors can be moved back in with their display cases, their walk-in coolers, their work tables, all of those things. So, people are getting pretty excited. We’re really thrilled, we are even—we are in the last phase now of picking paint colors and confirming interior paint colors and windows. The window colors so, the building that has been—you are looking at kind of the stripped-down version for the last two years is finally coming together. Where, I guess, you might use the parallel; we are putting clothes on and selecting the final necktie and scarves that we are going to wear to highlight the building. So it’s in a pretty exciting phase right now. And so let me take a break for a minute.

Well there are two or three things I guess we can add or talk [about] now. The North Hall will—we have added a little feature—first of all, a door opening has been made now so that you can pass from the North Hall into the Center Hall and on into the South Hall. So, there will be doors there and there—will need to be worked out when they are locked and unlocked. And, if you can imagine, during the day we do expect people to be able to move back and forth freely between those spaces. However, in the evening if the South Hall is closed—after hours there and there is an event in the North Hall, then you wouldn’t obviously be able to go to the South Hall. But you will go into the Center Hall where the restrooms are. But also off the North Hall we have added a little catering kitchen we called it, that is—we will have a sink and small refrigerator and microwave. So that in the North Hall now you can have catered receptions. If you want to have public events and you know, you want to serve some food or something or whatever, at least they will able to do that now. Now they have restrooms also. And by the way when you go in there you may be surprised because I think the toilet rooms are going to have something in the neighborhood of ten stalls on the woman’s side and eight or nine on the men. You may be flabbergasted that there are so many stalls but from an architects’ point of view when you look at the number of people that potentially could be in the North Hall and South Hall in order to meet the requirements you know it does come out to being ten. It also reinforces back before—previously there was one woman’s toilet and one men’s toilet to serve the entire facility.

So anyway, backing up, so the North Hall will have a stage that will be installed, it’s a moveable or a de- mountable stage that is intended to be left up most of the time but it is a metal sort of modular thing that could be taken down and put into storage if they want to open up the whole space. There will be again de- mountable partitions around the side that will support the art gallery function. So, and it’s—we are putting in an additional feeder lighting overhead that will focus down on the stage. So, DC has authorized

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and is buying this extra equipment to make the North Hall more user friendly and being able—be a much better multi-purpose space.

Now, if you ask what two fears I have about the success of the project or how we would measure the success of the project, many people want the South Hall to look and function as it was before. We have tried very, very hard to accomplish that, but I will have to admit to you that there are a lot of forces coming into play that we don’t have full control over. One of the things that people mentioned about the old South Hall was the ambiance of all these individual vendors, many of them with their own signs, different displays, different electric fans, and it was—each vendor had its own personality. Each stall, each shop had its own personality. We have tried very, very hard to achieve that. But literally there are forces and people out of our control where we need to try and standardize some things. So, when you go in the new hall you are going to see some individuality in—with each vendor, but we have had to standardize the light fixtures and the electric fans and other things. So that it is not going to have the look of the old South Hall. And I know that we are—some people will be disappointed on that. I hope that they are not so disappointed that they are either shocked or—go into rebellion. I hope they will have some recognition that we tried hard. But there are still forces that you have to try to do in any sort of project to keep moving ahead.

The other thing that we really hope is on the actual comfort and the new environment inside the building, the lighting will be really terrific because we will have all this natural sunlight from the windows, most of all because they have just been cleaned up and the overhead skylight. And if there is darkness that is you know it’s a cloudy day or whatever, we’ll have artificial lighting also. So, we think fundamentally from a lighting [standpoint]—everyone is going to notice that it’s a lot brighter in there, which the vendors all wanted, because anyone who is selling retail material whether it’s food or it, you know, some other case clothing or something, you want it well lit. So, that the public can see it and it looks—so, the lighting is going to be a lot better.

