Remembering Arthur Cotton Moore, an architect who loved his hometown

It is with sadness that I learned of the passing last week of Arthur Cotton Moorean architect who really loved the city he grew up in, which – luckily for us – happened to be Washington.

Arthur was 87 and I suspect he worked until the end. He used to email me from time to time, sharing architectural ideas that came to him as he moved around his hometown.

“Before, I used to ride my bike,” he once told me. “Now I walk around with a pen.”

It was 2017 when Arthur called to share an idea he had for reusing old subway cars. He wanted to turn them into small houses.

“It’s a really nice enclosure that’s waterproof and has nice windows,” he told me. He also had other ideas: for the District’s World War I Memorial, for a new FBI building, for the Kennedy Center…

“Take the Kennedy Center,” he said. “It’s the biggest flat roof in the city. Why wouldn’t this be a perfect place for solar panels? »

During his career, Arthur worked on the famous renovations to the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress and the Old Post Office. He designed the Port of Washington. He knew that architecture involved its share of compromises.

“Every project, there’s usually something that disappoints you,” he said. “One of the things that disappointed me the most about the Port of Washington was the fact that it wasn’t a port.”

He had wanted a protected space for boats to moor and moor, with a low bridge like the one that spans an Amsterdam canal.

Last December, Arthur emailed me his ideas for setting up the Smithsonian’s new Women’s and Latin American History Museums on the mall.

“The research [for locations] is tough in typical Washington fashion,” he wrote. “Two museums with big constituencies and therefore big influence in Congress give it urgency and tension.”

The Smithsonian told me that a decision has not yet been made to place the two new buildings. Arthur’s idea was to move the jumble of access roads south of the Washington Monument and place the two museums between the monument and the Tidal Basin. A pedestrian bridge would allow people to walk down Independence Avenue SW, which if you’ve ever tried to avoid traffic there, you know it’s not a bad idea.

“I love the city,” Arthur Cotton Moore once told me. “I want to make it as gorgeous as possible, as it should be.”

Sarah Manning O’Leary died in Columbia on August 31 at the age of 91. In September 1946, a photograph of Sarah with her mother, Helen Manningand his seven siblings participated in The Washington Post.

“This wacky photo has been hanging on the wall of my grandmother’s house all my life,” said Bill O’Learya Washington Post photographer.

One of the first things Bill did when he was hired here in 1984 was go to the Post archives and find the negative of this photo.

“It was a moment of time travel,” he said. “I have a piece of film that was in the same room as my mother in 1946 in a hotel, I don’t know what.”

Maybe I should explain the context. The photo shows the Manning offspring gathered around an open copy of the Post as their mother scours the paper for accommodation. Helen had fled her abusive husband, taking her eight children and moving from Massachusetts to Washington.

Why Washington? She had managed to extract a promise from J. Edgar Hoover to hire his four eldest daughters as typists at the FBI. Helen thought she and Hoover were loosely related.

But in those post-war days, housing was scarce. Stuck in a hotel, Helen called the city newspapers, desperate for help. The Post sent a photographer, the photo was published, and a landlord submitted an offer of housing in the northeast.

One of Hélène’s daughters, Alice, remained with the FBI throughout her career. Two others, Joan and Clear, married to FBI agents. Bill’s mother married his father, William O’Leary, then raised six children. Until last month, Sarah was the last living person in this photo.

Sarah’s husband, William, worked for the CIA, then went to NASA, where he did background checks. William’s father – Jeremiah Aloysius O’Leary Sr. – was a journalist who started at the Post in 1911, then joined the Washington Evening Star, the top newspaper at the time. One of Jeremiah Sr.’s sons – Jeremiah Aloysius O’Leary Jr. — followed his father to the Star. One of Bill’s cousins, Timothy O’Learywas a journalist in New Orleans and Dallas.

All of these O’Learys – first at the Star and now at the Post, where you’ve probably seen Bill’s photos – represent over 100 consecutive years of O’Leary signings in Washington newspapers.

Bill said, “I don’t know if there’s anyone else who can make that claim.”

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