The U.S. Navy constructed Building 213 in 1944 to store steel blanks for guns. At the time, no one could have foreseen that the building, on the corner of First and M streets at the Navy Yard in Southeast Washington, D.C., would become home to the CIA’s National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC). But in January 1963, shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis, NPIC moved into Building 213. The new facility was such an improvement over NPIC’s previous home at Fifth and K streets NW that employees nicknamed it “Lundahl’s Palace,” for Arthur C. Lundahl, founding director of NPIC (the same man whose legacy is honored by USGIF’s Arthur C. Lundahl-Thomas C. Finnie Lifetime Achievement Award). From 1963 until it was vacated in 2011, Building 213 remained a fixture in the Intelligence Community—as NPIC was absorbed into the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) in 1996 and even when NIMA became the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in 2003.

Today, Building 213 awaits demolition, a gradual process that will take place throughout the first half of 2014. Real estate developer Forest City is revitalizing the Navy Yard Park neighborhood surrounding Nationals stadium with “The Yards,” a waterfront community of residences, offices, restaurants, and retail businesses. Throughout November and December, Forest City invited seven local and international artists to use Building 213’s facade as a canvas in a project called Art Yards DC. In addition to creating three murals, Art Yards included opportunities for children to draw with chalk in the parking lot and a culminating light show.

Immediately following demolition, parking lots and a trapeze school will be temporarily located at the Building 213 lot. However, the long-term plan is for the site to become home to office buildings and provide a blank canvas for new industries at the historic location.

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Posted by Kristin Quinn

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