Then there is this other subject of heating and air conditioning. Heating is not such a subject as—in this climate heating is pretty easy to do, assuming you keep the doors closed, you turn on the furnace and you keep things [going]. But moving into the mild weather and the summer, our greatest fear is—either hope or fear. We have conditions where we have lots of doors and doors opening directly to the outside. If you know many other grocery stores there are what we call vestibules. You have an outside set of doors and you come into a vestibule and then you go through an inside [door]. Well that’s an air lock, it keeps the hot moist outside air from getting in to the conditioned space. We don’t have that at Eastern Market. So, as the doors are opened more and more frequently, that is, as the market is more and more successful, it’s visited by a lot more people on a minute by minute, hour by hour basis, the doors are opened, it’s going to

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be letting in all that outside air, and it’s going to be fighting the air conditioning system. We hope there is some sort of balance and we hope during the worst part of the summer that the building is able to maintain at least a temperature; you might say 80 degrees or 75. So, it’s comfortable and not in any way oppressive, as it was in the past. But the other time[s] we’ve gone into a great effort so that during the mild times, which might be the mornings in the summer, or maybe April, May, October, we won’t need the air conditioning. We are going to have some special settings, where the window literally—we have automated a few windows so that they will open. And we have these fans overhead, so that we will be able to draw from the outside this nice outside air into the market and exhaust any hot air up through the top of the skylight. So, we are hoping to take advantage of these mild months. Now the fear is all of these—although it is actually driven by a computer, there are manual overrides and the market manager or the vendors are going—and the public, everyone is going to have a role here. And if someone feels too hot, someone, you know, will be able to turn the thermostat down. If they feel too cold they will be able to turn the thermostat up. And humans will interact with this. Just like you do at home, if you have any— any homeowners have a thermostat roulette with their spouse, you know, there is always ...

BARNES: [Laughter]
SMITH: Everyone has a different opinion of what is comfortable. So ...BARNES: Right

SMITH: Whereas, I mentioned, we are going to be opening and one of the challenges is of course is this opening is planned for early July. So, where are going to have a test of the system, pretty much through July and August. So, we’re hopeful that we will have succeeded. With that then I think we might take a break now for a minute.

SMITH: One or two other points to bring out the—to clarify each of the merchants or vendors will be returned to their exact same position, the same floor area. And basically the same layout of whatever their display case or—we have been able to in some cases shrink the size of their walk-in coolers because we have these freezer and other cooling units in the basement. But if you go in, if you remembered, whoever your favorite merchant was and he was the second one on the right or left, they are going to be in exactly the same position. Market Lunch in the same position—go ahead.

BARNES: Is there going to be an elevator to the lower level?

SMITH: Well, the public will not be going to the basement. There is a freight elevator that is actually exterior to the building. It is called—we call it a sidewalk elevator. That is what you might see sometimes downtown where a department store—where trucks can unload onto this platform out in the sidewalk and

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Baird Smith Interview, April 30, 2009

then it’s powered—there is power in the elevator for that material to get down into the basement, and be wheeled into the basement. So we hope that will facilitate [the movement of products] ... Then the other thing to clarify, the East Hall it has been determined that it will be—it was always erected as a temporary structure, that it’s a kit of parts that was erected very quickly and can be dismantled just as quickly. So it will be taken down and as I understand it the DC government is relocating it to one of their other facilities to use as kind of a large storage building. So, I don’t know when that dismantling will occur I understand it’s toward the end of the summer. And that space will be, you know be joined back with Hines School.

I was asked to comment about the future of the market. One of the things that we hope that with a better lighting and heating and air-conditioning system—clearly the North Hall will be able to expand. That is the public activities will able to expand all year round. A lot of people don’t realize that it—because they did not have heat in the North Hall, they literally could not use it for functions in January and February, and then of course it got so hot in the summer they rarely used it. So, now the North Hall should—will be available the year round with reasonable or really good comfort. So, we do expect the North Hall activities to greatly—at least have a capability to greatly increase, and into the evening because we have lighting and other things.

Similarly, in the South Hall—and of course this is—it will be determined by the EMCAC and the market manager and the merchants—potentially they could extend their hours. They have already extended it by one hour, if you have noticed they used to close at 6 pm and now they are closing at 7 pm, in the East Hall. And that was partly because the East Hall was more comfortable it had air-conditioning and heat. They could literally extend their hours. Now that we will have that capability in the South Hall whether the merchants are able to extend their hours, and I certainly understand, going back to my first comment that many of the owners were there, daily, literally talking about putting them in a condition—a situation of having their day, their individual days extended from 7 am to something later. So, it’s a long day. So, whether they will actually extend is clearly up to their—but if their business expands, that’s what we hope and if there is enough shoppers and of course with everyone’s—with the customers, the clients and in this town everyone working to six or more in the evening having availability after six pm I think is going to— certainly is desirable. So, if I were to ask what I foresee in the future, I really ultimately think it will just be longer hours of operation, which hopefully will benefit everyone, both the community and the merchants.

BARNES: Was there any change in the space that was formally used by the pottery?
SMITH: Oh, yes. The second floor of the Center Hall that was the pottery studio—the reason they—we

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Baird Smith Interview, April 30, 2009

handlers. We needed a substantial space in the building to place these things, so that the second floor of the Center Hall is strategically [located], because it’s in the center, that was the ideal place to put these big air handlers. They are big fans. So, they can serve both the North Hall in one direction and the South Hall in the other. So, yes, we have taken that over, it will no longer be open to the public. It is still behind the scenes and it’s accessible to people, but there are no restrooms up there anymore. And all of that room—all of the space is given over to mechanical equipment. So everyone, from now on all the public is strictly on the first floor.

Now, one little thing we didn’t talk about that is—that’s going to be a later phase of the project—if you enter the building from the east through the center pavilion you know, or you may have known, that on— as you enter on the left hand side was the market manager’s office, on the right hand side you maybe not—would not have gone in there but there is a little janitors’ sink there, then there are stairs going up to the upper level and down to the basement. Those will remain and in a second phase of this project that was not able to be accomplished now, the two spaces above these that were historically were called the market manager’s offices that actually have windows where—interior windows where you can look down onto the sales floor, those two spaces will be renovated with the hope that the new market manager then will actually have three spaces assigned to him, the first floor space and then these two upper spaces. There is a lot of hope that these spaces will in some ways be exhibit space for the public. So, the public will be able to get into any one of the three to see display boards or exhibit panels, about the history of the building and all. As I mentioned that was not able to be accomplished, but it is the first priority once everyone gets moved and relocated to shift gears a little bit and then focus on these two spaces. So, that will certainly be a new aspect to the building, the capability of the building.

BARNES: Has money been appropriated for that renovation?

SMITH: I am not a hundred percent clear on that. I believe money has been set aside but also—but I don’t know. It’s not a large amount of money that’s needed. That’s one of the issues I’m not aware of at this point.

BARNES: Are there any other things that you would like to add to this marvelous interview?

SMITH: Well thank you for the compliment. No, I just hope—people sometimes use the term about a historic building saying it’s a landmark or as an icon. Because Washington DC is such an interesting mix of this federal enclave and local—if you are asked to identify the federal buildings that were the icons, it’s pretty easy to start with the Capitol and White House, and other major buildings. But if people are asked OK, what are the DC landmarks, what is the list? It’s a pretty short list and almost always Eastern Market is either the first or second building in that list of DC icons, DC landmarks. So, talking about a thrill to be

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Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project Baird Smith Interview, April 30, 2009

able to be involved with this building, to see its rebirth and clearly we are taking measures now so that it will be well cared for, for the next 40, 50, 60 years. There should not need to be a project for a long, long time there. I think everyone can kind of pinch themselves and say that this is a case where local tax dollars and federal tax dollars have been used for really to enrich the community. So we’re pretty excited. And I’m pretty thrilled for myself to have been involved with this. So at some point we will all be able to raise a drink and cheer that we—the project is completed and behind us. We are not quite to that point yet but we will have that in the next few months so thank you very much for your time.

BARNES: Well, on behalf of the Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History project I want to thank you because this is the kind of interview that so many of the community people will want to be reading online to really know and understand all the work that you and your firm have done to bring back to all of us our Eastern Market. Thank you.

SMITH: Thank you.


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